Friday, February 17, 2017

As Tengrain Would Put It, a Palate Cleanser

After a week of really bad news, I figured I needed to post what Tengrain would call a palate cleanser. I listen to a lot of college and public radio, and even the local commercial station I listen to has a nice 'indie' vibe. One band that's been getting quite a bit of buzz is Sydney's Middle Kids. These... uh... kids from the drouthy Antipodes are really amazing- their rhythm section is muscular and frontwoman Hannah Joy deploys jangly guitar and gorgeous, rich vocals in a killer combination. I am totally enamored of the band's second single, Your Love:

I've been a big fan of Australia's independent musical scene since my days of listening to Midnight Oil, the Hoodoo Gurus, and the Celibate Rifles. That being said, the Middle Kids are keeping up a grand tradition, and I look forward to hearing much, much more from them in the future.

When things are terrible, we need good art more than ever.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

He's Hurting My Brain

I have to confess that, in certain matters, I am a snob. I've never been the sort to scorn 'the help', and I have no contempt for people who work up an honest sweat. That being said, I admire a well-crafted turn of phrase, and I cringe when I hear a native speaker who butchers the English language. Listening to Donald Trump's press conference today pretty much hurt my brain. Besides the mendacity and belligerence, the damn thing was redundant, redundant, redundant. Cazzo di merda, just look at this:

The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what's going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking, and really talking, on this very entrenched power structure and what we're doing is we're talking about the power structure. We're talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media's going through what they have to go through to oftentimes distort — not all the time — and some of the media's fantastic, I have to say, honest and fantastic — but much of it is not. The distortion, and we'll talk about it, you'll be able to ask me questions about it. We're not going to let it happen because I'm here, again, to take my message straight to the people.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Republican speech without a measure of blame for the Kenyan Usurper:

As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. A mess. At home, and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places. Low pay, low wages.

Mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East, a disaster. North Korea, we'll take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know. I inherited a mess. Beginning on day one, our administration went to work to tackle these challenges. On foreign affairs, we've begun enormously productive talks with foreign leaders, much of which you've covered, to move forward to security, stability and peace in the most troubled regions of the world, which there are many.

This repetition seems to suggest a paucity of vocabulary, or a bad commercial for a shitty product:

They don't have the right equipment, and their equipment is old. I used it. I talked about it. At every stop. Depleted. It's depleted. It won't be depleted for long. One of the reasons I'm standing here instead of other people is, frankly, I talked about we have to have a strong military. We have to have strong law enforcement also.

Once again, the man cannot let go of the fact that he lost the popular vote by almost three million ballots:

I'm here following through on what I pledged to do. That's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270, which you need — that was laughable. We got 306. Because people came out and voted like they have never seen before. So that's how it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media is trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made, and they are not happy about it for whatever reason.

Let it go, Vulgarmort... seriously, you won the rigged Electoral College vote in a low-turnout election with three alternative candidates, you just aren't that popular.

This particular quote had me laughing: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine. I bet this machine was well-oiled:

The whole thing veered off into even weirder territory during the Q&A, during which certain responses were simply bizarre:

Well, the leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them. I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

His obsession with ratings is unhealthy:

I just see many, many untruthful things. And I'll tell you what else I see. Tone. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but You know, but the tone is such — I do the get good ratings, you have to admit that. But the tone is such hatred.

The guy can't even refrain from undermining his talking points in the space of a single answer:

Russia is a ruse. Yeah, I know you have to get up and ask a question, so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years, don't speak to people in Russia, not that I wouldn't, but I just have nobody to speak to.

I Spoke to Putin twice, called me on the election. I told you this. He called me on the inauguration a few days ago. We had a very good talk. Especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I'm sure you probably get it because it was classified, so I'm sure everybody in this room perhaps has it, but we had a very, very good talk. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with, does.

The whole press conference was a disaster, and listening to snippets of it throughout the day was conducive to indigestion and a suppressed rage. Our last president was one of the most articulate, intelligent individuals to occupy the White House, and now we have this self-pitying, bellicose idjit in residence. I can't even snark about this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rand Paul Has Always Been a Partisan Hack

I have long maintained that Rand Paul is a useless sack of crap topped by a bad toupée, a category of individual which seems to be all too prevalent in our government these days. My contempt for Paul has only increased with his weaselly response to the Michael Flynn meltdown. Apparently, the distinct possibility that the White House is compromised by the Russian government is no big deal, because it would reflect poorly on Republicans:

"I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense."

Contrast this with the endless series of investigations into the Benghazi consulate attack, the blame for which can be partially laid at the feet of Republicans, who are still reluctant to fund embassy security.

The GOP is now clearly putting party interests over the interests of the nation. In light of the constant litany of incompetence and corruption emanating from the White House these days, this is unforgivable. I sure hope the Democrats remember this sort of bullshit when it comes time to vote on pretty much everything the Republicans propose.

As an added source of annoyance, the drive to repeal Obamacare is something that will benefit none of the voting public, even the stupid teabaggers. I am posting uncharacteristically early today because I just got out of our annual meeting regarding employer-provided health insurance. We get decent coverage, but non-emergency care is limited to a certain geographic range, and we are supposed to consult doctors within the 'preferred provider' system. I know Obamacare was a flawed bill, but goddamn it, a national health plan would make life easier for everyone outside of the insurance industry. To hell with Rand Paul and his whole corrupt cadre of hacks.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Gratitude, with a Side of Confession

I want to take an opportunity to thank Bluegal at Crooks and Liars for listing my Saturday evening post (nyuk nyuk) in the blog roundup. This linkage from a major blog means a lot to me.

Now for confession time... I linked to a lot of other posts in that post, hopefully funneling a whole bunch of traffic to my blahg. All your clicks are belong to moi.

Getting back to "sincere mode", thanks again and, at the risk of sounding smug, I think all of the linked posts are worthwhile reads, solely due to the quality of the lectures. I'm merely a stenographer, and a boozed-up one at that. I try my best to hunt down additional links, but it's the scientists who shine.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lincoln Day, Darwin Day

If one were to demand of me, "Quick, name two of your favorite 19th Century figures!" there's a good chance that I would name Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Sorry, James K. Polk. Lincoln and Darwin were both born on February 12th... a fact that I noted in a previous blog post. Both Lincoln and Darwin could rightfully be called progressive heroes- Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which set off the cascade which resulted in the total abolition of slavery in the United States, and Darwin was fervidly anti-slavery. Both Lincoln and Darwin are maligned by crackpots, reactionaries, and manipulative creeps. I tend to judge people by the quality of their enemies, and the often overlapping enemies of Chuck and Abe are people I find repugnant.

So here's to Lincoln and Darwin, individuals whose progressive attitudes and good deeds laid the foundation for much of the good aspects of modern society. Hopefully, we are worthy inheritors of their legacies and fight to ensure that the positive changes they enacted survive. Funny, I'm not usually a proponent of the 'great men' model of history, though I will make exceptions for these two... I'm particularly in awe of terraforming Darwin.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Woman's Place is in the Laboratory, or the Field, or the Classroom

Via Shakezula, we have a reminder that today is the International Day of Woman and Girls in Science, and a link to a herpetologist's snarky takedown of a stupid piece about capping women's admission to science programs by Breitbart 'technology editor' Milo Youcangofuckyourself, who probably can't use any technology more complicated than a hair-gel applicator.

The role of women in the sciences has gotten a great deal of attention lately, with special attention being paid to the formerly neglected African-American women who crunched the numbers that put NASA's astronauts into space and onto the moon. In the previous century, women played a crucial role in crunching the numbers used by astronomers mapping the heavens. Ever since the dawn of the 'Scientific Age', women have been working in the 'STEM' fields, largely ignored by misogynistic assholes like the Breitbrats.

I decided that my particular contribution to the celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science would be to link the various Secret Science Club lectures by women (it's worth noting here that the SSC is run by two talented, dedicated women of great intelligence and strong civic values).

Ichthyologist Dr Melanie Stiassny lectured on the incredible biodiversity among fish in the Congo River.

Primatologist Dr Patricia Chapple Wright lectured on lemurs and the conservation efforts being undertaken to protect them.

Astrophysicist Dr Priyamvada Natarajan lectured on dark matter and gravitational lensing on two nights.

Neurologist Dr Leslie Voshall lectured on the human olfacory system.

Cognitive scientist Dr Alexandra Horowitz lectured on the cognitive capabilities of dogs.

Neuroscientist Dr Diana Reiss lectured on animal cognitive capabilities, with a focus on dolphins.

Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher lectured on attraction and amor.

Neurologist Dr Dr Susana Martinez-Conde lectured on human perception, specifically illustions.

Paleoanthropologist Dr Shara Bailey lectured on the study of hominin teeth.

Biologist Mandë Holford lectured on snail venoms and their possible pharmaceutical use.

Primatologist Dr Mary Blair lectured on primate conservation.

Neurologist Dr Anne Churchland lectured on the decision making process.

Dr Heather Berlin lectured on consciousness.

Friend of the Bastard and all around great person Dr Evon Hekkala lectured about crocodile behavior and genetics in one of my personal favorite SSC lectures.

Comparative anatomist Dr Joy Reidenberg lectured on whale anatomy and the process of performing a necroscopy on a dead whale.

Molecular geneticist Dr Alea Mills lectured on the role of specific genes in tumor suppression.

Neurologist Dr Daniela Schiller lectured on the role of the amygdala in human emotional responses.

Sadly, I began my lecture recaps in December of 2009, so I missed writing recaps for two years and three months of SSC lectures. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of women doing amazing work in the various scientific fields. As someone who believes in a meritocracy, the very idea of caps on the admission of women and minorities in ANY field is abhorrent to me.

I would much prefer a cap on the number of paid internet trolls spouting stupid, misogynistic garbage.

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Hallowed Underground

And so, there came a time when I made a pilgrimage to the non-site of the nonexistent Bowling Green Massacre:

We shall never forget that dark day, when the streets ran brown with bullshit.