Monthly Archives: May 2013

Bye Bye Bachmann

(Sung to the tune of “Bye Bye Birdie”)

Bye-bye Bachmann. No one's gonna miss you, go.
Bye-bye Bachmann. Your mind is awful slow.
Still more crazies. I hope they'll follow you away.
I'll cry Bachmann, if you decide to stay.
I hate the way you rile,
inflicting religious misery.
Gay marriage gave you a fright,
While the rest of us scream, "Whoopie!"
Bye-bye Bachmann. It's awful nice to hear.
Bye-bye Bachmann. Don't let the door hit your rear!
Don't let it hit your reeeaaaar!
Don't let it hit your rear!

For you uncultured fools who do not get the reference:

Book Review: Stonemouth By Iain Banks

Jean-Paul’s rating: 3/5 stars

A glossary of Scottish slang is necessary to read this book.   I highly recommend reading the e-book version of this book if you decide to read it.  Those, like me, who are not familiar with Scottish slang will be very thankful for the dictionary included with most e-readers.

This is my first exposure to Iain Banks.  I think I heard of him through reading Paul Krugman’s blog and decided to give one of his books a shot.  The only one available via e-book from the library was “Stonemouth” so I read it.

Stuart Gilmore is returning to his hometown of Stonemouth to attend a funeral after being run out of town by a mob family for an unnamed indiscretion five years ago.  The book follow his journey back and introduces us to the strange workings of a two-mob harbor town.  The Murstons, whom Stuart had pissed off, have given him permission to come back for the funeral.  Barely.  Some of the Murstons are more forgiving than others and there is a bit of a power struggle going on in their organization.  Poor Stuart.

The meat of the book is the reveal of the unnamed indiscretion and the continued fallout from said indiscretion.  It is revealed through flashbacks and reunions with friends.  The book flows really well from scene to scene.  There is a real sense that this is exactly how a reunion/funeral visit would look like for someone who had been gone for five year.  Well, without the whole mob family being pissed at you part.  But every book needs a bit of conflict, right?

This is a very solid book.  The characters are interesting and real.  The flashbacks do a good job of fleshing out the motives of the characters.  The slow reveal of the unnamed indiscretion committed by Stuart works really well.  The only real flaw is with the plot.  It’s just a little too simple and it leads to a conclusion that, while satisfying, isn’t really something you’d normally write a book about.  If you think of “Stonemouth” as a character study, you will likely enjoy it.

Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 4/5 stars


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An Entertainment Complex In The Middle Of A Sewage System

Oh, Neil deGrasse Tyson, why must you be so awesome?

When giving a speech on Intelligent Design, he had a segment about how stupidly designed the entire universe is.  He went on to describe how stupidly designed humans are.  He called the human reproductive system “an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system.”  He also railed about the idiocy of using the same mouth to both breath, talk, and eat guaranteeing that a certain portion of the population will choke to death every year.  No engineer worth a damn would ever have created the human.

The larger point of the speech is that every well known scientist in history has proclaimed Intelligent Design in their careers to describe what they can’t describe despite the fact that someone came along later to fill in the gaps.  It’s even true today to a lesser extent.  85% of the top scientific minds in the world do not believe in god but what about the other 15%?  If the scientific community can’t even convert that 15%, what can they possibly expect to establish inroads with the general population who have no idea how science actually works.  The answer is you can’t.

You should watch the speech in its entirety.  It’s well worth it.


Pointless Milestone: Achieved!

Here’s some news that is of value to absolutely no one.  For the first time ever, this blog had over 100 hits.  114 hits yesterday, to be exact.  So, yay?

I’m Related To Charlemagne!

The blood of kings flows through my veins!  I’m pretty sure that this means I get to have a completely superfulous sex scene with Melisandre before she sacrifices me to her red god. (Game of Thrones reference.)

Don’t worry, you get to have sex with Melisandre too.  It turns out that we’re all related to Charlemagne.  If you can claim European heritage at least.  If you go back a little farther than Charlemagne to 1000 BC, we’re all family!  Not just Europeans.  Everyone.  The Native American hunting the Great Plains in 1000 BC?  He’s family.  The African migrating across the Serengeti in 1000 BC?  She’s family.  Every person that was alive in 1000 BC and managed to sprout a family tree that is still growing today is related to you.  Every.  Single.  One.  That is amazing!

And before you start worrying about how much incest you’re having, fear not, you share none of the same genes from those ancestors.  You have no more in common (genetically) with those ancestors than you do that random stranger you saw on the train.  In fact, you only have to go 14 generations back to have a statistical zero percent chance of sharing any genes at all with an ancestor.  So much for leaving behind a lasting legacy.

I could never come up with a better closing paragraph than the one in the above linked article so I’ll just quote it here:

But while genetics doesn’t reflect much of our imagined genealogical uniqueness, it’s shown that we’re more closely tied to our species as a whole than we might have realized. We’re all part of this enormous human fabric, full of fascinating tendencies and bizarre biochemistry. And research is revealing more and more about humanity as a whole and our incredibly beautiful, incredibly unlikely perch in the universe. That’s a tradition to be proud of.

Kristin The Hero

So, how many of you had burn victims in your bathtub today?  Yeah, didn’t think so.

There was a fire in one of the units down the hall in my building.  Kristin was home and heard screams from the hallway and smelled smoke.  She looks out the peephole and sees two very burned men screaming “fire!” in Polish.  Kristin knows this because, of course, she speaks a little Polish.  Who doesn’t, right?  She then very calmly proceeds to call the fire department and informs them that there is a fire in the building.

But there are still two highly excited Polish men with burns in the hallway!  They must be taken care of!  Kristin lets them in so they can run cool water over their burns while waiting for the EMTs to arrive.  Because that’s what heroes do.

Kristin’s work is far from done, though!  For what’s that out in the hall?  Is that fire?  It is!  To the fire extinguisher!  Kristin grabs the the fire extinguisher from the closet and proceeds to put out the fire that had escaped into the hall.  Who wouldn’t, right?

The rest is all boring, run of the mill, everyday hero stuff.  Letting the EMTs in to treat the burn victims, filing a report with the police, talking to jittery neighbors.  I mean, who doesn’t do that on a daily basis?

Kristin leads such a boring life.  I am in awe of her stay calm and carry on demeanor when in a crisis.

The aftermath of the hallway:


The aftermath of the bathroom:


Bonus Kristin quote: “There’s nothing like chunks of burned flesh to motivate you to clean the bathroom.”

Map Of The Year

Slate took data from NOAA and plotted every tornado that killed a person in the United States since 1950.  My only complaint about it is they morbidly focus only on tornadoes that killed people.  That, in itself, tells us nothing about tornadoes.  Still, though, you get a good feel for where tornadoes usually hit and where they don’t.

Notice how many of the tornadoes travel northeast.  There’s a reason for that.  Some of the best tornado forming weather occurs when the jet stream buckles and sends a pool of cold air south over the plains.  This allows warm, moist gulf air to build on the eastern side of the jet stream buckle.  Warm air meets cold air and boom!  Quick rising storm clouds form causing dangerous thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.  Those storms generally travel northeast because that’s where the jet stream is heading.  The answer, my friend, actually is blowing in the wind in this case!

Ta-Nehisi Coates Pokes The Obamas With A Stick

I think I have figured out my man-crush on Ta-Nehisi Coates.  He reminds me of Amy Gardner from “The West Wing”.  There is this scene where Josh is complaining to Amy that she’s supposed to be on their side and she responds: “First of all, I’m crazy about the President, Josh. I’ve been crazy about him for longer than you’ve known who he was. And I’ll keep poking him with a stick. That’s how I show my love.” That’s exactly what Coates is doing here where he’s talking about the Obamas and race:

I think the stature of the Obama family — the most visible black family in American history — is a great blow in the war against racism. I am filled with pride whenever I see them: there is simply no other way to say that. I think Barack Obama, specifically, is a remarkable human being — wise, self-aware, genuinely curious and patient. It takes a man of particular vision to know, as Obama did, that the country really was ready to send an African American to the White House.

But I also think that some day historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences. They will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same. They will match his rhetoric of individual responsibility, with the aggression the administration showed to bail out the banks, and the timidity they showed  in addressing a foreclosure crisis which devastated black America (again.)They wil weigh the rhetoric against an administration whose efforts against housing segregation have been run of the mill. And they will match the talk of the importance of black fathers with the paradox of a president who smoked marijuana in his youth but continued a drug-war which daily wrecks the lives of black men and their families. In all of this, those historians will see a discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk.

I think the president owes black people more than this. In the 2012 election, the black community voted at a higher rate than any other ethnic community in the country. Their vote went almost entirely to Barack Obama. They did this despite of an effort to keep them from voting, and they deserve more than a sermon. Perhaps they cannot  practically receive targeted policy. But surely they have earned something more than targeted scorn.

Read the whole thing.  It’s a wonderful poking of of the stick at someone Ta-Nehisi Coates loves.

The Air Conditioner Story

Healthcare is weird.  The focus is almost entirely on treatment and not at all on prevention.  Billions of dollars would likely be saved if we switch that focus.  And that leads us to the air conditioner story.  The air conditioner story is a story that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber loves to tell.  It’s pithy and gets to the heart of the U.S. healthcare problem.  Here is the air conditioner story:  There’s this 90 year old woman with a well managed congestive heart condition and she lives in an apartment with no air conditioner.

That’s it.  That’s the story.  The point being that high temperatures are not good for a 90 year old woman with a congestive heart condition.  On a 100 degree day, healthcare will pay tens of thousands of dollars for the ambulance and the emergency room visit and any followups that are required when that woman has a heart event but it won’t pay $200 to get her a window air conditioning unit that would likely have prevented the event.

Pretty awesome story, huh?  Watch Oregon.  Great things are happening to change healthcare for the better.