Portrait of the blogger

The most amusing coverage of the Nature top science blogs article comes from The Technology Chronicles, which begins by calling scientists “sober, dispassionate, precise” and suggests that we’ve abandoned “Olympian impartiality” to compete with Cute Overload. I get the impression the author hasn’t ever met a real scientist. Nick will love being called a “budding Matt Drudge.”

We need more cute, huh? OK, I can do cute. I had to run my photo through a face transformer to do it, but here I am, rendered a bit more adorably than in real life.


Now I just sit back and wait for the fans to roll in.

(Thanks to Lindsay, who took the original photo.)

The continuing assault on blogtopia

What is this, a few journalists have discovered blogs for the first time and have decided they just don’t like ’em? This fellow Zengerle seems to see them as a threat to the Republic, and now some guy named Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator weighs in, with some devastating complaints.

  • He is shocked at the funny names. “What the heck, for instance, is ‘Echidne of the Snakes‘ or ‘Nyarlathotep’s Miscellany‘?” Whoa. Burn. I’m sure glad I didn’t pick a weird name for my blog.
  • He doesn’t get Fafblog. He seems to think it’s about stilted writing, rather than some of the sharpest mockery of the Right around. Satire and humor are things that Serious Journalists do not use, I guess.
  • He doesn’t quite understand how links work. “Here’s a test: Visit any blog site that has a list of permalinks to other blogs, and pick the most seemingly off-topic link you can find. Within three blog links, you’re likely to find somebody advertising ‘Nude Live Babes!’ or ‘Celebrities In The Raw!’ or somesuch.” It’s true. I have discovered that you can get from my site to Michelle Malkin or Little Green Footballs in only two clicks. I am so ashamed.
  • There’s the horrible narcissism. “The blogs particularly lend themselves to a bizarre combination of attention deficit and what I’ll call the ‘Shouting-From-The-Rooftops Syndrome,’ a malady in which every utterance is deemed worthy of broadcast because, well, it’s mine, dammit, and I now have a forum on which to broadcast it.” Unlike, say, a print journalist for the American Spectator, who would never write an article expressing his gosh-wow reaction to discovering there is pr0n on the intarweb, and that you can get there by clicking on links. He would only write important stuff.
  • Worst of all, blogging tempts one into sin. “But what it doesn’t encourage is reflection, patience or, to stress again, discipline. And its wild informality, including the use and misuse of the written world, does not lend itself to careful persuasiveness.” That’s right, diversity and creativity are wicked…and are probably much too liberal for Mr Hillyer. People who write every day, day in and day out, for years can’t possibly have any discipline—writing because they love writing? Horrors! Where are the deadlines, the editors with whips, the challenge of a requirement to make Dick Cheney sound sensible and important? And how can you possibly find careful persuasive writers when the Nude Live Babes beckon?

Oh, well. Quin Hillyer (hey, wait a minute…what is he doing complaining about funny names?) really just cares about us. He even gives us parenting advice.

So, a memo to parents: Don’t let your children sit at their computers all day long. Even if they must be inside (outside exercise is often better), encourage them to read books and newspapers, to play board games, even to write notes to each other with pen and paper. That way they’ll learn to communicate rather than just to emote.

Good point. I should kick the kids outside and tell them to enjoy some fresh air and blue skies today. But my kids do read books. They don’t seem to care for the newspapers much, and the magazines they read are probably not the ones Hillyer would approve (my oldest does read The Economist, though…), but he’s wrong, otherwise. Our kids are adopting and modifying new media—is he aware of how much the youth are texting and IMing and MMORPGing and blogging and MySpacing and Facebooking together? I am, barely, but I’m not going to discourage kids from innovating because I’m a cranky old fart who thinks writing doesn’t count unless it’s done with the Palmer method on a Big Chief pad. And it’s gotta be serious, dammit. None of this high-falutin’ satire.

Mac tech bleg

I have a DVD of The Horror Express, starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Telly Savalas. There’s a short clip of a conversation I’d like to extract as an mpeg or quicktime movie—even extracting just the audio would be nice.

It’s a classic. Christopher Lee is explaining his discovery of an ancient fossil to a beautiful woman:

Lee: That box of bones, madam, could have solved many of the riddles of science. If the theory of evolution is confirmed, if the science of biology is revolutionized, if the very origin of man is determined…

Beautiful woman: I have heard of evolution. It is immoral.

Lee: It is a fact. And there is no morality in a fact.

It’s intercut, by the way, with scenes of Peter Cushing doing an autopsy on one of the victims of the fossil (it’s a horror movie, of course—the fossil comes to life and wanders about a train in pre-revolution Siberia, sucking the minds out of people with its red glowing eyes. There are also zombie cossacks), sawing open a dead guy’s skull to expose his brain.

They just don’t make movies like that anymore.

Anyway, if anyone can tell me how to pull out this very short (less than a minute) segment on a Mac OS X machine, I’ll put it on the web. You know you all want to hear Saruman/Count Dooku/Dracula endorsing evolution.


Your suggestions worked, and I’ve now got the movie converted and edited out the part I wanted. It did take hours for the decoding to finish, but I just let it run in the background, so it wasn’t too painful.

Now, if you want, you can listen to Christopher Lee declare that evolution is a fact, and there is no morality in a fact (250K .mov audio file).

Whose side are you on, Flatow?

I’ve been listening to Bethell vs. Mooney on Science Friday, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I really need to slap Ira Flatow. Repeatedly. And maybe kick him a few times, too.

He was playing right into Bethell’s hands. Bethell was rambling and vague, and he went on and on, and Flatow fed into it. Mooney had to interrupt several times and demand a chance to rebut (and good for him—he was on the attack, as he needed to be), and at least once Flatow stopped Mooney for a commercial and then asked Bethell to follow up afterwards.

Worse, Flatow wouldn’t allow any depth. They’d start getting into HIV and Bethell’s denial, and just as Mooney was getting into it, he’d say, “Now we need to talk about global warming!” Come on, FOCUS. The strengths of science come into play when we have a chance to dig deep and actually grapple with the issues; Bethell is a superficial flibbertigibbet who knows nothing, and this show gave him a forum for his usual unsupported pronouncements of doubt.

Grrr. Mooney was appropriately assertive, but it sounds like we need to go to new levels of aggression: next interview, bring duct tape and a clothesline. Shut the interviewer up, and charge right into the data. I can’t believe Flatow let Bethell get away with that crap.

It’s a boob-tube night

Leading in to the Carlin-Coulter cage match on Leno tonight, we’ve also got Phil Plait on the SciFi Channel. It should be a cheerful evening, since he’s discussing the end of the world.

I’m watching it now, and I will say that Phil is adorable…but the show is awfully cheesy, sprinkled with clips from science fiction movies and treating nuclear terrorism with the same seriousness as the possibility that the robots might revolt and enslave us, or aliens might land and start disintegrating people. And, as an indicator of their concern for detail, they keep spelling Paul Ehrlich’s name as “Paul Ehlrich.”

Brokeback bigotry

I’m stretched out in my easy chair getting ready to watch the Oscars this evening, when this horrid ‘news’ profile about Brokeback Mountain and middle America comes on. I found it offensive: they seem to have sought out the most narrow-minded representatives of this part of the country—your stereotypical Christian bigot, a clutch of white-haired geezers—who hadn’t seen the movie, who rejected it out of hand, who claimed Hollywood didn’t understand farmers, who thought a good movie was that treacly crap, The Sound of Music. If there is anyone who doesn’t understand this part of the world, it’s the patronizing yahoos at CNN who went out of their way to find people who fit their stereotypes.

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