Biology

Jim Downey's picture

Have they never heard of body cavities?

Look, not to be too explicit about this, but the use of full body scanners won't make a damned bit of difference to someone who wants to smuggle a bomb or bomb components onto a plane (or anywhere else.) Because there are these things called body cavities, where people have actually been known to insert and hide stuff.

The Dutch have already announced that henceforth all passengers heading to the US will have to go through such scanners. Yesterday on All Things Considered I listened to professional fear-monger and former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claim that full body scanners are the solution, but that the evil ACLU had thwarted their use:

Jim Downey's picture

Time to invest in Kimberly-Clark,

the makers of Depends:

In the wake of the terrorism attempt Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight, federal officials on Saturday imposed new restrictions on travelers that could lengthen lines at airports and limit the ability of international passengers to move about an airplane.

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

That's from today's NYT's article. Here's what's on the TSA site:

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"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"*

Gods, this is funny:

Q: Is the ButtCandle really a candle?
A: Yes, but not necessarily what you might picture as your dining room table variety of candle. In length and diameter, it's similiar to common candles. However, a hollow channel is cut from bottom to top which causes air to be drawn from the base to the top. In practice, this creates a vacuum at the base which, when inserted in the rectum, gently dislodges intestinal and rectal blockage.

That's from the ButtCandle FAQ.

Yup. ButtCandle. Which is just like it sounds. A candle that you stick in your butt, then light "with the 10" wooden match that is provided." You know, like those silly "Ear Candles" that you can find in woo-shops? Which is how I stumbled across it, over on Phil Plait's site.

Don't use it after having chili, though.

Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

Some lessons are more costly than others.

18 months ago, prompted in part by a couple of incidents in my neck of the woods, I wrote the following:

The police use of Tasers is just simply out of control in this country. Seriously. My dad was a cop, and a lot of my family's friends growing up were cops. They've got a tough job. I know that the use of Tasers have protected the lives of officers. But this is insane. It is no longer just the odd asshole who happens to make the Greatest Hits of Police Abuse on YouTube. It has now become commonplace for the police to grab their Taser anytime someone doesn't immediately do what they're told. Time to get rid of the things, nationwide.

Well, one of the incidents has now been settled:

City pays off man injured in Taser use

The man injured after falling 15 feet from a highway overpass when police shocked him with two Tasers has reached a cash settlement with the city of Columbia.

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Well, gee, this is *such* a surprise.

This will likely come as news to you all, I'm sure:

Believers’ Inferences About God’s Beliefs are Egocentric

Religious people tend to use their own beliefs as a guide in thinking about what God believes, but are less constrained when reasoning about other people’s beliefs, according to new study published in the Nov. 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, led the research, which included a series of survey and neuroimaging studies to examine the extent to which people’s own beliefs guide their predictions about God’s beliefs. The findings of Epley and his co-authors at Australia’s Monash University and UChicago extend existing work in psychology showing that people are often egocentric when they infer other people’s beliefs.

* * *

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It's what's for dinner!

Man, times are hard:

MOSCOW - Russian police have arrested three homeless people suspected of eating a 25-year-old man they had butchered and selling other bits of the corpse to a local kebab house.

And:

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"We all vibrate."

How homeopathy "works":


So stupid, it's funny. In homeopathic terms, that would be the intelligence of this video has been diluted to a 30c level, to the point where it just overwhelms your rational resistance. Or something.

I want my 8:12 back.

Jim Downey

Via MeFi.

Jim Downey's picture

Cashing in on crazy.

I've heard of Frank Schaeffer, even heard him interviewed and read some short pieces by him. But this afternoon a friend sent me a link to an excerpt from his latest book, and now I'd like to pass it on to you.

Schaeffer talks about how the whole "Left Behind" industry is really nothing more than the latest version of the crazy right-wing religious crap his father helped to start in this country. Here's a bit:

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Shudder. Shudder and weep for the human race.

Oh, give me a break:

How green is your pet?

SHOULD owning a great dane make you as much of an eco-outcast as an SUV driver? Yes it should, say Robert and Brenda Vale, two architects who specialise in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. In their new book, Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living, they compare the ecological footprints of a menagerie of popular pets with those of various other lifestyle choices - and the critters do not fare well.

* * *

To measure the ecological paw, claw and fin-prints of the family pet, the Vales analysed the ingredients of common brands of pet food. They calculated, for example, that a medium-sized dog would consume 90 grams of meat and 156 grams of cereals daily in its recommended 300-gram portion of dried dog food. At its pre-dried weight, that equates to 450 grams of fresh meat and 260 grams of cereal. That means that over the course of a year, Fido wolfs down about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of cereals.

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One step at a time.

So, the end of March I posted the poll about pot. In comments there, I said this:

But I listen to what people are saying, and how they are saying it, in different contexts. I look at the costs associated with our War on (Some) Drugs. And I just think that we're approaching something of a phase-change in thinking in this country. Yeah, it might be a form of 'decriminalization' which is so weak as to be de facto legalization (and I would interpret it as such), but I think we'll see something fairly radical happen within a couple of years.

This morning, the news:

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Origin of Stupidity

OK, I'd seen references to this elsewhere, but not the actual video. Just in case you too happened to miss it, here it is:


Jim Downey

Jim Downey's picture

"Grab your ankles, please."

Good lord. I'd heard about this, as an "attempted assassination", but I hadn't heard the details:

On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister — and the man in charge of the kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts — was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.

One of the highlights of the Friday gathering was supposed to be the prince’s meeting with Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, a Saudi man who was a wanted militant from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Asiri had allegedly renounced terrorism and had requested to meet the prince in order to repent and then be accepted into the kingdom’s amnesty program.

* * *

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Compensate, much?

Another item from my recent trip to Pittsburgh . . .

We're happily driving across Illinois on I-70, making good time. It's been . . . well, decades . . . since I had driven through Effingham, and I wasn't in the slightest prepared for what I saw when I crested a particular hill. This:


The Cross in Effingham, Illinois.

Yeah, that's a real picture. See the size of the itty-bitty people at the base of the thing? From their website, the thing is said to be 198 feet tall.

It looms there, looking very much like some kind of alien construction, all shiny* and sharp edges. Surreal. There are very few instances when I viscerally feel my lack of religious belief, but this certainly was one of them. I almost drove off the road looking at that bizarre thing.

Jim Downey

*No, not that kind of shiny, silly!

Jim Downey's picture

Time for a little political sacrilege.

In spite of how it might seem sometimes, I'm politically independent - I tend to support specific policies (and to a very limited degree individuals), not this or that party.

And one thing I have long objected to has been the existence of an 'American Royalty' within our political system. Here in Missouri we just got rid of one Republican governor who is the son of a long-term US Congresscritter. On the Democratic side, the Carnahan family has held or currently holds several important political offices.

Nationally, it's even worse. Look at the Bush family, and the debacle of having W rise to power almost solely on the power of his father & family. Al Gore is the son of a Senator. The Clintons have long operated as a family unit, sharing power and position.

And then there are the Kennedys.

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Following up.

Following up to this post, a news item:

Pilot pleaded to evacuate stranded passengers

MINNEAPOLIS – Continental Express Flight 2816 smelled like diapers. It had no food and a full toilet. Its 47 passengers had been stranded on a tarmac in southern Minnesota since after midnight.

"They are getting really upset — you know, with the plane," the captain told her dispatcher just before 3 a.m. on Aug. 8.

Recordings released Friday of conversations among the captain, dispatcher and staff for another airline at the Rochester, Minn., airport expose a breakdown that kept the plane sitting on the tarmac for almost six hours — for no clear reason — and triggered a Department of Transportation investigation.

I hadn't heard that the DoT was involved. Good for them. Anyway, here's some more from the news article:

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Who, me, cynical?

Yeah, OK, I know I'm more cynical nowadays, but I think that even in my most charitable moods I would tend to see this as nothing more than a case of the Christian nuts being mercenary:

$6 million budget shortfall forces Focus on the Family to drop Ex-Gay program

Citing a “serious budget shortfall” the conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family has been prompted to issue a special fundraising plea, and has also decided to hand over control of its contentious “Love Won Out” Ex-Gay program to another religious organization, a FotF spokesman said Tuesday.

Focus on the Family is looking at a $6 million short fall in its $138 million budget for this fiscal year- a budget larger than all national and regional gay-equality organizations combined.

From the Love Won Out website:

Jim Downey's picture

There's a reason . . .

. . . why when I travel to Pittsburgh in a month, I'm willing to drive the 12 hours rather than fly:

47 trapped on 'nightmare' flight to the Twin Cities

Security and rules kept passengers confined all night in a small plane at Rochester due to thunderstorms.

When Link Christin boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to the Twin Cities on Friday night, he expected to be on the ground in about three hours and ready for a comfy bed.

Instead, he was among 47 passengers who spent the night trapped inside a small airplane, parked at the Rochester airport, complete with crying babies and the aroma of over-used toilets.

* * *

The airline crew on the plane reached their maximum work hours in the air, so another crew had to be flown in. The alternative of chartering a bus didn't work out. And letting the passengers into the Rochester airport was not possible because they would have to go through security screening again, and the screeners had gone home for the day.

Jim Downey's picture

Let us all now praise the Power of The Lord!

I'm sure you all remember this case:

Wis. man testifies he expected God to heal child

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A central Wisconsin man charged with killing his daughter by praying instead of taking her to a doctor read from the Bible while testifying Thursday that he couldn't seek medical help without disobeying God.

"I can't do that because Biblically, I cannot find that is the way people are healed," Dale Neumann told the jury. "If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God. I am not believing what he said he would do."

So, either the bible is wrong, God lied, or He doesn't exist.

But your daughter is still dead.

From the same article:

Jim Downey's picture

They just didn't pray *hard* enough.

This is what happens when you let religion determine health policy:

Teen pregnancy and disease rates rose sharply during Bush years, agency finds

Teenage pregnancies and syphilis have risen sharply among a generation of American school girls who were urged to avoid sex before marriage under George Bush's evangelically-driven education policy, according to a new report by the US's major public health body.

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But wait, I thought they were the "Family Values" guys?

Gods, this is funny:


David Brooks, just in case you don't know, is a conservative commentator (but not completely insane).

So, which of the fine, upstanding Republican senators do you think was the one?

Jim Downey

Via John Cole.

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