April 19, 2019

So, Anyway, Here’s Some Weird Trees

Filed under: Check It Out,Science — Katrina @ 10:42 pm

One time I saw a tree that was four trees.

Really. See?

It’s four big trees that, at their base, you can see are all just part of an even bigger one. So it’s a tree that’s four trees. There’s no other way to describe it.

Here’s a tree that’s eight trees.

This is the Octopus Tree on the coast of Oregon at Cape Meares. It’s a couple hundred years old and has been an important ceremonial site for the Tillamook tribe. Either the Tillamook themselves bent the tree like this, or the wind did it. Either way, there it is.

Here’s a tree that’s forty trees.

It looks like just one ordinary tree, but it’s actually got parts of a bunch of trees grafted onto it, all stone fruit trees, so this one tree grows plums, peaches, apricots, almonds, and others. It’s called the Tree of 40 Fruit and it’s a work of art as well as conservation.

Here’s a tree that’s 40,000 trees!

It’s called Pando, and it’s part of Fishlake National Forest in Utah. What appears to be a grove of multiple quaking aspens roughly 130 years old are actually genetically identical stems all connected to an underground root system estimated to be about 80,000 years old.

Here’s a tree on top of a completely different tree.

It’s a mulberry tree with a cherry tree growing on top. Both trees are thriving just fine in this scenario, which is unusual for epiphytes. It’s located in Italy, where it’s called Bialbero di Casorzo. Also called Grana Double Tree. It looks like someone just picked up the full grown cherry tree and stuck in on top of the mulberry, but it in fact grew there on its own, though how it got there was a mystery.

Here’s a tree growing atop a courthouse clock tower.

This is the clock tower of the Decatur County Courthouse in Greensburg, Indiana. And, ever since the 1870’s, it’s had trees growing out of it. Yes, plural. Some trees lived their whole lives up there and died only for more to sprout. It’s unknown how they got up there or how they’re surviving. They weren’t sure exactly the kind of tree it was until some researchers finally determined it’s a mulberry. Maybe this one will get a cherry tree on top of it, too.

Here’s a tree with its own mobile glass house.

After a whole long history of trying to protect this 18th century tree during the German winter, they finally built a glass house that can move on some tracks to cover it and uncover it as needed.

Here’s a tree that’s also a dining room.

This is the Bowthorpe Oak in Lincolnshire, England, and it’s a big fat pedunculate oak that’s likely over a thousand years old. Its interior has been used as a dining room that could seat 20 people. More recently it’s been mostly a hangout for sheep.

Here’s a tree that’s eating a bench.

This is Hungry Tree. It is on the grounds of a Dublin law school and is, well, eating this bench.

Here’s some trees that forgot which way to grow.

They eventually figured it out, but now the trees in this Polish forest have all got this uniform northward curve, and no one really knows how or why this happened.

Here’s some trees that look like they’ll grab you if you get too close.

Sweden has an enchanted troll forest full of twisted wind swept trees because of course it does.

Here’s a tree that just might get up and walk away.

It’s called the walking palm because it’s thought these weird stilt roots mean the tree can walk to where there’s more sunlight by putting down more roots in the intended direction and uprooting the back ones. Is this true? No, of course not. But wouldn’t that be cool?

The first image (the tree that’s four trees) is my own. All others are from Wikimedia Commons. Click on them to go to their pages there.

April 18, 2019

Animals That Are Better Than You

Filed under: Check It Out,Science — Katrina @ 10:36 pm

You’re human, presumably. I’ll bet that makes you think you’re super cool. Certain rights and privileges come with it for sure. But, you know, our fellow animalians have cool stuff going on themselves. Sure, they have claws and sharp teeth and speed. But you’ve got intelligence and technology and can openers and whatnot. That wins out, right? That’s a matter of debate, but for now, here’s some animals you have surely been underestimating…

Hagfish
They’ve been around mostly unchanged for like 300 million years. They have cartilaginous skulls but no jaws or vertebrae. They look like a tube sock with teeth. Good thing, too. If a shark or other would be predator comes along, they wouldn’t sustain much injury in the scuffle. They’ll just tie themselves in knots and slither out of it. And, for good measure, blast the assailant with slime. While assailant is thrashing around and suffocating trying to get the slime off, hagfish gets away. Badass. Can you do that? Didn’t think so.

Archerfish
I met some of these guys at the Georgia Aquarium back in 2016. Archerfish sees a bug above the water, shoots a spectacularly precise water jet at it, and says “Do you want ants? Because that’s how you get ants!” Or whatever kind of bug. They shoot hard and don’t miss and this is from underwater so their eyesight is amazing and a physical marvel itself. Oh, and they totally remember faces. Can you spit a precise jet of water at something three meters away? Didn’t think so.

Cleaner Wrasses
These bright little fish run coral reef cleaning stations. Bigger fish and other critters come by, and the little cleaner wrasses eat any ectoparasites bothering them or any unhealthy scales. This keeps their “clients” healthy, both physically and mentally, as not having parasites to worry about makes life so much easier. And the wrasses get a meal out of it. Not only do their clients stay smart, but they are pretty smart, too. They pass the mirror test! I’m going to assume you recognize the being in the mirror is your own reflection, so I’ll give you that. But the cleaning stations that keep reefs healthy and going? Your own space is probably a disaster and you’re likely doing something or other contributing to climate change which is bleaching and killing reefs. You’re no cleaner wrasse.

Malabar Giant Squirrel
Let’s step out of the water now and over to southern India. Up in the trees are large multicolored squirrels, with black, brown, beige, and seemingly even purple and red fur, and I swear they are totally real. This coloration acts as camouflage to protect them from predators. And to make them look totally fabulous! In fact, Teen Vogue had this to say:

Today, while exploring the Internet, we came across the most beautiful hair we’ve ever seen. Think ombre fade, velvety-soft finish, and glistening hues of midnight blue, burgundy, burnt sienna, tangerine, and yellow ochre. Oh, and did we mention that this was someone’s natural hair color? That’s right, we’re talking about a squirrel.

Is your hair naturally that fabulous? Didn’t think so.

African Painted Wolves
They’re also called African wild dogs. Painted dogs. Whatever you want to call them, they roam the savanna alongside lions and hyenas as a serious egalitarian pack. The monogamous breeding pair is in charge but everyone gets a say. No, seriously, they vote. By sneezing. Also, the pups come first. They feed the pups before the adults. They take care of any pack member who is sick or injured or otherwise can’t be productive. Humans, on the other hand, are always finding excuses to leave behind the young, old, and disabled, always hoarding things for ourselves, and finding ways to make it so certain people’s “sneezes” don’t count. African Painted Wolves have it figured out. What the hell is our excuse?

April 17, 2019

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Dead

Filed under: Check It Out,Science — Katrina @ 11:08 pm

Not everywhere is a place you can live and expect to, well, keep living. Can’t live at the bottom of the sea or the polar ice caps or outer space without some serious technological assistance. But there are plenty of other places on our own planet that are beautiful and strange and otherworldly… that want to kill you dead.

Such as…

Smoking Hills
Canada
Say you’re trekking through coastal northern Canada for some reason. You’re freezing and long for warmth when, off in the distance, smoke! You think it’s a campfire or something, so you rush to get warm.

But it’s no campfire. The hills themselves are burning and have been for centuries and will be for centuries more. The sulfur in the hills ignites when exposed to air and makes any nearby pools of water super acidic, so it’s a smoldering hellscape. This place wants you dead.

So maybe instead of some place cold, Arctic, and acidic, try hot, tropical, and alkaline? Okay, if you insist…

Lake Natron
Tanzania

Is this what you had in mind? Lake Natron is a soda lake (not the kind you have to sacrifice Yoshi for) that’s a toasty 120 degrees and a caustic pH above 12. And if despite that you think about taking a dip anyway, you’ll turn to stone! Well, not quite, but you definitely shouldn’t. This place is more for the cyanobacteria that make the lake so red and for the lesser flamingos that eat them. Not you. This lake wants you dead.

Prefer acid to alkaline after all then? Then take a hop across the Indian Ocean to…

Kawah Ijen
Indonesia
Does this Indonesian volcano have actual blue lava and a cool turquoise lake? Got to check that out!

Or not. The turquoise lake is more acidic than your car battery and its fumes have been known to kill birds midflight. And that blue lava is actually just blue flames from ignited liquid sulfur. Amazing! Less so, however, for the sulfur miners who toil up there and breathe the fumes every day for low wages, leading to serious respiratory problems. Not a place people should be working without protection and better pay! Or just at all perhaps. Because this place wants you dead.

Want to head back north to cooler places? Okay…

Corryvreckan
Scotland
How about a nice boat ride around some Scottish islands? What could go wrong…?

Except for a big ass whirlpool from which there is no escape! The formation of the underwater rocks jutting out from the two nearby islands causes this ferocious maelstrom that will devour you without a second thought. It even tried to eat George Orwell while he was working on “1984”. Was this attempt on the author’s life politically motivated? The world may never know. All I can say is that this Scottish strait wants you dead.

Will sailing across the Atlantic save you?

Old Sow
US, Canada
Nope. If Corryvreckan doesn’t get you on one side of the Atlantic, Old Sow will on the other, and it’ll make squealing pig noises at you for good measure. Just when you thought it was safe to sail around in your little boat in the waters off Maine and New Brunswick… Seemingly innocent locales that totally want you dead.

Better find some land…
(more…)

April 16, 2019

You Can’t Just Ask Icebergs Why They’re Green

Filed under: Check It Out,Science — Katrina @ 9:54 pm

It’s April. It’s spring. Easter is this Sunday. The Paschal full moon will shine this week. Flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. The air is warming up as the days are getting longer.

So let’s talk about icebergs.

Why not? I can think of another mid-April where thinking more about icebergs might have prevented certain disaster…

Sorry. Too soon?

Well, anyway, I’m talking specifically about antarctic icebergs, where, by the way, no flowers are blooming, the days are getting shorter, and it’s of course extremely cold.

Even more specifically, about why some of these icebergs are green.

Glacial ice normally comes in white and blue. White means there’s a lot of air bubbles in it to scatter light, while blue has been so compressed by the snow and ice accumulating on top that the air bubbles are fewer, and blue is the only color reflected.

And yet… somehow there are green ones? What’s that about?

For one, the green icebergs don’t have air bubbles and therefore should be blue. It’s not glacial ice but marine ice, ocean water frozen to the undersides of ice shelves. So something is added to the mix to make the otherwise blue iceberg into a green one. Something… yellow, perhaps?

Must be dissolved organic carbon, a.k.a. bits of dead organisms that got stuck in there. That would make the ice yellow, and yellow is what you add to blue to get green, so mystery solved!

Or not. Blue and green have about the same amount of the yellowing dead organism bits.

Anyway, turns out the green is from iron oxides, which you already know if you looked at any of the above links which explain all this way better than I am and also have some cool pictures. Glacial movement grinds rock into some kind of glacial flour (actual term) which gets caught up in the ocean water that freezes under the ice shelves to become marine ice. This contains yellowish red iron oxides to mix with the blue, so there you go. A chunk of that breaks off the ice shelf and floats away, and that’s how you make a green iceberg!

Okay, but so what? Who cares if some iron-laden icebergs are out sailing around?

Phytoplankton, that’s who! They rely on this iron transport, this ferrum ferry if you will, to bring them some much needed nutrients.

In other words, these verdant bits of ice shelf come rolling in, and phytoplankton are like…

April 15, 2019

Science Is Female

Filed under: Check It Out,Estrogen,Science — Katrina @ 11:00 pm

Too often, science has been assigned male. Or at least it’s assumed every major discovery or breakthrough has been achieved by men. And of course for so long it’s been set up so that only men really could. But, even so, a great many women have made significant strides and discoveries in science, much more than is often realized.

So let’s remember some of these awesome women in science. Such as…

Marie Curie
1867 – 1934
Poland, France

-Probably the only one you could readily name
-Originally Maria Skłodowska
-Why are these uranium minerals more active than uranium alone?
-Ah, it’s polonium and radium!
-And that’s a Nobel in Physics!
-Which was almost awarded only to Pierre and to Henri Becquerel before Nobel committee was told “Don’t you fucking dare exclude her!”
-Now isolated radium
-And now a Nobel in Chemistry!
-Explore more uses of radium. What could possibly go wrong?
-What do you mean aplastic anemia?!

Rosalind Franklin
1920 – 1958
UK
-Probably the only other one you could readily name
-Went from noticing coal has holes in it to x-ray diffraction
-Didn’t believe in DNA model building without sufficient data
-Wasn’t sure Photo 51 was sufficient data
-Unfortunately for her, Crick and Watson did not share this view
-Nor did they believe in not reading others’ semi-confidential data and stealing it
-Got trolled into workplace infighting
-Would fight you and win
-Died of ovarian cancer before she could win Nobel
-Is currently in afterlife, pounding her fist while waiting for James Watson, like “Call me Rosy again, motherfucker, I dare you…”

Lise Meitner
1878 – 1968
Austria, Sweden

-Responded to Vienna not believing girls should learn math or science with “screw you, I’m doing it anyway”
-So she got her doctorate at University of Vienna
-Max Planck’s lectures did not allow women to attend, but she did it anyway.
-She became his assistant
Her hair did not catch fire.
-Discovered protactinium.
-Then had to get the hell out of Germany and flee to Sweden because World War II and Jewish
-Then something weird when a uranium atom got split in half…
-Nuclear fission!
-Except only her lab partner Otto Hahn got the Nobel for it. Typical.
-She did share the Enrico Fermi Award with him, though.
-Also, meitnerium.
-She begged for nuclear fission to not be used for destructive purposes.
-Spoiler alert: It was totally used for destructive purposes.

Rachel Carson
1907 – 1964
US

-Aquatic biologist looking at fish populations
-Author of books about the sea
-A wild overuse of DDT appeared
-Used “Silent Spring”
-It’s super effective.

Maria Goeppert-Mayer
1906 – 1972
Germany, US

-Got the unit for two-photon absorption cross section named for her.
-Figured out nuclear shell model.
-Second woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics
-Worked most of her career in unpaid and volunteer positions.
-Her facial expression above shows how she felt about this.
-She did finally get a full paid position at UC San Diego, three years after which she got the Nobel
-Equal pay for equal work!

Mary Anning
1799 – 1847
UK

-She unearthed and understood fossils, before people really knew extinction was a thing.
-Oh, look, an ichthyosaur!
-Wow, a pterosaur!
-Holy fuck, a plesiosaur!!!
-Male scientists: “These are huge finds!”
-Male scientists: “Oh, did you want credit for any of this? LOL”
-Mary Anning: “Have I mentioned those weird rocks you all can’t identify are actually fossilized shit?”

And many many many more. To be continued…

February 4, 2019

Corn Syrup

Filed under: Check It Out,Idiot Box,Sports!,Teh Interwebs — Katrina @ 10:14 pm

Yesterday was yet another Superbowl Sunday, and as usual, I was tweeting and retweeting. So here’s some of the crap I was coughing up while the Patriots and Rams weren’t scoring like at all and Adam Levine was having an intentional wardrobe malfunction.

Anyway, let’s get to it. It was all mostly in one tweet thread, so I didn’t bother linking to the tweet directly for most of these since they are in there, and it started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this, it was only a kiss, it was only a kiss…

*shakes head*

By that I mean…

You get the idea. Also…

And so on…

sciville Food is made. Chicken chili, guacamole, and cookies. Time for break from Puppy Bowl to watch Man Bowl. #Superbowl

sciville Patriotic theater at an athletic event?! Blasphemy! I guess I’d better get down on my knee… that’s how you show reverence for the country and flag, right? #TakeAKnee #Superbowl
(more…)

October 7, 2018

Brett the Impartial

Last week, Christine Blasey Ford testified about how Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her back in 1982. Then it was his turn to say words. The Senate was ready to go on it, with the Republican majority ready to vote yes, but then Jeff Flake was cornered in an elevator, so Republicans grudgingly agreed to let the FBI investigate the claims for like five minutes. So nothing seems all that different as at the end of this week the full Senate voted on confirmation. Thursday evening right before, Brett Kavanaugh said some more words, this time in written form in the Wall Street Journal. Let’s see…

I was deeply honored to stand at the White House July 9 with my wife, Ashley, and my daughters, Margaret and Liza, to accept President Trump’s nomination to succeed my former boss and mentor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, on the Supreme Court.

Name dropping.

My mom, Martha—one of the first women to serve as a Maryland prosecutor and trial judge, and my inspiration to become a lawyer—sat in the audience with my dad, Ed.

Good for her.

That night, I told the American people who I am and what I believe.

Still more comprehensive than this FBI investigation.

I talked about my 28-year career as a lawyer, almost all of which has been in public service. I talked about my 12 years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often called the second most important court in the country, and my five years of service in the White House for President George W. Bush.

Well, yeah, this process is a job interview after all.

I talked about my long record of advancing and promoting women, including as a judge—a majority of my 48 law clerks have been women

Um, yeah, about that…

—and as a longtime coach of girls’ basketball teams.

I think I know the real reason you want this gig.
(more…)

September 15, 2018

Anonymous the Anonymous

Filed under: Assorted Politics,Check It Out,In the News — Katrina @ 8:42 pm

So last week the New York Times published an Op-Ed by… no one knows! But they claim to be resisting the Orange Thing from the inside. Let’s have a look…

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.

Intriguing. Do go on.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

In other news, the word “leader” wants to sue you for defamation.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

Awww, poor Orange Thing with all the shit he and his party brought on themselves.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I mean, he might know now. But then again, how would you know?

I would know. I am one of them.

Ah.
(more…)

July 8, 2018

Pruitt the Faithful

A few days ago, Scott Pruitt resigned as head of the EPA, the latest departure in this revolving-door-like administration. In doing so, he penned a letter to the Orange Thing. Let’s have a look…

Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA.

And you use the term “honor” very loosely.

Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally

I wasn’t aware Orange Thing was capable of blessing people. Or of having confidence in them for that matter.

and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration.

Be it through catastrophic environmental damage or nuclear war, his agenda of turning our planet into a smoking husk will be realized much sooner than anyone would have thought, yes.

Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.

In other words, we’re way ahead of schedule on that 2°C rise.

That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6.

Now that wasn’t that hard, was it? Take note, Sessions! And Sanders. And Nielsen. And the rest.

It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity,

Someone has a cruuuuush…

but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring.

Look at those ice caps melt!

However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

Yeah, really, all the horrific accusations about you having a private e-mail server and running a child trafficking operation at a pizza restaurant- Oh, wait, that wasn’t you…

I believe these are yours.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people.

You talk to and about the Orange Thing as if his occupation of the White House is ordained by God or something-

I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence.

I believe that same providence brought me into your service.

Actually, Orange Thing appointed you- Oh, that’s what you mean. Weird.

I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people.

No entity real or imagined anywhere ever has enough power to make the Orange Thing an effective leader. All you’re doing is feeding his already dangerously high narcissism by speaking to and about him like some god-king, for reasons I’m not really sure I want to know.

Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you

You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

Because when you’re famous they let you do it.

Your Faithful Friend, Scott Pruitt

This has been Day 46 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 18.

May 8, 2018

Bird Battle

Filed under: Check It Out,Science,Sports!,Teh Interwebs — Katrina @ 11:45 pm

So, in this year’s second hockey related pleasant surprise, my Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins last night to advance to the Eastern Conference final. Yay!

I could discuss the six-game series and the plays and the sending the puck around and what all else hockey entails. Perhaps just lavish praise on the Caps players for breaking a 20 year DC sports curse. Perhaps, since I turned 35 two days ago, this new age means good luck for my teams, as on my birthday I went to the Nationals game and, what rarely seems to happen when I go to the game, they won! Last night too, though I wasn’t at that one, what with me having other stuff to do and the game being way the hell across the country in San Diego (with its very real risk of spontaneous swarms of bees).

But instead I’m going to devote this to the best thing ever…

The National Zoo in DC and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh going at each other on Twitter about the superiority of their respective team’s bird mascots! Enjoy! (Clicking the image opens the original tweet.)

(more…)

January 9, 2018

And Greenbelt Makes Three

Filed under: Check It Out,In the News,NYRA Happenings,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 11:15 pm

Usually when there’s a map of my region with triangles on it, it’s the Pepco Outage Map.

But here’s an awesome triangle for the region.

At one point farthest to the west, we have Takoma Park, the first of them, which did it May 13, 2013. The southernmost point is Hyattsville, the second, which did it January 20, 2015. And to the northeast, the third point, which did it January 8, 2018, is Greenbelt.

These three towns at these three points have all have lowered their municipal voting ages to 16! A move with lots of good reasons and lots to think about and lots of tweets back in the day.

I was there when Takoma Park and Hyattsville each sealed the deal. Sadly, I was unable to attend Greenbelt’s due to freezing rain encasing everything in ice. But at least the people who mattered were there.

The three towns are all right by each other, too. The idea is spreading throughout the region. College Park is inside the triangle, almost totally surrounded and must surely join in at some point! The geographical proximity commands it. You, too, Berwyn Heights, especially if College Park does get in on this. And you, New Carrollton, just outside the triangle to the southeast. Why should the Green Line terminus in Greenbelt have all the fun of being in a #16tovote town when you and your Orange Line terminus could as well? Also, perhaps you’d then provide a little encouragement to a certain town just a bit south of you, just off the above map…

Yes, I’m talking about you, Glenarden! Get it together!

August 23, 2015

New Hat!

Hey, check it out. I was playing Minesweeper because, well, I’m me, and look what happened. I won. Well, of course I won. I’m awesome. But I won a field that had every number on it. 😀

Okay, it was on the third try, but still counts.

You may also notice something different around here. Sure, Why Not? is totally new and improved! The color scheme and whatnot are… ugly as all hell like usual.

But it’s got a new hat!

And by that I mean new header. The winning Minesweeper field with every number because why not? I was tired of the old one.

Enjoy the brand new Sure, Why Not?. 😛

This has been Day 92 of the 100 Days of Summer, Round 15.

December 29, 2014

Tyson the Christmas Troll

On Christmas Day, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted the following:

On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642

Hehehe. Cute. I shared it. Why not? 🙂

Then, as I should have expected, a bunch of idiots complained that this was offensive to Christians. Tyson tweeted a bunch of tweets on Christmas, all of them a little snarky, yet somehow this is the one that pissed people off so much.

How the hell is this even news? Is anyone that surprised?

Well, actually, I’m a little surprised. This Newton tweet was just a clever play on words. I can’t even find anything in it that would even be offensive to Christians.

If anything, it’s some of the other tweets they should take issue with. Like this one:

Merry Christmas to all. A Pagan holiday (BC) becomes a Religious holiday (AD). Which then becomes a Shopping holiday (USA).

Two problems with this one.

One, Pagan IS Religious. It’s so often that the non-religious calling out Christian hypocrisies talk about paganism as if it’s some other thing entirely, forgetting that pagans are also religious, just not members of an Abrahamic religion. This sort of statement implies that only the Abrahamic religions are truly considered “religions” and that those that aren’t are just something else. Which is, needless to say, rather disrespectful and othering.

Two, yeah, the USA is not even close to the only country that spent the past month in a shopping frenzy. Come the fuck on! 😆

But aside from that, well played, Tyson. Well played.

December 11, 2014

Christmas in Africa

Filed under: Check It Out,Christmas Time!,Musical Musing,Teh Interwebs — Katrina @ 11:00 pm

You’d think I should know better now after what happened last week, but I’ve continued browsing cool Christmas stuff on Wikipedia. And so far there has been significantly less child abuse.

I was looking through the Christmas Traditions article, with what countries all over the world do at Christmas. It’s pretty neat. Haven’t gotten all the way through it yet.

I had the radio on, playing the Christmas music. And guess what notoriously geographically-impaired song came on!

“There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time. The greatest gift they’ll get this year is light. Where nothing ever grows, no rain nor rivers flow… do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

Umm…

Christmas in South Africa is a public holiday celebrated on 25 December. Many European traditions are maintained despite the distance from Europe.

Christmas trees are set up in homes and the children are given presents in their stockings. Traditional ‘fir’ Christmas trees are popular and children leave a stocking out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The gift bearer is Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas meal is mince pies, turkey, roast beef or a barbecue outdoors. The meal is finished with Christmas Pudding. Christmas crackers are used to make noise.

Okay, I guess they don’t mean South Africa. Surely the rest of Africa is devoid of holiday spirit- oh…

Christmas Day is a public holiday in Nigeria which is always marked by the emptying of towns and cities as Nigerians that have been successful returning to their ancestral villages to be with family and to bless those less fortunate. As the towns and cities empty, people jam the West African markets to buy and transport live chickens, goats and cows that will be needed for the Christmas meals.

On Christmas Eve, traditional meals are prepared according to the traditions of each region. Rather than having sweets and cakes, Nigerians as a whole tend to prepare various meats in large quantities.

Huh. Okay, Nigeria seems to have this whole Christmas thing down. But then again, that song was more specifically about Ethiopia, right? And it’s not like they- oh, look at that!

Christmas Day in Ethiopia is celebrated on January 7. Many people who are Christian in Ethiopia, go to Church on the Eve of Christmas, and stay there all night until 4am the next day on Christmas while doing many spiritual prayer and rituals like Liturgy and Holy Communion.

Oh, snap!

Well, alright. Ethiopia has a lot of Coptic Christians. They in fact do know it’s Christmas time, just like Nigeria and South Africa. But maybe it’s just them, and that the rest of Africa doesn’t know about Christmas…

Or they do, since according to this map, only in Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, SADR, and Somalia is Christmas NOT a public holiday.

Though the song is from 30 years ago so who knows what’s different between then and now. And there’s some new version of it out now that seems to have changed the above line. That’s something. But the original is played frequently, complete with misleading information. And it’s stuck in my head now and I’m still annoyed because it’s three weeks into the Christmas music and I’ve only heard them play Canon twice with its nice lyrics of not-totally-sure-what-but-at-least-not-geographical-misrepresentation. :irked:

December 2, 2014

No Salvation for Male Teens

So apparently a homeless family of five sought shelter from the cold weather with the Salvation Army. Four of them were welcome, namely both parents, their 16-year-old daughter, and their 5-year-old son. The fifth, their 15-year-old son, was not welcome.

According to the guy’s father:

“They said he’s too old to stay on the women’s side, because of the women running around in their pajamas and they said he’s too young to stay on the men’s side in case some pervert wants to do whatever,” Lejeune said.

So he’s too dangerous to be with the women, while the men are too dangerous to him for him to be with them. Oh, God, it’s like wolf-sheep-watermelon riddle!

But seriously… what?! The Reason article calls it pedophile panic, but it’s quite a bit more than that. It’s yet another manifestation of the idea that teens equal trouble, both for themselves and for others. They are a danger to everyone, and everything is a danger to them. The curious ageist paradox that always seems to yield fewer rights for teens, who are never allowed a word in edgewise.

And it’s more ephebiphobic paranoia. “Help! It’s a teen! Is it a child? Is it an adult? Oh, Lord, I just don’t know. Let’s just shove it out of sight and not have to worry our heads with this freaky age-hybrid.”

The result? A young guy, whose only crime was existing and happening to be part of a family that fell on hard times, is forced to stay out in the cold, as is his family.
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April 29, 2014

Paglia on the Drinking Age

Filed under: Check It Out,What the hell?,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 10:53 pm

While it’s always nice to see articles in favor of lowering the drinking age, I’ve learned not to get too excited right away. The other day, a TIME article by Camille Paglia came out in favor of lowering the drinking age. Let’s have a look…

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

While I don’t care for the “it makes us similar to these piece of shit countries” argument, since its entire basis is “ewww… THOSE countries… THOSE people…”, the rest is right on. The drinking age is a violation of young people’s civil liberties and carries with it some nasty repercussions.

She goes on to briefly compare MADD with 19th century temperance activists (which seems a little unfair to the temperance activists :P). Then she mentions the marijuana legalization and uses that as a jumping point for lowering the drinking age, citing also that “The decrease in drunk-driving deaths in recent decades is at least partly attributable to more uniform seat-belt use and a strengthening of DWI penalties.” Which is the general argument against the pro-21 side’s “Raising the drinking age saved ALL OF THE LIVES!!!!”
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July 25, 2013

Estimating Earth

Filed under: 100 Days of Summer,Check It Out,Teh Interwebs,What the hell? — Katrina @ 9:14 pm

I hate this fucking game.

GeoGuessr

Go ahead. Give it a try.

I’m awesome at it. I think my highest score was up over 28,000. I often get over 25,000 anyway and seldom lower than 20,000. I’ve mastered the art of pinpointing the exact spot to within meters. I very rarely check Wikipedia or the like, and when I do, usually it’s a matter of “okay, I know the name of the town and what country it’s in, I’ve just been panning all over the country’s map looking for it and am getting impatient.”

And oh dear God, the constant panning! Dear Lord at the long barren usually-Australian roads. Yeah, I can pinpoint exact locations within meters after a LOT of panning and clicking down a road, hoping that there will be a sign showing the name of a nearby city or at least telling me what language is spoken in this place. Or the number of the road.

Only twice have I screwed up so badly that I didn’t even pick the right continent. Once wasn’t too long ago. A lot of locations in the game are in Brazil, and usually a sign or something in Portuguese can be spotted before too long telling this, along with rather obviously tropical scenery. Well, sure enough, at one point when I couldn’t identify any town names, was on some endless forest road, and saw some signs in Portuguese and finally guessed a random spot in Brazil and hoped it was close… it was in Portugal! :irked:
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March 14, 2013

Sacked the Gunman

Now for a quick-thinking, death-stopping edition of…

Here’s to You!!!!

So I raise my glass and say, “Here’s to you, Cypress Lake hero!”

I don’t actually know his name. Very few people do. But he’s a high school student who, when another student on his school bus pointed a gun at someone else and threatened to kill, he and two others leapt up and tackled him, likely saving one or more lives. Yay! They’re heroes!

So they went to school where they got awards and medals not unlike the final scene from Star Wars…

Oh, no, wait, actually he got suspended. For being involved in an incident “where a weapon was present”.

Well, NYRA and others are on it! My always awesome fellow board member Jeffrey Nadel is on the case and has appeared on a couple of news spots and radio shows talking all about it.

Also, here: SchoolBusHero.com

Go there, watch the video, and sign the petition. And get others to do the same.

Seriously, that principal just isn’t backing down on this, insisting that she “knows the full story”. After the original suspension, they made up some junk about the heroic student being insubordinate and uncooperative, something they added after this story got media attention and they wanted to cover their tracks. Yeah, sure, okay. 🙄

Because the student should totally have instead done nothing like a good little boy and watched his fellow students get killed. And because he didn’t allow people to die in front of him, he now has this suspension blemish on his record because “only I know the full story, he was uncooperative! uncooperative!” Genius!

Come on. Expunge the suspension and move on. The school fighting this is nonsense, even by school administrator standards.

December 17, 2012

Coventry Carol

Ever heard of Coventry Carol? Yeah, didn’t think so. It’s an obscure Christmas carol, existing pretty much only in choirs and whatnot.

Anyway, check it out:

Lullay, thou little tiny child
By by lully lullay
Lullay thou little tiny child
By by lully lullay

Yeah, yeah… lots to, um, think about there. That’s, um, some deep stuff.

Anyway, second verse:

O sisters too how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By by lully lullay

Wait… what was that?!

This poor youngling for whom we sing

You know what this means?!

youngling

Of course! It’s so obvious!

JESUS WAS A JEDI!!!

April 19, 2012

Mainstream

Filed under: Check It Out,Teh Interwebs,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 3:17 pm

I make a point occasionally to read back through not only my own writings on youth rights, but those of others, even ones that are years old now. The study and recollections are needed sometimes to feed the ever-present thoughts and considerations of the issue.

A little while ago, I reread Alex Koroknay-Palicz’s “The delay between the inarguable and the acted-upon”, about a professor who seemed to agree with all the reasoning behind lowering the voting age yet wouldn’t explicitly come out and say he believed the voting age should be lowered. Why? Because it felt like such a fringe view to take, and nobody wants to be the lone supporter of a fringe issue.

In other words, something we youth rights people hear all too often!

Alex goes on to suggest the solution is to have more high-profile people voicing support for our issues and organization, as well as making what positive changes for youth rights we can already. I agree with the second part wholeheartedly, since making real changes to ageist policies is a pretty clear “yes, we’re serious about this, and, yes, this is in fact realistic” sign.
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