hummingwolf: (My world is askew!)
‘Alternative facts’? Journalists from Venezuela to Turkey have ‘seen this movie before’
The early months of the Trump presidency will involve fierce battles about such policy matters as health care, trade and immigration. As its very first fight, though, his administration chose a target that has alarmed observers of authoritarian leaders: verifiable facts.

In a monologue at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency on the first full day of his presidency, Trump blasted the media for correctly reporting on the size of his inauguration crowd, falsely claiming it was actually much bigger. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, then did the same from a podium at the White House, making five provably false claims and walking out.

Spicer’s words were not lies, Trump counsellor Kellyanne Conway said on NBC the next morning. They were, she said, “alternative facts.”

The instantly immortal piece of spin triggered another round of mockery on social media and beyond. For watchdogs in countries that have slid away from democracy, it was not a laughing matter in the slightest. Phillip Gunson, an International Crisis Group senior analyst in Caracas, wrote on Twitter: “This is how it begins: casting doubt on the veracity of things you can see with your own eyes. After a while, you start to doubt your eyes.”


Fomenting doubt about the traditional providers of facts helps inoculate politicians such as Erdogan and Trump against future stories about their wrongdoing, Zeynalov said. He said they are especially sensitive to truths that call into question the supposed popular support they use to justify their governing.

“Crowd sizes, how many people applauded me, how many people voted for me — this is the essence of populist leaders: to make sure that the people who love them, who applaud them, are ‘bigger.’ Whenever you challenge that notion, you’re assaulting the crux of their argument,” he said.

Read the whole thing.

And as reporter Daniel Dale said on Twitter: It's kind of perfect that the administration supported by the white supremacist "alt-right" is now calling lies "alt-facts."

I'm glad the NYT is giving us stories like White House Pushes 'Alternative Facts.' Here Are the Real Ones. Here's hoping that journalists will do more of that, because we certainly need it for however long the current administration has any power at all.

And at this point, the explanation here might some obvious, but maybe we're going to need the reminders that constant, brazen lying is a strategy and it isn't a strategy used by the Good Guys.
hummingwolf: (My world is askew!)
Proposal: Name hurricanes after politicians who deny climate change.

But maybe you'll think twice before signing that petition: some folks wonder if the NSA's surveillance program is really meant to spy on environmentalists. Now, that may sound like excessive paranoia to you, but as Paul Bibeau says on his Goblinbooks blog: "The NSA Is Beyond My Ability To Satirize It."

In other news, the olinguito is rather cute. Also, lobster baby!
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
Leaked: US government strategy to prevent leaks.

Also in U.S. news: We have snow in 49 states including Hawaii. Today, Florida is feeling left out. (Link via [ profile] yasminke.)

In more serious weather news: You can donate to the flood relief appeal here.

Unrelated to current news: After I'd finished reading Why We Read What We Read, I looked around on the net for what other people had to say and was amused to find that someone back in 2009 read the book as part of a Dewey Decimal Challenge--a challenge that isn't much different from my little New Year's resolution. Anyway, unlike me, the blogger actually interviewed the authors, Lisa Adams and John Heath.

Speaking of books I've read recently, have a quote from Jedediah Berry's Manual of Detection: "To glide with sock-swaddled feet over a world of glossy planes: that would be a wondrous thing! But Unwin's apartment was smallish at best, and the world is unkind to the shoeless and frolicsome."


You know how you can look at a word and look at a word and after a while it stops looking like a word? It doesn't take long to get to that stage when the word is "miscellany."


Saturday: Spent afternoon and evening with Mad Science folks. Entertaining conversations and tasty food as usual, occasionally accompanied by the shoeless and frolicsome antics of cats. It was good to spend time with friends & friendly people. We were saddened by the news from Arizona.

Sunday: Not much happened that I recall, though I did go out walking far enough to buy some groceries. Spent most of the day resting so I'd have the energy to get up early for an appointment on Monday. Shortly after I went to bed, I saw, heard, and felt an explosion which part of me knew was the product of my sleeping brain while another, smaller part of me thought it could be an actual emergency. Stupid brain.

Monday: For a change of pace, I actually would have made it to my morning appointment on time if my lungs hadn't decided that they didn't want to work properly. I still don't know what the blazes was going on there. Spent most of the day resting. Also spent a good part of the day crying, as I'd made the mistake of contemplating my probable future on a day when my body was seriously misbehaving itself. I went to bed early and got ten hours of sleep, which seems to have helped.

Tuesday: Much better day than Monday. I walked tuna half miles, picked up a prescription, did some light grocery shopping, came home and took out the trash, did a load of laundry, and spent entirely too much time on the internet. The sky spat sleet at me while I was walking home, but that only made me laugh. I feel like I could use more sleep now, so I'll probably be going to bed early again. Let's see what tomorrow brings.
hummingwolf: Current Mood: Girly. Animated sparkly pink icon. (Girlymood)
Today I went out intending to buy some bras and possibly a shirt or some jeans if any suitable ones were to be found, spent hours indoors on a lovely day scouring the shelves and racks of all likely stores in a local shopping mall, and came home carrying a box of licorice tea and a bar of dark chocolate with golden flax seeds and thyme. I've been told that many women and some men absolutely love shopping for clothes, but I cannot for the life of me understand the appeal.

It would probably help if clothing manufacturers made a habit of making clothes I would willingly wear. Shopping for bras is hardly an easy task to begin with. Like the average woman, I wear bras in the wrong size. Unlike the average woman, I am aware of the fact. But how am I to correct it? All I'm looking for is something that fits reasonably well and isn't made out of some fabric that makes me dehydrated within the hour and doesn't cause pain that's too terribly intense. Today I was even willing to buy something with an underwire! That's how accommodating I am! But everything in the size I was looking for (not much of a selection to begin with) was either designed to minimize ("Reduces by up to 1¾ inches!" But why?) or had enough padding that I'd feel like I had an extra chest on top of my chest. Why can't I find something to support what I have without pretending I don't have it or that I have someone else's?

This isn't the best time of year for me to go shopping. I keep hearing Mom's voice in my head, telling me to suck in my stomach because it's bulging too much. I know it was her body she hated, not mine, but mine is the one that's still alive. She used to buy me fashionable dresses and miniskirts--things she would never wear herself because of her weight and her shape--and then wonder why I wouldn't wear them. I liked the clothes she wore better! Poor Mom. She wanted me to become the girl she'd wanted to be rather than the woman she was; I aspired to become the woman she was, but was hampered by the fact that I was rather a lot like Dad.

I keep hearing other voices in my head, telling my mother she looked good. Hot summer afternoon, she'd spent a long time in the hotel room making herself look as respectable as possible before Dad wheeled her out in the chair out to be happy and chatty and pretend she wasn't dying. Nobody was dying, and Mom looked great because she'd lost so much weight and people would pretend to her face that they didn't know why. (Later on they'd tell Dad he was a saint for sticking around.) Mom, you were right: Smoking did help you lose your unwanted fat. I still don't think it was worth the price.

And this really isn't the best time of year for me to go shopping.


In the news: A Prenatal Treatment Raises Questions of Medical Ethics, in which we learn about Dr. Maria New, who encourages pregnant women who might pass a genetic disorder on to their children to take powerful medications in an experimental sort of way to attempt to prevent girls who might have the disorder from developing certain symptoms--all so early in the pregnancy that there's no way for mother or doctor to know whether or not the developing fetus is, in fact, a genetic XX who might theoretically benefit from this drug which is probably causing birth defects. Well, I find that bad enough, personally. But preventing certain physical problems with baby genitalia isn't the doctor's only goal. No, no, it seems that she thinks the experimental use of the drug could prevent the births of girls who display an "abnormal" disinterest in babies, don't want to play with girls' toys or become mothers, and whose "career preferences" are deemed too "masculine." Right, so it seems this woman doctor wants to prevent the births of more women who would join some stereotypically masculine profession like medicine. Sounds like another case of self-hatred, which might not be so bad if people like her didn't take their self-hatred out on the most vulnerable of the rest of us.

(Second link via [ profile] rm via [personal profile] supergee.)

It's. About. Time.

Friday, April 16th, 2010 09:02 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Gold fractal)
The White House on Thursday released a statement by Obama instructing his Health and Human Services secretary to draft rules requiring hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments to grant all patients the right to designate people who can visit and consult with them at crucial moments.

The designated visitors should have the same rights that immediate family members now enjoy, Obama's instructions said. It said Medicare-Medicaid hospitals, which include most of the nation's facilities, may not deny visitation and consultation privileges on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

... The new rules, Obama said, should "guarantee that all patients' advance directives, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies, are respected," and that patients' designees be able to "make informed decisions regarding patients' care."

Talk about overdue. News coverage will probably continue to concentrate on what this means for same-sex partners, but this is good news for everybody, regardless of your beliefs or your relationships. Even at times in my life when I was trying with all my might to be a fundamentalist, I never, never could get behind the idea that anybody should be denied the right to see their loved ones when they're sick or dying. Hospital rules allowing only visitors who happen to be in a certain sort of legal relationship to the patient--no matter what the patient's own preferences are--are cruel and inhumane punishments for vulnerable people. We all know people who have been abused by family members, and yet those abusers have in many cases had greater rights over hospitalized people than the folks in their lives who actually cared.

It is a happy thing to see good news in the morning.
hummingwolf: Gold starlike kaleidoscope images. (Gold stars)
Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak are this year's winners for the Nobel Prize in medicine for their research into telomeres (the tips of chromosomes) and telomerase (the enzyme that builds telomeres); discoveries which, in the words of the prize committee, "have added a new dimension to our understanding of the cell, shed light on disease mechanisms, and stimulated the development of potential new therapies."

This is the first time two women have won the prize in medicine in the same year. But what I'm wondering is, how many times has a winner of a Nobel prize quoted Monty Python?

In pleasanter news

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 11:16 pm
hummingwolf: Current Mood: Girly. Animated sparkly pink icon. (Girlymood)
Based on news reports coming out today, incoming U.S. President Barack Obama seems to be right on track in his goal to assemble the Hottest Administration Evar. Behold the potential Surgeon General!

Info via [ profile] urbpan, who may think the potential Surgeon General doesn't look enough like Dr. Koop, but still includes a lovely photo in this post.
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
Detainees drugged without medical reason--U.S. government violating its own rules in the process.

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.

About one detainee:
"I can't be deported," he replied. "I have a wife I love very much." Besides, he told them, he was still appealing his immigration case. He shouldn't have to leave, he protested, until the judge had ruled. That day, he was returned to Alabama. But he said that immigration officers warned him, "We'll find a way to get you on a plane."

A few weeks later, the officers came back and again took him to a holding cell in Atlanta. He was, the medical log says, becoming "increasingly anxious and non-cooperative per flt. to Nigeria." At 1:30 p.m., the log says, "Dt taken down by four" guards.

Ade was being held down, he recalled, when he noticed a nurse "with a needle and a bottle with some kind of substance in it." He said he told the guards: "Okay, fine, fine. If it's going to be like this, don't inject me. I will go on my own free will."

Check out page 2 of the article to see which drugs were commonly used in this nifty cocktail and in what doses they were given. Hey, have I ever mentioned in this journal that one of my recurring childhood nightmares was the one where government officials came to my house, accused me of something-or-other, and injected me with drugs against my will? (Link via [ profile] supergee.)

(no subject)

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 05:37 pm
hummingwolf: (My world is askew!)
Living off the fat of the land? Arrest in theft of grease

By Mark Gomez
Mercury News
Article Launched: 04/03/2008 01:30:20 AM PDT

Apparently a double Whopper and large fries weren't enough for this man: He wanted more - used cooking oil, 300 gallons of it.

David Richardson, 49, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stealing grease after police said he siphoned it from a storage tank at a Morgan Hill Burger King.

A Burger King manager called police because he didn't recognize the truck belonging to a man he saw siphoning the oil. When police stopped Richardson, his 5,000-gallon oil tank was half-full.

Police suspect the Illinois man, who worked for Restaurant Oils of America in Las Vegas, intended to recycle the oil at an Atascadero refinery for $1.35 a gallon. A full tank would have been worth $6,750.

"Our guess is it's a biodiesel fuel thing. It's like someone stealing copper wire," said Morgan Hill police Cmdr. David Swing. "This might turn into something that starts to occur more frequently."

Edit: More detail in this article on MSNBC.
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
Baby locked up at Honolulu airport dies

Luaipou Futi and a nurse banged on a locked door at Honolulu International Airport Friday morning and begged for medical help for Futi's 14-day-old son, who had flown here from American Samoa for heart surgery and was becoming distressed in the warm room.

According to Futi's attorney, from the other side of the door, the women heard voices telling them to remain calm.

After 30 minutes in the room, Futi, her son, Michael Tony Futi, and the traveling nurse, Arizona Veavea, were released, attorney Rick Fried said.

City paramedics took Michael to Kaiser Permanente's Moana-lua Medical Center, but he died later that morning. Emergency Services Department officials said they received a call at 6:10 a.m. and the child was taken to Kaiser Moanalua in critical condition.

Autopsy results are pending.

More at the link above, including video. I can't be coherent about this one. (Link via [ profile] supergee.)


Friday, January 11th, 2008 11:24 pm
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
For fellow fans of House, M.D.: The Metaphorical Medicine of House. Includes bits of interview with the technical advisor for the series.

The 2007 International Privacy Ranking from Privacy International. According to this report, the U.S. privacy record isn't the worst in the world: in 2007, this country actually ranked better than Singapore, Russia, China, and Malaysia. Woohoo! We only did worse than nearly everyone else on the planet. On the plus side, as about half of you lot have already noticed, "A telephone company cut off an FBI international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a U.S. government audit released on Thursday." While one must admire the elegance of the checks and balances set forth in the United States Constitution as well as the nobility of much of the Bill of Rights, one sometimes suspects that the greatest guardians of freedom in this country are general laziness and incompetence.

On an entirely different note: Ghee Happy, "a brand that celebrates Indian/Hindu mythologies and culture thru design and storytelling in a fun and charming way." Do check out the free Kali desktop. (This is one of those links where it's hard for an outsider to tell just how serious/reverent/etc. the artist is being. That odd Spiderman Ganesh photo going around a while back was from an actual Ganesha festival, was a serious attempt to meld East and West, even as it seemed to so many people that it must have been blasphemous. So I at least feel compelled to reserve judgment about the cute little deities, just admiring the cuteness.)

Last and probably least, a link for my own reference, though it could be useful for anyone else with an analog TV: The US Government's TV converter box coupon program.

There was going to be more to this post, but I decided I was too sleepy to say it.

Online life

Monday, December 10th, 2007 08:29 pm
hummingwolf: Mathemagical animation made out of string. (Incredible String Thing)
So, a bunch of people have been linking to this article recently, all about a Russian blogger (a LiveJournal user) who was charged with "inciting hate" against police officers in his journal several months ago. People who have been linking to that article have been claiming that it's evidence of SUP's being in bed with Putin's government, but is there any proof of that? Were the blogger's entries public or in some place where the Russian government should not have been able to find them? Wait, let me follow the links instead of asking you lot...

Do You Dare To Leave a Comment? He posted a comment, apparently publicly, and recommended that six police in every city be "ceremonially burned daily, or better twice a day (at midday and midnight, for example)." "The law enforcement agencies have proven that Terentyev is the author of the offensive statements by studying his school essays. Terentyev has been asked to provide a written statement promising he will not leave the city, Yury Knyazev, a senior aide to the republic's prosecutor, told" So it's a case of Russian prosecutors cracking down on dissent, but not (apparently) a case of SUP cracking down on him. 'Anton Nosik, director of's chief administrator in Russia, told daily Kommersant the case was "absurd." "The ignorance of local judges often plays a role in the outcome of cases connected to the internet," Nosik said. "I hope that with many journalists present, the judge will look at the essence of the case and not simply hand down a guilty verdict."' More on Russian blogs here.

In more entertaining LJ-related stuff, the latest list of things you can't search for on LiveJournal is over here. Check out the interest list on this profile, which consists entirely of terms you cannot search for on LiveJournal. I began to do something similar over here*, but must bow down to the true masters.

Whoever thought that an interest in "children's choral music" or "undaunted circumnavigation" could be so naughty?

For those wondering: the closest anyone has gotten to an official LJ statement about the interest search so far is comments by [ profile] marta over in [ profile] lj_policy.
We discussed this today, and I need to talk to several more people this week before I'll know what to say about the blocked search terms. I'm sorry I don't have an answer today (that was what I was optimistically hoping for) but I want to be sure what I say is really correct and accurate.

So far a) it's been that way since June and b) there was a one-time addition to the terms in late October and c) it's not related to the flagging program or the SUP purchase or anything like that.

Thinking back, I believe I did search for other users interested in "raccoons" in the last few months and did get the new error. But if this did in fact happen, I figured it was because LJ was having a server glitch again. Never did it occur to me that my interest in my fuzzy masked neighbors could be seen as a sign of evil intent.

* Thanks to the magic of OpenID, with my accounts at LJ and IJ I have four different profiles: hummingwolf here, hummingwolf there, on LiveJournal, and on InsaneJournal. There is someone who has me friended on InsaneJournal who has never friended me on LiveJournal, and someone who has friended on LiveJournal who has never friended either hummingwolf on InsaneJournal or hummingwolf on LiveJournal. It all gets terribly confusing.

(no subject)

Monday, November 26th, 2007 05:36 pm
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
I had plans to Go Out and Do Stuff today, but for a change of pace it wasn't lack of energy that stopped me. No, I had to stay here to make sure that the phone company's technicians actually fixed my landline instead of getting sidetracked into working on the landlord's instead. (Not that I have anything against him having a working phone, mind you; I just wanted to make sure that we both had working phones at the end of the day!)

Anyway, I'm here! I'm back! I can do something besides post short MegaHAL poems before getting kicked offline again! Wheee!

Link the first: Something adorable happened at a Neil Gaiman book signing (link via [ profile] tryss).

Link the second: Undercover restorers fix Paris landmark's clock. "Four members of an underground 'cultural guerrilla' movement known as the Untergunther, whose purpose is to restore France's cultural heritage, were cleared on Friday of breaking into the 18th-century monument in a plot worthy of Dan Brown or Umberto Eco." (link via... someone who locked their post, so nevermind.)

I think there was something more to say here, but I have no idea what it was. More sleep needed.
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Cuddly plush toy)
Since multiple people have been following the story of how "FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here", this seems to be a good time to re-link to this Village Voice piece from 2002.

So, who wants some take-out pizza?

(no subject)

Friday, July 20th, 2007 10:43 am
hummingwolf: animation of green and gold fractal, number of iterations increasing with time (Iterations in green and gold)
In spite of the fact that I woke up early this morning (or perhaps because of that fact), I've been moving much too slowly to do the thing I wanted to do before going off to do that other thing I want to do. So instead, I'm reading stuff online and wondering when the tea will kick in.

One thing I ran across is an article challenging guidelines on teen depression. I can't actually tell you what the article says, though, because my attention has been eaten up by the fact that the UK really does have an organization with the acronym of NICE. "NICE is an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health." People who remember the C.S. Lewis book That Hideous Strength will understand my problem here.

In other news, [ profile] languagelog has a post with some fun fruit fly gene names.

Man with tiny brain lives entirely normal life. Insert your own commentary here.

Gosh, this is a surprise: "Body image was significantly more negative after viewing thin media images than after viewing images of either average size models, plus size models, or inanimate objects. ... Results support the sociocultural perspective that mass media promulgate a slender ideal that elicits body dissatisfaction."

"The Pentagon told Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton that her questions about how the U.S. plans to eventually withdraw from Iraq boosts enemy propaganda." My main question is still why Hillary Rodham Clinton is the front-runner when nobody actually wants to vote for her. But anyway, "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hit back Friday at a Pentagon aide who charged that her questions about Iraq withdrawal planning have the effect of helping the enemy - calling the accusation a spurious dodge of a serious issue."

How much does this stuff matter in the grand scheme of things? Well, size isn't everything, but Universcale may still give you a sense of perspective.

Ahh, Clarity

Friday, July 20th, 2007 09:15 am
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (one)
For those of you who aren't avoiding LJ in an attempt to avoid Harry Potter spoilerers: You probably already know that [ profile] lj_biz issued clarifications about LJ policy yesterday, but you should also be aware that they have since clarified the clarifications. Yeah, HP fanfic authors are going to be so pleased when they get back.

On Tuesday, US President George W. Bush unveiled a new executive order, Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq. Associated Press article about it is here; Shakesville clarifies.

Here in the DC area, temperatures have finally gone from sickeningly hot to reasonably pleasant, considering. Does this mean summer's worst is over? Clearly not.
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Cuddly plush toy)
Now wearing: Black shirt, blue jeans, white socks, boring underwear, and glasses I would really like to get replaced.

Today's television: Smallville finale: It was enjoyable, but certain characters should be deader than they probably are.

Supernatural finale: Oh, Dean! And [spoiler]! And ohh, [spoiler]!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Yeah, that ep made me rather squeeful.

Today's walk: I've been keeping approximate track of how many miles I've walked in the new shoes, but I already forget how many of those miles were today. It's roughly 18 miles since last Friday, though. The right shoe started making an odd squeaky sound today. Is air leaking out of my Nike air shoes already?

On today's walk, I saw a man and a woman chasing a ferret. Well, am not sure if the woman was chasing the ferret or following along behind so she could laugh at the man.

Also on today's walk, I checked out the bird's nest I first saw on Mother's Day--the nest that was built about five-and-a-half feet above a sidewalk, right where most adult humans can bump into the branch it's built in without even trying. A couple days ago I managed to count at least three baby birds alive in the nest begging for food, so perhaps the location wasn't as bad for survival as I'd thought. Today as I stood and looked at the little birdlets with their fresh little feathers growing in, zoom! goes something past my head. Look up, and there's angry Mama Robin glaring at me. "It's okay, I won't hurt them! I promise!" Zoom! goes Mama Robin again, just barely not touching my hair. I back up a bit, try to reason with her... ZOOM! at my head. At this point I decided to leave the family alone, assured that Mama Robin really is very protective of her cute little babies.

Music of the week: Been listening to two albums by Jez Lowe & the Bad Pennies (Tenterhooks and The Parish Notices) as well as all of Kalinnikov's symphonies (all both of them). Didn't set out to listen only to music you've never heard before; it just kinda worked out that way.

Today's reading: Lots of stuff on LJ. Very little out of the library books that are due soon. Maybe I'll make up for that tomorrow.

Today's napping: Rather a lot. Tried to deal with my tiredness through use of...

Today's beverage: Entirely too much black tea.

Candy of the day: Crispy, crunchety Butterfinger. I was more in the mood for peanut-butteriness than I was for chocolate, which was weird.

Fruit of the day: Fresh strawberries! Mmmm, lovely, lovely strawberries.

Useful stuff done today: I think I balanced my checkbook or something. This really wasn't a day for getting much accomplished, though it started out promisingly. I feel like I must have cleaned something, but I can't remember what. It wasn't anything here in my bedroom, that's for sure.

Linguistics for the day: lolcat linguistics.

Headline of the month: A May 3 story from the Associated Press which [ profile] mariness linked to yesterday. The page she linked is no longer online, however this still is. In the words of Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, "So you just can't improve on that. Anyway, my compliments to the AP headline writer, who had a good day that day."
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
The federal Food and Drug Administration is proposing to redefine the very essence of chocolate and to allow big manufacturers such as Hershey to sell a bar devoid of a key ingredient - cocoa butter. The butter’s natural texture could be replaced with inferior alternatives, such as vegetable fats. And consumers would never know.

Chocolatier Gary Guittard said it best: “No one can afford to sit back and eat bonbons while America’s great passion for chocolate is threatened.”

For every defender of traditional chocolate, there are powerful proponents who want to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil: the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Snack Food Association. These industry titans have filed a “citizens petition” to the FDA, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, as if there were some groundswell in society to water down chocolate.

Yet another reminder never to trust the FDA.

(no subject)

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007 10:16 am
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
I woke up at about 4:30 this morning feeling like someone had set large patches of my skin on fire. Since this was not conducive to sleep, I eventually got up and read for a while, then managed to sink into a light and troubled slumber for another hour or so. As a result of the pain and sleep-dep, I am likely to be cranky all day. You have been warned.

This article about Conservapedia might be interesting to those of you who haven't already read a zillion blog posts (probably mostly on liberal blogs and probably much more thorough than the Wired article) about the "much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American." I find the article interesting for a different reason, which is that it includes the line "Conservapedia was lampooned by conservative blogger Jon Swift for its brash denial of scientific facts in favor of biblical rhetoric."

People, when some blogger says
I am a reasonable conservative who likes to write about politics and culture. Since the media is biased I get all my news from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Jay Leno monologues.

it may not be wise to take them literally. Particularly when they call themselves by the name of a famous satirist. I'm just saying.

Also in the news: Vitamins could kill you. At least, based on results of some of the better studies, some vitamins could kill you, at least some of the time, maybe, if you take really high doses you don't need. People for whom "Too much of anything is too much" is a radically new idea too subtle to be believable may also be interested in the international movement to ban Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Is there anything else in the news that might annoy me this morning? Oh right, there was the Jesus tomb story that hit over the weekend. Could we please stop leaving our science in the hands of movie directors? Surely someone out there must have a better grasp of history and archaeology than James Cameron?

(no subject)

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 02:54 pm
hummingwolf: Snowflake-like kaleidoscope images (Kaleidocoolth)
Scientists search for "forbidden sequences in the genome - ones so harmful that they are not compatible with life".
"It's like looking for a needle that's not actually in the haystack," says Greg Hampikian, professor of genetics at Boise State University in Idaho, who is leading the project. "There must be some DNA or protein sequences that are not compatible with life, perhaps because they bind some essential cellular component, for example, and have therefore been selected out of circulation. There may also be some that are lethal in some species, but not others. We're looking for those sequences."
Further down the line there is the possibility of constructing a "suicide gene" to code for deadly amino acid primes. It could be attached to genetically modified organisms and activated to destroy them at a later date if they turned out to be dangerous, Hampikian suggests.

In other news, "For the first time, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine what parts of the brain are active when people consider whether to purchase a product and to predict whether or not they ultimately choose to buy the product."

Anybody else imagining a future when people who have been identified as particularly resistant to sales pitches will be treated to gene therapy with a suicide gene? Have I just read too much dystopian fiction?

In other news (link via [ profile] supergee),
NEW YORK - Sick subway passengers, most of them dieters who faint from dizziness, are among the top causes of train delays, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Your line for the suicide gene starts over there to the left. Take your diet books with you to read while you wait. Don't mind me, I'll just be sitting over here eating my limited-edition mint dark chocolate Kit-Kats (on sale for 75% off!).

In entirely unrelated news, and in spite of objections by people who believe for some reason that all American lawmakers should be sworn in on the Bible and that using any other holy book is un-Amurrican, Minnesota's Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, will use the Koran when he takes his oath of office--Thomas Jefferson's Koran.

In the news (feeds)

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007 07:49 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Kaleidoscope (purple & white))
From Slate: The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006. Linked to by [ profile] rssworldmag with the commentary: "The list ... seems to say Bush is the culprit and anathema to all Enlightenment's work (and the Reformation's). You make the call."

From [ profile] scienceblog: 10 tips for spicing up your health in 2007. The fact that thyme seems to fight colds interests me, since I have gotten thyme cravings every single time I've had bronchitis.

Did you realize that the Mars rovers Spirit & Opportunity have been on the planet for three years? And according to this link from [ profile] scienceblog, they keep getting smarter. Nifty!

Also in space news, [ profile] space_com says This year, China is set to launch its first lunar orbiter, followed by the summer sendoff of a mega-powerful mooncraft from Japan. (By the way, this month the moon is called the Wolf Moon, so feel free to howl.)

From [ profile] mind_hacks: a little bit on the cognitive neuroscience of music.'s most popular news stories of 2006, The Weirdest Science Stories of 2006 , The Best Human Nature Stories of 2006, Top Health News of 2006.

I really want to do better at keeping up with the news in 2007.

In the news

Thursday, December 21st, 2006 02:57 pm
hummingwolf: Mathemagical animation made out of string. (Incredible String Thing)
Via [ profile] rsschristdot:
BOSTON (AP) -- The "crazy, crazy Jewish fun" of Kosherland looks a lot like the board game Candy Land, except gefilte fishing substitutes for visits to the Ice Cream Sea.

In Catholic-opoly, like Monopoly, the job is to bankrupt your opponents. The difference is it's done "in a nice, fun way."

And role-playing can get pretty realistic with the Biblical Action Figure of Job, which comes complete with boils.

Maybe it's just me, but some of the games described in the article do sound kinda fun.

In other news, "Lawmakers have drawn up a resolution naming Jesus Christ as the honorary king of Poland, but have failed to win support from the country’s powerful Roman Catholic church."

[ profile] delish_fractal brings us Christmas Science, featuring useful links like the NORAD Santa tracking page and the science of Santa.

Something to do when you're bored at Christmas: Construct complex fractals out of light using a few shiny Christmas tree ornaments. Pretty!

Via [ profile] rssworldmag: "A Commack School District bus driver says he nearly lost his job because he refused to take off his Santa Claus cap while driving his route... Mott said he was told that a parent of a child complained to the district about Mott's headgear, saying that the child doesn't believe in Santa Claus and was bothered by the hat."

Via almost everybody: The title of the next Harry Potter book has been revealed! It is behind the cut, for those who don't want to know. ) And ten zillion fans are already complaining about the title and wondering what impact it will have on the epic Snape slashfic they're in the midst of writing.

From [ profile] bbc_scitech: "A Japanese man has survived for 24 days in cold weather and without food and water by falling into a state of "hibernation", his doctor has said." Another version of the story here.

Woman with two wombs gives birth to triplets. Or, depending on how you look at it, twins and a singleton all at the same time. This is what I'm wondering: What are that woman's menstrual periods like?

Also from the BBC: "Robots could one day demand the same citizen's rights as humans, according to a study by the British government." I wonder what MegaHAL thinks of that idea?

From [ profile] endicottstudio, we get Yuletide Goblins of Iceland. So cute!

In the news

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 05:57 pm
hummingwolf: Snowflake-like kaleidoscope images (Kaleidocoolth)
Because if I don't tell you this stuff, maybe nobody else will.

So, how come I haven't heard about this one from my flist yet? (Okay, technically I did, in the [ profile] secrecy_news feed.) "In another sign of shifting ground in the post-election Congress, Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy yesterday introduced the "Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006," which would reinstate federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees and other suspected enemy combatants."

It's fun to see "Is Anthropogenic Climate Change a Myth?" shortly followed by "Warming oceans produce less phytoplankton".

On a completely different note, I bring you "Pubic hair particles vs. systemic abstractors in generative art." Um, thanks to [ profile] delish_fractal.

From [ profile] livescience: 4,000-year-old mummified doctor unearthed. We're sorry, but Dr. Qar is still waiting to hear back from your insurance company.

Via [ profile] new_scientist: Bats can navigate by sensing Earth's magnetic field. This super-sense gives them something in common with naked mole rats and Siberian hamsters. Anybody else want to see a team of crime-fighting superheroes who happen to be a bat, a naked mole rat, and a Siberian hamster? Somebody needs to write that script.

According to [ profile] natlgeographic, brain-eating cannibal Neandertals looked different from non-cannibal Neandertals. The article suggests this had something to do with climate, but isn't it obvious that the one group looked different because they were zombies?

According to [ profile] scienceblog, water has flowed on Mars within the last seven years. New Scientist version here. But has the Martian surface ever had zombies walking on it?
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
Many people this election season have been up in arms about the electronic voting machines and how easy it is to manipulate results while escaping detection. Most of the angst seemed to come from the liberals, but here in Maryland even our Republican governor Bob Ehrlich urged people to vote by absentee ballot so as to avoid using the dread machines. While rather a lot of voters answered the call, rather a lot of the rest of us did not, which is why I was standing in line today along with oodles of friendly neighbors.

As we stood in line, the election judge called for our attention, holding up a piece of paper and shouting, "Listen! This is a LIE!" All day she'd been noticing people going to the voting booths carrying these sheets of paper with candidates' names and smiling faces [Edit: I'm not sure about the smiling faces, since I didn't see the thing close up. Now I wish I'd collected some of that literature when it was offered to me], but in the afternoon someone called her attention to what the literature actually had on it. Now, these fliers were made up to look like official Democratic party literature, telling folks in this largely Democratic district who the Democratic party wants them to vote for. And this handy little list of Democratic politicians included such people as... our Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich. Nice!

It's reassuring to know that in a world of hackable, digital voting machines, a bit of low-tech deception still has its place.

So anyway, after standing around chuckling about the antics of those wacky Republicans (the judges said something about busloads of folks from Philadelphia hanging out at various of our polling places today), I touched lots of pretty buttons on the Diebold screen, carefully reviewed the summary at the end to make sure the machine had accurately noted my preferences, then consigned my ballot to its electronic doom. Affixing my "Yo Voté/I Voted" sticker to my jacket, I went outside and immediately signed a petition to keep the Green Party on the ballot because, as I said to the signature collector, "The more, the merrier!" Then I went shopping for shampoo and toilet paper because that's just the kind of glamorous life I lead.

[Edit: Washington Post story about those fliers. No, I did not vote for Ehrlich or Steele (unless Diebold says I did).]
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
Is America at war with Vegemite?
In a revelation that has horrified Australians, it is being reported that America has banned Vegemite, the noxious, dark brown gloop that's a close relative of Marmite.

And in a revelation which could horrify Britons - or at least those foolish Britons who like the terrible stuff - Marmite could potentially fall foul of the same law....

A spokewoman for Kraft, the manufacturers of Vegemite, seemed to confirm the rumours, saying: 'The Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid.'...

Some sceptics, however, cast a measure of doubt on the Herald Sun story, noting that it seemed impossible to track down any FDA regulation specifically banning Vegemite, and suggesting that you'd think somebody would have noticed before now if an extremely popular ghastly food had been banned.

Either way, Australians planning on bringing jars of the terrible brown nonsense into the US would also do well to remember that they probably can't bring it on in hand luggage any way, as it will also be confiscated as part of the War on Liquids.

Also: THE Australian Embassy in Washington said yesterday it was looking into media reports that US customs officials were checking people for Vegemite.

And also: “It's pretty silly for the government to ban something that no native born American will eat in the first place!”

And also too: Just how serious is this story, anyway?
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. If the theory of evolution isn't scary enough for you, try:

Hauntworld--The Biggest Haunt Finder Network on the Internet. (Both of these sites recommended by Yahoo in the last week.)

But nothing in those haunts could possibly be as scary as Vegemite, which has been banned in the US. As [ profile] supergee says, "When Vegemite is outlawed, only outlaws will have Vegemite. (At least it's not a weapon of mass destruction, like Sudafed.)"

I happened to copy an earlier article Supergee linked to this morning, so here's the text:
Eek! Scary Vegemite! )
hummingwolf: Part of a julia fractal in colors of fire and smoke. (Fire-flavored fractal)
The Snopes Urban Legends Reference pages have confirmed that certain pictures floating around the internet are authentic photographs of Muslim protesters in London during this year's unrest over the Mohammed cartoons. Behold the face of the Religion of Peace! This is the harsh reality, people. We're so much better than they are: They have placards urging the faithful to "BUTCHER THOSE WHO MOCK ISLAM"; We have Left Behind: The Videogame.
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

I have to admit, after reading more about the game here, here, and here, it sounds very well-done, very entertaining. It may not be so good at providing spiritual clarity, however, judging from this article (Edit: if that link won't work, same column here, or use a search engine to find the Left Behind column by Joel Stein):
By the end, [Left Behind Games President Jeffery] Frichner had 24 soldiers and I had three. Defeated, I asked him if the game had accomplished its objective of making him feel invigorated about the believers' role in the end of the world. "I thought I was playing the devil," he said with a confused look. I took that as a no.

Personally, I think players of the game should be required to read all of [ profile] slacktivist's Left Behind posts (latest one here).

In other news: "Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies' products."

The problem here isn't that the Bush administration is Evil: the Clinton administration and all your favorite lobbying firms have produced the same kinds of "news" and sent them to all the same television stations for years. The problem is that the major TV news organizations all pass this stuff off as real news. Look, the Republicans hate the MainStream Media because they think it's biased in favor of the liberals, the Democrats hate the MSM because they think it's biased in favor of the Eeevil Bush administration, and what they all fail to recognize is that the media are, quite simply, biased in favor of whoever will do their work for them. If you're not willing to do something to change that fact, maybe you should quit complaining and go back to playing your videogames.

In the news.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2003 01:05 am
hummingwolf: Drawing of a creature that is part-wolf, part-hummingbird. (Hummingwolf by Dandelion)
"WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is setting up a stock-market style system in which investors would bet on terror attacks, assassinations and other events in the Middle East. Defense officials hope to gain intelligence and useful predictions while investors who guessed right would win profits."

[ profile] eilandesq's response:

*Office of the general in charge of the program--his secretary pokes his head in*

"General, I've got Joey Buttafuoco on Line One, Geraldo Rivera on Line Two, and Andrew Dice Clay on Line Three. They all think this idea is in really bad taste."

(May be an old joke, Scott, but it works for me.)

Eh, maybe the government types are trying to take our minds off the fact that the new electronic voting systems risk election fraud. Or maybe they don't want us discussing the constitutionality of the F word. (Thanks to Darth Spacey for that last one.)

In unrelated news (unrelated unless the F-word shows up in the poems somewhere), I rather like this:

"Vogons, fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will recall, wrote poetry so bad it could kill. Now an experiment to create poems on the web looks likely to automate the awfulness of Vogon verse.

"David Rea of Greenwich, Connecticut, has written a program that allows a poem to evolve, to see if people with diverse tastes in poetry can work together to create attractive verse."

That article tells you about the Darwinian Poetry website, which language geeks among you may find as nifty as I do.

And in less useful news, Kansas is flatter than a pancake. Maybe you'd need a map of the brain to figure out why these particular stories appeal to me now. Is anybody else as pleased as I am to learn about the possible ice towers on Mars?

(In personal news, I'm still sleep-deprived and barely coherent. I hope that isn't too obvious.)

(no subject)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2003 01:31 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
Congressional Republicans want to make the USA PATRIOT Act permanent. Well, of course they do. Isn't that why Dubya declared a "War on Terror" rather than just wars on individual nations in the first place? A war on Afghanistan or Iraq or even Al Qaeda can end eventually; a War on Terror never will. May as well make all the provisions permanent then.

The landmark legislation expanded the government's power to use eavesdropping, surveillance, access to financial and computer records and other tools to track terrorist suspects.

When it passed in October 2001, moderates and civil libertarians in Congress agreed to support it only by making many critical provisions temporary. Those provisions will expire, or "sunset," at the end of 2005 unless Congress re-authorizes them.

But Republicans in the Senate in recent days have discussed a proposal, written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, that would repeal the sunset provisions and make the law's new powers permanent, officials said. Republicans may seek to move on the proposal this week by trying to attaching it to another antiterrorism bill that would make it easier for the government to use secret surveillance warrants against "lone wolf" terrorism suspects.

(no subject)

Thursday, March 20th, 2003 07:50 pm
hummingwolf: squiggly symbol floating over rippling water (Default)
Sent this story to my favorite mailing list earlier and now realize I should've posted it here as well. So this is the tale where Optimus Prime goes to the Middle East:

Read more... )

Been reading many of the other news links posted over in [ profile] theworld and wondering why I, who have been going insane recently, am still so much more rational than the movers and shakers of this little watery planet.

In spite of everything, I'm feeling better tonight. Went for a nighttime walk in the rain with rivulets running down my glasses as I sloshed through the puddles on the sidewalks and in the streets. Heard distant sirens most of the time I was out. This isn't too unexpected given how close we are to the fire department, yet it's still a sobering sound at a time like this. Now that I'm inside, the predominant sound is the rumble of rain on the roof. There are worse kinds of music.


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