Friday, September 19, 2008

One of the Sad Things About My Surgery

Is that talking like a pirate requires making lots of noise in the back of the throat, which is rather painful for me right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Post-Op Post

My adult tonsilectomy and adenoidectomy went well. I'm ambulatory, but the after-affects of anesthesia and motor vehicles do not agree well with my stomach. I haven't tried solid foods yet. I can speak softly (which is a boon, since I've read that some people have pain with even whisperting), although saying consonants at the back of my throat like "x" is occasionally interesting.

As far as how it feels, right now it's as if I have a bunch of mucus at the back of my throat that I can't hawk up. Beyond that, there's a bit of pain, but I've got an extra-viscous liquid painkiller to help with that. I have a week of drinking lots of fluid and eating Popsicles and ice-cream ahead of me. :-D

Thanks for the well-wishes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creationist Shindig - Postgame Report

I'm not about to document all the atrocities against science and informed thought at the Creationist talk I attended this past Friday. In such a setting, the creationist is nearly always at an advantage - they have their well-honed lies and practiced rhetorical tricks, while any skeptic in the audience is hobbled by not having a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the facts.

The talk itself began by conflating Dawkin's strident atheism with the entire field of evolutionary study. He then proceeded to misrepresent natural selection, classical Darwinism, and the Modern Synthesis, all the while referring to the field as "Darwinism". (When questioned about this, he insisted that this was because the media refers to it as such, when in fact the media does such because that's the term the creationists use.) He brought up Panspermia and some crackpots to muddy the waters further, and disparaged the entire field of Geochronology (which made me wish that I had my geology grad student acquaintance with me...). He then trotted out a long list of "problems" with evolution, most of which are not problems at all, and then listed some bible verses aimed at asserting God's hand in Creation rather than denying evolution, all before wraping up with another reference to Dawkins' atheism by transposing it onto the entire biological community.

In all, the talk served to confuse the issue of what evolution really is about, what it actually says, and its history, as well as to construe it as a threat to theism in general when such is not the case. If I wanted, I could reply to the whole thing with a string of citations of the Index to Creationist Claims.

Following the talk was a question and answer session, and John's experience with such things became readily apparent. Question time was limited, supposedly because he gets tired of talking, but more likely because he is unwilling to deal with critical questions from the audience for an extended period of time. He is not interested in debating. Anyone attempting to question him in the future is advised to have a single good question thought out in advance, and to be a lot less confrontational about it than I was. Also, having a laptop with wifi internet access is also a good idea, so that one can access Google and the Index while the talk is going on. Had I been so prepared, I could have looked up and questioned John about Uranium-Lead dating, which is used to date things older than 1 million years old and which he completely skipped over in his talk.

In future, the best way to undermine him may be philosophical. He divides the "possible" views on the issue into three: Biblical Literalists, those who aren't-quite-so-literal, and those who believe what science says on the subject. In doing so, he supports the false dichotomy between evolution and Christian faith. Pointing out that there is really a continuum between pure atheistic support of science and literal creationism while also noting that Dawkins' views are not representative of science as a whole may do more to limit John Bilello's effectiveness than any nitpicking over details.

On a related note, I have heard that there's a Young Earth Creationist giving a talk tomorrow evening. I did not get the details, though, since I will be unable to attend. (I have a tonsillectomy scheduled for tomorrow and I doubt I will be up for much beyond drinking gatorade.) If anyone decides to go I would be happy to hear about it, though.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anonymous Headroom

A message from Anonymous to the leaders of the Scientology organization.

Note: if the above video has been taken down by YouTube, please see it here instead.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Creationist Shindig - Time and Place

Aighty, so I went and found one of the posters again, and was happily surprised to have been wrong in yesterday's post on the days for the Creationist lectures- instead of tonight and tomorrow, the talks will be tomorrow and on Saturday. The speaker will be John C. Bilello, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan (faculty bio). Friday's talk is entitled "Darwin vs. Genesis", while Saturday's is "Bible and Physics - Atoms". The talks will take place in room 1320 of the Digital Computing Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The event is being hosted by the Christadelphians of Champaign County, who were kind enough to put a color PDF of their flier online.

Now, onto the juicy pregame analysis.

John's faculty bio page, linked to above, lists his research interests as:

Application of high energy (synchrotron radiation) x-ray diffraction imaging, microdiffraction, grazing angle incidence scattering and other associated techniques as a tool for non-destructive materials characterization to study a wide range of problems in metals, alloys and semi-conductors where it is necessary to control the structure-property relationships on both the micro and macro-scale to achieve improved performance or to create new materials.

Current research is focused on surface and interface studies in controlling the fabrication and mechanical properties of thin films, multilayer nanocomposites, and on the role of grain boundaries in fatigue and fracture.
...which isn't even biomedical, let alone related to anything biological. Off the bat, this guy sounds like someone who has no relevant background to the subject matter he is giving a talk on.

Also, it appears that these talks are something of a standard of his: he gave them in Ontario in 2005, when a review of the anti-evolution section was posted on Panda's Thumb. Unless this guy's updated his talk, it might be easy to start picking nits with his arguments and "problems" with evolution. I intend to be taking notes when I'm not demonstrating how he's wrong, so expect a summary here soon-ish afterwards.

UPDATE: Apparently someone at Discussing Discipleship, a blog spawned from a class at a local Methodist church, has also noticed the talk. It should be interesting to read alternate perspectives of the talk afterward, assuming such get posted.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Other Palin

No, I'm not going to go on about yet another icky fact about the GOP's fundie Veep candidate. Instead, I'll just pass along this ad for a new third-party candidate, Michael Palin:

If you were surprised by this video, you should be ashamed of yourself. In fact, you may be in need of a spanking...

Nearly Forgot

Some wingnut creationist is giving talks on campus tomorrow and on Friday. If I remember and can find one of the sparse fliers, I'll try to post a summary of who/what/where sometime tomorrow (I'd go look now, but I'm sure the buildings with the fliers are locked). Also, if I end up going, I'll summarize the atrocities committed against science and sense.

What He Said

The Stranger at is the person I cite as my own personal blogfather. His "question-mark campaign" of simple flash videos set to music introduced me to the nascent blogosphere and got me interested in reading political blogs. More recently, he pointed out how well-managed Obama's PR outfit is:

Obama and his advisors seem to understand that campaigns run on a very tight wire, and campaign operatives are so ready to spring at any perceived slight by the opposition that they'll often react before they weigh the situation. To their credit, Obama's team has made precious few of these impulsive moves - to the contrary, they're more likely to create the illusion of inaction if it means not making a mistake. And as situations develop, Obama's team will let the tension build to the point where McCain's campaign are ready to pounce at anything.

A good comparison point is the way michael Jordan would play basketball in crunch time. When Jordan brought the ball up the floor, he'd often slow down his motion to draw his defender in. The longer he slow-walked, the more the defender would tense up waiting for Jordan to make his move. And the longer Jordan would wait, the chances of the defender making a mistake would increase. Then all it would take was a head-fake, a feint, or a full step, and the defender would get faked out, commit a foul or move the wrong way and give Jordan the room to make his move. Two points, maybe three with a foul. Worked just about every damn time.

That's how Barack Obama is running this race. His campaign will lay back for days at a time, letting McCain and Palin showboat and level outrageous charges. It drives some of his supporters absolutely batshit. You can see it on the blogs. A week does not go by where Obama supporters are not on a comment thread, demanding that he fight back, swearing that McCain is running away with the race due to Obama's inaction or refusal to fight back or not responding quickly or forcefully enough. These people don't realize that Obama is playing a different game on a different level - certainly at a much higher level than McCain's Boys are used to playing.

He's been slow-walking the ball since the convention, and you can bet money that McCain's campaign has been tuned into every speech, reading every interview, looking for a slip-up that they can capitalize on. And they get so focused on trapping Obama that when he shows a head-fake - 'lipstick on a pig' - that they dive in and whack him on the wrist.

Two points. And it's worked just about every time.
As with everyone I link to, you should read their entire posts, not just my excerpts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Edwards Wimps Out

So sayeth the N-G. See the post below as to why.

We Knew It Already

But DKos diarist casiopea points out that It's OK if You're a Republican

It's OK to cheat on your wife if you're a Republican: John McCain gets to do it because he was a POW. Newt was cheating on his wife while impeaching Bill Clinton. Gary Hart's candidacy burned at the media's stake after Monkey Business, and John Edwards was crucified. Not that I care one bit. As Bill Maher reminds us, "FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bill Clinton... they all cheated on their wives. The only one that hasn't... George W. Bush." In the days before Bill O'Reilly, things were different. Grover Cleveland was caught with an out-of-wedlock baby in the middle of his campaign against Blaine. Cleveland admitted it, and started to pay for the upbringing of the baby. Then, he went on to defeat Blaine, who was seen as a saint in private matters but a crook in the public ones.

It's OK to have a thin resume if you're a Republican: in the last days, we have comically learned way too much about the civic life of Wasilla, Alaska. Conservatives have told us with a straight face that Sarah Palin has national security experience because she commands the Alaskan National Guard and lives next door to Russia. To Karl Rove, Tim Kaine is a lightweight because he was the mayor of Richmond, Virginia. Today, he's telling a different story. The only VPs elected in their early 40s in the 20th century were all Republican, and they all won. Theodore was 42, Nixon was 40, and Dan Quayle was 41.

It's OK to have a teenage daughter with an unwanted pregnancy, if you're a Republican: yes, after thirty years making policy out of the woman's body, that's what they are trying to tell us. After thirty years of fighting against choice, they are celebrating Bristol Palin's heroic "choice" to keep it.
There's more where that came from, and that's only a small list of the hypocrisy that is the modern GOP.

As an aside, when will the Republicans get around to renaming themselves the Whigs? That's what they've been since Reconstruction, barring interruptions by competent people like Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Propriety of Pranks

So the big news from this weekend (N-G, DI) is that someone managed to hack the email system (which, as far as I understood it, was locked down to all but a few approved users) and sent spoof emails from Chancellor Herman to discourage people from Rushing this Fall. While long time readers know that I approve such sentiments, I have to condemn whoever did this.

"Why?" you might ask. The answer is simple: they did a piss-poor job of mimicking the Chancellor's prose and I belong to the school of thought that a prank not done well is not worth doing.

Look, here's the spoofed email in its entirety:

Dear Students,

Many of you may be aware of an event known as Rush. It is my objective to warn you of the potential downsides of Greek organizations. I advise you to not succumb to the aggressive recruitment tactics used by these organizations. It has been my concern over the years, that the Greek culture of alcoholism and lack of respect for the community degrades campus life. These organizations present themselves as prestigious, yet are discriminatory, serve to perpetuate social inequality, especially with respect to the opposite gender, and promote a lack of diversity. Many students have expressed concerns with regards to safety on campus, particularly due to Greek culture and behavior. It is my hope that a student's experience on campus strengthens one's individuality, but the Greek system emphasizes the group above all, without cause or reason. This is detrimental to the purpose of universities.

I hope that you will consider wisely.

GDI Chancellor Richard Herman
Now, having spent years reading the man's email prose, I could tell right off the bat that the author of the email was not Chancellor Herman. For example, here's a MASSMAIL that went out this past May:
Dear Friends:

I am delighted to announce that our online networking community Always Illinois now features email forwarding. All members of the Always Illinois community can customize an address, providing long-term consistency and connectivity. It's also a great way to network with family, friends and colleagues.

If you haven't already, I urge you to sign up for Always Illinois online. Our exciting networking community is a free benefit to all Illinois alumni, students, faculty and staff. Always Illinois offers all the basic functions of a social network with added levels of security and privacy. To join and strengthen your ties to our great Illinois family, visit

Richard Herman

**Always Illinois and e-mail forwarding are free services provided by the
University of Illinois Alumni Association and the Office of the Chancellor.

This mailing approved by:
The Office of the Chancellor

This Message sent via MASSMAIL.
Note the many differences: Chancellor Herman starts off with an open greeting to his readers, he spreads his prose out into multiple paragraphs, he generally has a conclusion, he places his title on the next line after his name instead of placing it immediately before his name, the email was sent by MASSMAIL, and it was "approved by the Office of the Chancellor". The scam email had none of these things.

Now, if the author(s) of the spoofed email had taken the time to make their message look more credible, they would probably have delayed a campus reaction by a few hours (as it would've taken longer for people to realize it was a hoax) and they would have gotten my kudos. Instead, I am forced to condemn them for doing a half-assed job.

Bonus for the journalism majors: Ask the Chancellor's office or campus Public Relations if the Chancellor had been a member of a fraternity while in college. If he was, that would be multiple kinds of hilarious.