Local lunacy

Where do you think this peculiar practice is going down?

OK, let me get this straight. A bunch of muttonheads are burying idols in their yards thinking it will magically get someone to buy their house, the Strib runs it as a straight story, yet the right wing somehow claims that the mainstream media is hostile to religion? Unbelievable.

Yeah, nice middle-class neighborhoods in suburban Minnesota.

Then there was the guy at the booth behind me at the coffeeshop bragging about how his “system” at the slots in his weekly trips to the casino was paying off, and he was investing all of his winnings in gold and silver. It was very distracting: I had to grit my teeth and restrain myself from turning around and giving the poor old fool a lecture in probability.

It hurts so good

So scribblingwoman finally reads some recent China Miéville, long after Crooked Timber covered it (nothing wrong with that…if you saw my stack of books waiting for me to finish them…). She brings up a few interesting points, though, and one in particular poked me right in my reading biases. In Perdido Street Station(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), one of the central characters, Lin, meets a particularly unpleasant fate, and this after we’d been reading about her for a long time, gotten to know and like her and find her engaging. Then, wham:

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Hey, so George and Al are indistinguishable!

Bush/Gore, Bore/Gush, they were both the same, remember? It didn’t matter whether you voted Democrat or Republican, you were just getting the same ol’ thing.

Look how true that is: Bush sounds just like Al Gore. Of course, there were a few minor differences, like that Gore was 14 years ahead of Bush, really meant it (rather than having his lackeys issue retractions the day after), and I suspect, had the competence to actually follow through.

Tyrone Hayes at UMM


Last week, the opening convocation for Black History Month was given by Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley. I was impressed: he’s exceptionally personable, and despite the poor organization of his visit (UMM’s fault, entirely) and having to drive for hours through a small blizzard to get here from the airport, he was gracious and fun to talk with. He gave a phenomenally well-organized, lucid talk which managed to describe all the basics of his research in terms a lay audience, most of whom were not science majors of any kind, could comprehend. And as I learned, most of his work is done by undergraduates—he has an enviable research program fueled by entry level students working towards a bachelor’s degree. I am humbled.

I have to say that if you get an opportunity to hear Hayes speak, jump at it. It’s a model of good educational rhetoric. And hey, if you’re on a seminar committee somewhere, look into inviting him out…it will be worth your while.

The subject of his talk was atrazine. Atrazine is a heavily used pesticide in the United States—we hose our cornfields with the stuff around here, using it to control weeds and boost the productivity of our acreage by 1.2%. That may not sound like much, but over the entire midwest, that adds up to really big money, money that flows into the coffers of its manufacturer, Syngenta. Syngenta is a Swiss company, and interestingly, atrazine is banned in Europe. In the US, we’re allowed to have up to 3 parts per billion in our drinking water, and Syngenta initially commissioned Hayes to research possible deleterious effects of atrazine.

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More politicization of science

There are more stories out there about the corruption of science by Republicans. The National Park Service and Department of the Interior are messed up, with the Park Service rewriting documents to be “anti-environmental, pro-privatization and corporate use of the parks,” and the Interior simply making up nonsense about sage grouse.
Then we’ve got NCI fudging evidence to falsely support the claims of the anti-abortion lobby.

Bush has a lot of nerve claiming to be pro-science. He’s pro-Big Bidness, but he can’t even get that right—he’s willing to promote fake science to get a short-term advantage for business interests, but I should think any good capitalist would know that operating under a flawed representation of reality is going to lead to failure in the long run.

Heck yeah—Caroline Crocker should have been fired

…but she wasn’t. She was allowed to continue her educational malpractice until her contract expired, and then was not rehired—something that happens to adjunct and assistant professors all the time, with no necessary implication of poor work.

Caroline Crocker, if you’ve never heard of her, is the lead topic in an article in the Washington Post today, and you may also have read an account of her situation in Nature. She’s a molecular biologist who believes in Intelligent Design, and who was released from her position at George Mason University. Now she wants to claim that her academic freedom was infringed.

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Feeding the capitalists

I’ve gotten a few links to interesting CafePress merchandise today. You can now get the Immortal Pinkoski’s slogan, If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS?, on a t-shirt. Mona tells me that I can also get a fine selection of cephalopodous clothing, or samples of other interesting art—take a look at Platypus Rex.

It’s a good thing I have a wife who scowls at me when I put on something outrageous, ’cause otherwise I’d be walking around with the weirdest outfits.