For The WiS2 Crowd

Wish I could be there, instead of grading seventeen stacks of stuff here.

I hear there is a lot of good stuff going on, and a vocal handful trying to deny that. Anyway, I don’t have time for more, but this one from not that long ago seems all too appropriate again:

There was poison in the water
And it wasn’t fit to drink;
So we got ourselves together
And we had a little think… [Read more…]

“Foggy Bottom” Ink Review

Foggy Bottom

I purchased this ink,
To be honest, I think
For the picture adorning the bottle.
It’s a cuttle with quill,
And it gave me a thrill
In a way that–in truth–not a lot’ll.
With the ink smoothly flowing
My pleasure is showing
(I’ve never been one to be subtle)
To conclude my review
It’s a beautiful hue:
“Foggy Bottom”–approved by the Cuttle!

Ok, so the truth is, I did not purchase it; it was a gift. But other than that, I am loving this ink. It’s by the good people at Organics Studio, who also make a neat indelible black ink named for Charles Darwin. I can see why I was given this ink–just take a look at the label!

Someone Kiss The Bride For Me!

So I just got back (never announce your departures–it’s like leaving a “rob my house” sign on your door) from many days of driving, smiling, lifting, hauling, driving, shivering, waiting, driving, greeting, hugging, driving, and driving. With very little chance to check email (students who did not come to class for the last half of the semester are now wondering what they can do to make up for it), let alone check comments here. But now that I have, I am glad I did. Any less-happy weekend, and the comment on this post would have been in the position of making up for the whole weekend. And it likely would have. But this was a great weekend, so the comment was only like the third or fourth most happy-making thing.

The comment notes that

My sister asked our niece to read this at her wedding today. It was paired with “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Lear (read by the bride’s mother).

Thank you for this wonderful poem!

I have no idea where this wedding was, nor who the bride and groom were, but if any of you know, congratulate them for me and (only with consent) kiss the bride for me. She clearly has spectacular taste in poetry (Lear, I mean–plus, she chose mine!)

So, for those of you who didn’t click through, It was the Evolutionary Biology Valentine’s Day Poem (one of the few of my own poems I know by heart and can and will recite):

In sociobiology,
Why I love you and you love me—
Which anyone can plainly see—
Is mostly in our genes.
No, not the ones you buy in stores,
But what a scientist explores–
I like the way you look in yours,
And you know what that means.

What subtly-coded stimulus
Takes you and me, and makes us “us
And makes us feel ‘twas ever thus?
The list of suspects narrows.
No longer are we all a-shiver
From some Cupid with a quiver
Out of which he might deliver
Fusillades of Eros.

Nor Dopamine, nor Serotonin
Tell us why our hearts are moanin’
Though they serve to help us hone in
On–not why, but how;
The parasympathetic blush,
Adrenaline to bring a rush,
Are how, not why, I’ve got a crush
On you, my darling, now.

But if old Charles Darwin’s right,
The reason that the merest sight
Of you will always give delight
Is…reproductive fitness.
Throughout our species’ family tree,
Producing proper progeny
Is what determined you and me
And Darwin was the witness.

Is thinking that you’re oh so sweet
And how you’ll make my life complete
Some trick to make our gametes meet?
It seems it may be so.
I feel the way I feel today
Because some bit of DNA
Sees your genetics on display
And wants to say “hello.”

But think of this, for what it’s worth:
Millennia before my birth
That DNA had roamed the earth,
In residents thereof;
The neat thing is, it’s really true,
The feeling that I have for you
Although, of course, it feels brand-new
Is truly ageless love.


We’re Number One! (Wait, That’s A Bad Thing…)

Shockingly, rockingly,
Scientist monitors
Looked at the bullet we’d
Hoped we had ducked

Argue no longer for
Carbon’s new record means
Humans are fucked.

Yup. Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher they have been in the history of humankind. The highest in over six thousand three million years. The New York Times reports:

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

While some groups have short-term economic reasons for denying reality, the truth is…

Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle and the level will dip below 400 this summer, as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a Columbia University earth scientist.

Or as I put it above… humans are fucked. Read the article… and not for nothing, this month is bike-to-work month.

Women Of The Western Wall

Jerusalem has seen the light
And said that women have the right
To worship at the wall.
To Ultra-Orthodox, this slight
Can’t be condoned at all.

And so, when women came to pray
Together at the wall today,
It seemed the worst of shocks!
The men have morals to obey–
So, pelted them with rocks!

No matter what the young men tried
The women wouldn’t be denied;
The men, despairing, moaned:
“It’s quite the same as genocide,
And cannot be condoned!”

Via the LA Times, the first day of equal right to pray at the wall. Yay, more people get to pray! That’s good, isn’t it? No, no, no, cos women have cooties, thus sayeth the Lord.

Dressed in black hats and coats, mobs of young ultra-Orthodox men tossed eggs, water bottles and coffee cups at members of Women of the Wall as their leaders led a group of 100 men and women in prayer. Several women from the group wore white shawls and other religious ornaments, such as black tefillin boxes on their heads, traditionally used only by men at the site.

Oh, come on, Jews have been through much worse than this…

Police, whom the youths called “Nazis,” arrested five men for disrupting the peace, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. As the women departed, some were pelted with rocks.

Well, yeah, I guess protecting women while they pray is pretty much exactly the same as committing genocide. Those Nazi cops.

Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman, who on Friday was being protected by the same police who once arrested her performing a similar prayer service, predicted that it was only a matter of time before women won expanded rights at the holy site.

“This train is gone,’’ said Hoffman, who has been pushing for religious equality at the Western Wall for 26 years. “Women are reading the Torah and praying out loud. This is going to happen. You are either leading it or you will be dragged by your hair.”

Nice turn of phrase there.

My question is, why on earth do these women want to be part of a religion that treats them like this? (Yes, that question terribly oversimplifies–we are not looking at one religion at all, but many that share a common ancestor.) And (conversely), if you have one group throwing stones at people who want to be part of a religion, and another group braving these stones to be part… which group loves that religion more?

On Monsters

He’s a monster; he’s not human—
He’s the devil in disguise!
The embodiment of evil;
You can see it in his eyes!
No iota of morality
No evidence of soul
Where a man should have a human heart
This demon has a hole.

His behavior was horrific—
Inexcusable, in fact;
No real human could have done it
It’s a horrid, beastly act
If he’d had the slightest conscience
He’d be overcome with shame…
So let’s sentence him to torture;
We can treat him just the same!

Let’s imprison him with Bubba
Where he never will escape
Take his time, to learn the lesson
On the other side of rape
We can chain him; we can whip him,
We can break a rib or two…
Cos he has to learn, these things are not
What moral people do.

Wow. Now that God finally saved those three women in Cleveland, it’s become downright unpleasant to read through the comment sections on news sites. The argument seems to be “nobody should ever treat another human being like this man treated those women, therefore we should treat this man like he treated those women.” Or “he’s a depraved monster for doing what he did; we should do the same to him.” Or “what kind of sick fuck is capable of such behavior, he ought to be flayed alive in the town square, suspended by his testicles over a hornet nest and beaten with hot pokers.” Because we are more moral than he is.

I have seen a handful of people calling out the would-be official torturers and those calling for prison rape as a reasonable sentence. They are accused of taking the rapist’s side, of course–because if you don’t want the skin peeled off of his face with a garden trowel, you are soft on crime and a liberal communist.

No sentence we could give him could ever pay back what he took from those women. That would be impossible. That cannot, and should not, be the standard we hold ourselves to. But we should not allow him to take our humanity from us as well. If what he did is detestable (and it is), it should be detestable for anyone to do it (and it is). The internet commenters calling for such treatment should take a good hard look at who they are choosing as their role model.

Where The Hell Are The Bees?

The forsythia bloomed at the edge of the yard
An explosion of yellow and gold;
An abundance of nectar—but where were the bees?
Disappearing… or so I’ve been told.

So, yeah, the first few lawn-mowings of spring used to be a harrowing affair. My yard has a border of forsythia on one side, which used to be inundated with bees when it bloomed. The past few years, I can mow with impunity; I stop and scan the flowers, knowing there should be bees there! But they aren’t there. My redbuds used to attract a variety of bees and wasps; we’ll find out in a few days, maybe a week, when the buds open.

Today was the first day I saw any substantial numbers of Hymenoptera at all–some wasps, some hornets, and an astonishing number of bumblebees (or maybe carpenter bees, or probably both), far more interested in one another than in me as I made my way through them with gardening gear.

My apple trees are getting ready to blossom–they are young, so this is only the third year of flowers, and last year’s late frost meant that I had a total of one apple make it to maturity. It was then partially eaten by a worm, which was then thoroughly eaten by a bird. I found the half-apple on the ground. And yes, dammit, I ate it. It was superb.

But I digress. My apple trees are getting ready to blossom, and I have never hoped for bees so much as right now. Mind you, I’ve never had to–my heirloom tomatoes had plenty of bees in past years. So… Where the hell are the bees?

What we have lost in bees, we appear to be making up in reasons why we have fewer bees. I have always wanted to keep a hive (Cuttlefamily does not agree, and currently outvote me). I hope they last long enough that I will be able to.

For both our sakes. And so much more.

Miracle In Cleveland

Thank god! Our prayers are answered!
It’s a miracle, you know!
We are celebrating, crying joyful tears!
God decided, in his wisdom,
That he’d let these poor girls go
After keeping them imprisoned ten full years.

It’s a proof that god is mighty
It’s a proof that god is good
God will make this bastard suffer for his crime
It’s a proof that god will always
Make things come out as they should
Though He seems to have a different view of time

Wonderful news out of Cleveland; three women, missing for 10 years, have been found alive, having been held captive in a house, remarkably close to where they disappeared.

I’ve already heard it described as a miracle, as an answer to prayers, as something that restores one’s faith in god. And my goodness, it is astonishingly good news for everyone. But as always, it strikes me odd to give an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent entity credit for today’s events and let that entity off the hook for the last 10 years.

But hey, come to think of it, it does have all the hallmarks of one of god’s miracles.

Christian Bigots Claim Oppressed Minority Status

Pity the Christians who dare to speak out—
Who defer to the bible’s authority—
Three-fourths of the nation, we’ve lost all our clout,
And become the most hated minority

In our great country’s past—in our halcyon days—
When our Christian beliefs were shown deference,
Why, we Christians could say what we like about gays,
And condemn them for sexual preference

We could subjugate women, deny them the vote,
But no longer do Christians hold sway
And the nation has suffered, I think you will note,
In not asking what Jesus would say.

We used to be mighty! We used to be feared!
Our endorsement could sway an election!
But now… we’re ignored, and occasionally jeered—
We’re endangered; in need of protection!

When minorities labeled their treatment a crime
In the past, we said “don’t make a fuss!”
That was then; this is now, and it’s different this time…
This time, the minority’s us!

On CNN’s Belief Blog, an amusing bit on the perception by some Christians that they are now a hated minority:

We’ve heard of the “down-low” gay person who keeps his or her sexual identity secret for fear of public scorn. But Sprigg and other evangelicals say changing attitudes toward homosexuality have created a new victim: closeted Christians who believe the Bible condemns homosexuality but will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled a hateful bigot.

As proof, Sprigg points to the backlash that ESPN commentator Chris Broussard sparked recently. Broussard was called a bigot and a purveyor of hate speech when he said an NBA player who had come out as gay was living in “open rebellion to God.” Broussard said the player, Jason Collins, was “living in unrepentant sin” because the Bible condemns homosexuality.

“In the current culture, it takes more courage for someone like Chris Broussard to speak out than for someone like Jason Collins to come out,” says Sprigg, a former pastor. “The media will hail someone who comes out of the closet as gay, but someone who simply expresses their personal religious views about homosexual conduct is attacked.”

Yes, they are a persecuted minority. Like gays who risked being disowned by family, kicked out of apartments, losing jobs, and even injury or death, Christians risk… being labeled bigots, when they exhibit bigotry. This poor, persecuted three-fourths of the US population is up against a much more powerful, but mostly invisible, foe. In truth, Christians are an incredibly diverse population; the vast majority of the Christians I know personally are not bigots–I can think of two who are–but since the complainers are claiming the mantle of “Christian” rather than “older, white, male, conservative, evangelical Christian” (gee, I wonder why), I feel it’s only fair to grant them their full numbers. You can’t try to rally your fellow Christians to your side while denying that their numbers swell your ranks.

To the splinter minority of Christians who are playing this card: This is what it feels like to have your privilege reeled back in. You’ve had it so easy for so long, it feels like persecution when you only have it slightly better than the groups you hate.

And of course, if you treated your fellow humans with love as you claim your book dictates, perhaps minority status wouldn’t be such a big deal in the first place.

Wait… Shoes Don’t Have To Hurt?

I love my shoes. I love my shoes!
My feet no longer sing the blues
I’ve tried them all—I’ve paid my dues
And now—at last—I love my shoes!

I’ve tried the best of hiking boots
On crowded streets and private routes
(I’ve even worn them with my suits)
My feet don’t care for hiking boots

And running shoes with padded soles
Assured me I would reach my goals
Their argument was full of holes—
My feet just ached in padded soles

My Tevas and my Birkenstocks
I’ve worn both with and without socks—
They yield some thousand natural shocks
…I’d just as soon wear LEGO blocks.

My shoe—the Vivobarefoot Ra—
(No padded sole at all—hurrah!)
I sigh aloud, a vocal “aaaahhh…”
I love my Vivobarefoot Ra.

This is an unsolicited but enthusiastic endorsement; I am receiving nothing from the Vivobarefoot people (my shoes were a gift, but from my kids, not from the company). My feet have hurt for enough years that I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone thinks this post has me selling out. [Read more…]