Jim Downey's picture

The best and the worst.

If you only follow the mainstream news outlets, there's a fair chance that you have missed what is likely the biggest story this year - the current mass protests in Iran over the fraud of their recent election. From what I have seen and heard, it is being covered only in passing, and with absurd efforts to connect it to our own narrow political squabbles. But if you want to get a sense of what is really going on, I suggest poking around a bit - Andrew Sullivan is probably the best place to start. Though be warned, a lot of the material he is posting is pretty raw - meaning that it is bloody and violent, and much of it of indeterminate accuracy.

But given Iran's history (both recent and over the long scope of human civilization) and critical position in a volatile part of the world, what is happening there now is incredibly important. And in many ways, it shows both the best and the worst of humanity - the twin aspects of a quest for freedom and a dedicated hold on power no matter the cost.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to my blog.)

Jim Downey's picture

So, you win about $40million. What would you do?

Hire someone to help you plant carrots?

Lottery winner plans to grow better carrots

LONDON (Reuters) – A 74-year-old amateur gardener who scooped a 25 million pound lottery prize said Tuesday he would spend part of his winnings hiring an expert to learn how to grow better carrots.

Brian Caswell said he had always struggled with the vegetable on the prize-winning allotment he maintains with his Joan, 71, in Halliwell, near Bolton.

"I've been trying to grow carrots ever since I've been on that allotment and I've never had any success," he told reporters at a televised briefing.

"What I'm going to do now is bring a professional in and say, 'Right, sort that out.'"

Not my cuppa, as the Brits might say, but more power to ya, buddy. I hope you grow the best carrots on the planet.

Now, do you need someone to show you how to enjoy a pint or something? I'm available for consultation . . .

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Hahahahahaha! *sniff* Hehehehehehehe!!

Damn, this is funny:

First 'anti-stab' knife to go on sale in Britain

The first “anti-stab” knife is to go on sale in Britain, designed to work as normal in the kitchen but to be ineffective as a weapon.

The knife has a rounded edge instead of a point and will snag on clothing and skin to make it more difficult to stab someone.

It was invented by industrial designer John Cornock, who was inspired by a documentary in which doctors advocated banning traditional knives.

No, seriously, this is not a joke. Here's a bit from the company's website:

Jim Downey's picture

Funny how that works.

Dogs are great. I love dogs. Most of my life I've had at least one.

So, I don't blame the dog.

For what? This:

Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

If it sounds hard to believe, there's a good reason.

After providing prosecutors with testimony for years, Preston was finally discredited by a judge who had the sense to do what others had not: test the dog for himself.

That is to say, the three men referenced were convicted of crimes largely on the testimony provided by the dog's handler. And together they served over 50 years in prison, just recently having been released due to actual DNA evidence showing that they couldn't have committed the crimes for which they were convicted.

Jim Downey's picture

Introducing: Twitcher!


Introducing: Twitcher!

New technology allows for expansion of popular networking site.

In preparation for going public, and to help push their entire social network one step further technologically, the Twitter group has been testing a new application which allows for the direct stimulation of certain portions of the human brain. If users have one of the newer 3G phones now available on the market and download a special software script they will be able to make use of the new service.

Jim Downey's picture

The enticing lies of religion.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of this. I heard about it yesterday, but have been pondering.

Blogger's baby was a hoax

The unmarried mother's story about giving birth to a child diagnosed as terminally ill in the womb hit a major nerve on the Internet.

Every night for the last two months, thousands of abortion opponents across the nation logged on to a blog run by the suburban Chicago woman who identified herself only as "B" or "April's Mom."

People said they prayed that God would save her pregnancy. They e-mailed her photos of their children dressed in pink, bought campaign T-shirts, shared tales of personal heartache and redemption, and sent letters and gifts to an Oak Lawn P.O. box in support.

As more and more people were drawn to her compelling tale, eager advertisers were lining up. And established parenting Web sites that oppose abortion were promoting her blog -- which included biblical quotes, anti-abortion messages and a soundtrack of inspirational Christian pop songs.

Except, of course as the headline indicates, it was all a hoax.

BrainArmor's picture

Beyond crazy into dangerous

I just read a bit of religiously-shielded tripe from Rev. Wiley Drake. This is an excerpt from an radio interview that Drake gave to Alan Colmes from Fox:

"Are you praying for his death?" Colmes asked.
"Yes," Drake replied.

"So you're praying for the death of the president of the United States?"


Colmes asked if he was concerned he might be placed on a Secret Service or FBI watch list. "I think it's appropriate to pray the Word of God," Drake answered. "I'm not saying anything. What I am doing is repeating what God is saying, and if that puts me on somebody's list, then I'll just have to be on their list."

"You would like for the president of the United States to die?" Colmes asked once more.

"If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death, that's correct."

If this guy expressed those ideas without the trappings of religion, he'd certainly be put away or at least taken in for questioning.

Jim Downey's picture


Just a follow-up to this post the first of the month. From Richard Wiseman's blog:

In short, all four trials were misses.

When I analysed believers and sceptics separately, the results were the same, with no difference between the groups. So the study didn’t support the existence of remote viewing, and suggested that those who believe in the paranormal are good at finding illusory correspondences between their thoughts and a target .

* * *

Update: I have just looked at the data from those who claimed some kind of psychic ability, and had a high confidence in their choice of target. This sub-group of participants also scored zero out of four.

Surprise, surprise.

Thanks, Richard -

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to my blog.)

Jim Downey's picture

Yeah, I heard the same sort of craziness.

Via Phil Plait, a glimpse into how far woo can go wrong:

Orbiter crashing into the moon

There is a Japanese lunar orbiter named Kaguya that is scheduled to crash into the moon today at about 2:30 pm ET. Scientists hope to learn something about the moon’s composition by observing the debris that is kicked up.

In many traditions, including astrology, the moon represents the feminine. It is the yin, the intuitive, the emotions. Women are connected to the moon by their menstrual cycles while they are fertile, and all beings, including the earth herself, are affected by the pull of the tides.

* * *

Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?


Just . . . wow.

Jim Downey's picture

Aw, hell.


Murdered Doctor’s Abortion Clinic Shuttered

The Wichita abortion clinic run by a doctor who was shot and killed will remain closed permanently, his family said on Tuesday.

Dr. George R. Tiller’s clinic was one of the few in the country to provide abortions to women late in their pregnancies, and for decades, women had traveled there from all over the nation and from overseas. It was also the only remaining abortion clinic, even for first trimester abortions, in the Wichita region.

* * *

Even some abortion opponents, who had long devoted their efforts to closing down Dr. Tiller’s clinic, said they did not wish to see it happen under these circumstances. Last week, Troy Newman, the leader of Operation Rescue, had said that closing the clinic now would send a worrisome message. “Good God, do not close this abortion clinic for this reason,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “Every kook in the world will get some notion.”

Jim Downey's picture

Hey, nobody said they were brain scientists.

Been really busy, but had to share this from the FAIL blog:

fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog

Hehehehehe . . .

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

"I suggest you look on this as an opportunity, not a burden."*

I try and keep an open mind about things, avoiding falling into the trap of allowing others to define my reality as much as possible. Because sometimes if you define things for yourself you can turn what is ostensibly a limitation into an advantage.

And so it is that I find the following approach towards air travel to be . . . ingenious.

Only the first fifteen minutes or so are necessary to understand his approach, and for those who want just the gist of the matter here's a summation from his website:

- Abstract -

Robert Levin's picture

On Turning Sixty

Although it’s brought me that much closer to transforming into worm food, I’ve found that turning sixty is not without its compensations.

While it’s true, for example, that my member isn’t getting a proper supply of blood anymore—and that I can no longer write my name in the sand and must settle for my initials—I can still have lots of fun with it. Thanks to an ever-enlarging prostate gland that’s threatening to devour my bladder, my urine stream now bifurcates at the exit point. This means that I can whiz into the toilet and the adjacent bathtub at the same time—which is a kick. My urologist says that while he can make no promises, there’s a good chance that in the not too distant future I’ll be capable of TRIfurcating. This will enable me to whiz into the toilet, the bathtub AND the laundry basket simultaneously.

I can’t wait.

Jim Downey's picture

Confession time: "Stranger in a Strange Tweet" edition.

Well, in spite of Our Fearless Leader's little box off to the right there, I just don't grok Twitter. There are damned few applications of it that I have heard about which make any sense at all to me, and the whole notion of "following" someone's Tweets just strikes me as surreal and more than a little creepy.

Yeah, I confess: I'm an old fogey at 50.

But anyway, let's have a little fun with this, and maybe see if we can launch a new internet meme. Let's call it "The Twitter game". How you play is simple: substitute the word "Twitter," "Twitterer," or "Tweet(s)" for another key word in the title of a book or movie. Success is determined by how funny the resulting title is, and how much fun it makes of the absurdity which is ego-Tweeting.

So, here's a few to get us started, playing off of Heinlein novels (because that cranky old fart would probably find this whole phenomenon hilarious):

- Twitterer in the Sky
- Stranger in a Strange Tweet
- The Moon is a Harsh Twitterer
- The Number of the Twitter
- Beyond this Tweet
- Have Space Suit - Will Twitter
- Time Enough for Twitter

Jim Downey's picture

Screw-ups happen.*


U.S. Releases Secret List of Nuclear Sites Accidentally

The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked “highly confidential,” that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation’s civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons.

* * *

Several nuclear experts argued that any dangers from the disclosure were minimal, given that the general outlines of the most sensitive information were already known publicly.

“These screw-ups happen,” said John M. Deutch, a former director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s going further than I would have gone but doesn’t look like a serious breach.”

Yeah, everyone knows where their local stockpile of enriched uranium is, right? I mean, really. I can't see the problem here.

Jim Downey

*Sorry, I couldn't resist the connection to Heinlein's classic SF story "Blowups Happen" because of the topic and attitude.

Cross posted to my blog.

Jim Downey's picture

Can you see me now?

I'm not quite sure what to make of this:

Twitter's first scientific study needs you!

Can some people correctly identify a place using mind power alone?

Psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, wants to find out, and New Scientist readers can help.

Over the course of this week, we'll be carrying out an experiment to find out if there's any substance to claims that some people are "remote viewers" – able to psychically identify a distant location without being shown or told where it is through conventional means.

I dunno - I'd think that twits and woo make a bad combination. The sort of thing that would have you hunched over a toilet after the party, if you know what I mean. But the way that they are doing it at least seems reasonable on first glance:

So, how is the experiment going to work?

Jim Downey's picture

Religion at work.


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, a prominent advocate for abortion rights wounded by a protester more than a decade ago, was shot and killed Sunday at a church in Wichita where he was serving as an usher and his wife was in the choir, his attorney said.

Tiller was shot during morning services at Reformation Lutheran Church, attorney Dan Monnat said. Police said a manhunt was under way for the shooter, who fled in a car registered to a Kansas City suburb nearly 200 miles away.

National anti-abortion groups had long focused on Tiller, whose Women's Health Care Services clinic is one of just three in the nation where abortions are performed after the 21st week of pregnancy.

Someone has been arrested. Who wants to bet that they did it "in the name of Jesus!"? To "save the little babies!"? To "stop the holocaust!"?

Jim Downey's picture

Got web-feet on the brain?

In response to this.

Found here. (Warning, last link may cause head to explode.)

Jim Downey

BrainArmor's picture

It's not proselytizing, it's evangelism

Apparently there is a new bit of drivel being propagated via email:

BREAKING NEWS: Pentagon Burns Soldiers Bibles - Military Chaplains Attacked

The Pentagon under the Obama Administration has just acknowledged seizing and burning the privately owned Bibles of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The Bibles had been printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages, and sent by private donors to American Christian soldiers and chaplains, for distribution to American troops on overseas military bases during optionally-attended Christian worship services. Had the Bibles not been seized and destroyed, they could have legally been given as gifts during off-duty time to Afghani citizens who welcome our troops in their homes, as an expression of American gratitude for Afghani hospitality, promoting the democratic ideals of freedom of religion and freedom of the press.

VillageSkeptic's picture

Sitting on the Fence

Sitting on the Fence

By Cindy Jayne

There is some contention within even the skeptic community as to whether or not agnostics are fence sitters and afraid to take sides......or whether atheists are too regimented or harsh in their non-belief and way of thinking.

Some atheists chide agnostics for not taking a more solid stand and for being as they say, "wishy washy." I have often alternately called myself an atheist and an agnostic. Why? Because frankly, I don't have any idea. I cannot prove there isn't some sort of God or supernatural being and in turn, believers cannot prove that there is one. I do not feel I need to prove that something doesn't is up to the believers to prove that it does. I guess you could say I am not only a skeptic but I am skeptical of skeptics who say they know for certain. Sorry, NO ONE KNOWS.

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