24 August 2006

For you Pluto supporters

Please provide a scientific definition of the term "planet" that encompasses Pluto but does not include Ceres, 2003UB313/Xena, Sedna, Quaoar, etc.

Also, please explain how Charon fits into your definition.

Update: I have been vindicated, and it feels good.

18 August 2006

Review: Snakes on a Plane

I shouldn't have read Ace's first, because now I just don't see the point of bothering to write my own.

So I just have a handful of comments.
  1. One particular scene gives a new meaning to the term "trouser-snake." 'Nuff said.
  2. Could have done without a couple of the scenes. You know which ones I mean.
  3. Snakes + microwave = crazy delicious.
  4. Red and yella, kill a fella; red and black, venom lack. Hello?
  5. When you toss a giant stuffed snake in your date's lap after the movie, she might be laughing, but she doesn't really think it's funny.*
Seriously, I think this movie is all we expected, and more. Samuel L. Jackson's famous line is sheer brilliance. I couldn't help cheering when he delivered it. So, for those of you who have been waiting for this movie: go see it, right away! Those of you who hear the title and a brief description of the premise and think, "Why the hell would anyone want to see that?" probably shouldn't bother.

*Full disclosure: I actually did think it was funny.

13 August 2006

This morning's service

Now that I'm graduated and settled down, I need to find a new church home. So I've been church-shopping with a friend this summer. We're different denominations, but we're both Protestant and not all that picky about which denomination we attend as long as the preachin' and singin' are good. This morning is my friend's last Sunday here before she heads back to school, so she decided to go to her denomination's church, and I went off to try out a new church (in my denomination) by my lonesome.

I really enjoyed the service. I had a bad feeling at first when I saw the pastors and choir weren't wearing the traditional robes, because I hate contemporary worship, and dislike the loosening of attire restrictions I've been seeing in the various churches I've visited. I guess I see where the churches are coming from: if butts are in the pews, does it really matter what's covering 'em? But at the same time, I think it's disrespectful to not dress properly for church. The pastors were wearing suits, so that's ok, but I saw a couple people in the congregation wearing jeans or even shorts, and they weren't all young, either. (Jeans don't bother me that much if they are clean, well-tailored, and accompanied by appropriate shirts and shoes. But shorts? In a church? Dude, not cool.) So that gave me a bad feeling.

But we started out with "Standing on the Promises," a hymn I like that I hadn't heard in a while, and that pleased me. We then followed that up with an excellent affirmation of faith and the Gloria Patri. During the offertory, four guys from the choir sang a quartet, which I really enjoyed, and then we sang the Doxology I like best and "Trust and Obey," another hymn I like that my school church hadn't used in a while.

(My parents' church sings a goofy Doxology that I don't like, and they say the Lord's Prayer with different words, which confuses me. I already had enough trouble switching from German to English (long story); I don't need people trying to get me to switch to different words. Similarly, they have been doing a series of sermons on the 23rd Psalm, so they've asked the congregation to say it together at each service; but their translation isn't the one I know by heart. My parents' church also doesn't do affirmations of faith or the Gloria Patri. All in all, a very unsatisfying spiritual experience over there.)

The sermon was pretty good. It was about putting your failures of the past behind you and continuing to strive toward the goal of being like Christ. The pastor's key points were that failures of the past can imprison us through failure to forgive (yourself as well as others) and feelings of regret; that the failures of the past can rob us of hope because they can cause us to surrender to the status quo and become resentful; and that we should forget the past (he didn't mean "forget" so much as "stop punishing yourself for") and press on to the goal. I'd actually been thinking along these lines lately, because I never forgive myself for the various bad stuff I do, and I'm not particularly good at forgiving others, either. So, that fact and the giant hunk o' gold on the pastor's right hand were clues that I was in the right place. (In Texas, a giant hunk of gold on someone's right hand is almost always an Aggie ring.)

We finished up with "Here I Am, Lord," which is one of my favorite hymns because the first time I heard it was during the same service as a truly memorable sermon, and it was closely linked to the message of that sermon. (That hymn will also play a part in the book that's been fermenting in my head for a couple years. I think I'm going to let it stew a little longer, but I'm getting close to putting pen on paper.)

So, all in all, a pleasant experience, and I'll go back next week, and quite possibly join that church. Which makes me happy, because I've been looking for a couple months, and it's frustrating to not get food for your spirit.

12 August 2006


Look at this comment over at Gutfeld's post on fear. I added some space to make it more readable, but left all spelling and grammar as seen in the original.
You left out fear of being called anti-semitic.

But really, is being called anti-semitic a valid fear in America?

Do white people who believe it's unsafe to drive thru Watts in Los Angeles at night, really fear Blacks?

Do people who think Karl Rove is an evil person, really fear fat white men?

Do blacks who have the Confederate flag waved in their face, really fear everybody in the South?

American Jews pretend to fear anti-Semitism is a mental disease, although they have difficulty explaining how 60 million Germans or 300 million Arabs, and now tens of millions of Americans came to have that very same quirk of brain chemistry. The real truth is more frightening to Jews. Fact is Americans never had the underlying motive for Jew-hatred (which is the jealousy that fragile and endangered peoples bear against the Jews for their so called "Biblical immortality"), because prior to George W. Bush we have always kept a firm seperation of church and state. Religion was never factored into the democracy formula, until the Christian Conservatives and American Jews skewed the equation.

"The presentiment of ethnic death does not haunt new nations composed of immigrants who left the fey imaginings of their ancestors behind at the far shore." (Franz Rosenzweig)

Because we oppose being brainwashed by our medias, you need not fear us as being anti-semitic.

Because we oppose the military aggression of Israel to take land, you need not fear us as being anti-semitic.

Because we oppose our governments one sided backing of a nation (Israel) that freely invades and kills it's neighbors, you need not fear us as being anti-semitic.

By: NCCarboys on August 07, 2006 at 01:55pm

So...George W. Bush's evil Christian conservative government supports Israel, but hates the Jews because they're the chosen people, so they're supporting Israel because...uh...blood for (olive) oil? Or, wait, I might have it now. The Jews, who are, of course, a monolithically Republican vote, colluded with George W. to establish a Christian theocracy that supports Israel, and the rest of America hates the Jews because...no wait, the underlying cause of Jew-hatred is the Bible, and only Christians believe in that, and the Christians colluded with the Jews that they hate to "select" Bush because...er...

I'm sorry, I can't make any sense out of this. Someone else want to give it a shot?

01 August 2006

By their works shall ye know them

Ok, this post is mostly rambling, but it's much too late at night and I have way too much to do tomorrow for me to invest any more time in it.

You have been warned. Feel free to skip past this to the hot arachnid pr0n.

Ace posts today on a question that's often bothered me: does an artist's intent affect his work?

More specifically, Ace wants to know: "Do the failings of a man, which seem to directly inform the aesthetic choices in his work, reduce the power of that work?"

I think they do, and would go further than that, as for me personally, the failings of a man reduce the power of everything he does, not just art. I am frustratingly unable to separate a person from his acts. The classic example I generally use to explain my feelings is Dr. King. The man was a serial adulterer, and because of that, while I know intellectually that he was a great man who accomplished a lot of good, I am still completely unable to admire him.

That's why I don't like to know anything about people's private lives. I'd rather just go on admiring Hermann von Helmholtz (for example), without knowing that [insert whatever horrible thing he did]. And it makes me mad when people feel the need to tell me about such failings, because I don't see why we can't admire people without having to hear all that. Why can't we have heroes?

(That's exactly what bothered me about Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation. I love the movies, and think they are generally faithful to the books; but where they fail is that they don't let anyone be larger than life. Aragorn isn't conflicted about his heritage or hesitant to take up the sceptre of Annuminas. He's supposed to be perfect, the better to highlight the accomplishments of fallible hobbits like Frodo and Sam.)

At the same time, I do like to know the truth...I am sort of glad, for example, that I know that much of Yankee Doodle Dandy was made of whole cloth. (I'm also glad that the silly CO storyline in Sergeant York is entirely unsubstantiated.)

It's a difficult issue for me.

A Couple Days Ago in the Science News

Sometimes I just like to let the stories speak for themselves:
Humans aren't the only creatures that vocalize during sex.

While mating, female Physocylus globosus spiders emit high-frequency squeaks to let males know what they should be doing, a new study finds.

Called stridulations, the shrill cries sound like squeaky leather and are made in response to the rhythmic squeezing actions of the male's genitalia from inside the female during sex.
Stridulations, eh?
Female spiders are able to store sperm from different males inside their bodies and can choose which lucky male spider gets to fertilize her eggs. Squeezing stimulates the females and raises a male's chances that his sperm will be selected.

"Males that squeezed females more often during copulation sired more offspring than males that squeezed less often," said study team member William Eberhard of the Universidad de Costa Rica and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

However, if done too forcefully, the action can physically damage the female. If a male squeezes too hard or too long, the female squeaks to let him know to pick up the pace but to take it easy.
Yes, I am taking notes for future reference.
To produce the squeaking sounds, females scrape a part of their "pedipalp"—a leg-like appendage located near their mouths—against the file-like surface of their fangs, or "chelicera."

A male spider's genitalia are located at the end of its pedipalp. During sex, he inserts this tip into the female. Muscles near the base of the pedipalp flex during sex, creating the rhythmic squeezing motions that cause a female to cry out.

The researchers mated 68 virgin P. globosus females with two males. They found that the number of squeezes the males made were associated with the number of times the females cried out during sex. Stridulations became more frequent if males failed to loosen a squeeze in response to a previous plea.

Obedient males that consistently followed the female's directions ended up siring more offspring. It's thought that the squeezing motion propels the male's sperm deeper into the female's body, where it is more likely to fertilize her eggs.

"Females presumably favored the paternity of males that could stimulate them, thereby obtaining sons that were better stimulators and thus more able to induce females to fertilize their eggs with their sperm," Eberhard told LiveScience.
Seems reasonable, I guess.

But wait - there's more!
Multimedia: Audio and video of the spiders mating.
Because your life isn't complete until you've watched spider porn.