Science and Sarcasm
26 April 2005
Good article about climate change at Grist...
Let's Talk About Climate Change by Ian McEwan. Here's an excerpt:

...[R]eports from a range of scientific disciplines are telling us with certainty that we are making a mess of the earth, we are fouling our nest, and we have to act decisively and against our immediate inclinations. For we tend to be superstitious, hierarchical, and self-interested, just when the moment requires us to be rational, even-handed, and altruistic. We are shaped by our history and biology to frame our plans within the short term, within the scale of a single lifetime; and in democracies, governments and electorates collude in an even tighter cycle of promise and gratification. Now we are asked to address the well-being of unborn individuals we will never meet and who, contrary to the usual terms of human interaction, will not be returning the favor.

To concentrate our minds, we have historical examples of civilizations that have collapsed through environmental degradation -- the Sumerian, the Indus Valley, Easter Island. They extravagantly feasted on vital natural resources and died. Those were test-tube cases, locally confined; now, increasingly, we are one, and we are informed -- reliably or not -- that it is the whole laboratory, the whole glorious human experiment, that is at risk.

25 April 2005
Long cold fun weekend on the big lake
We spent a 3-day weekend up north on the lakeshore celebrating Earth Day in a rustic cabin without electricity or running water. The weather turned cold, snowy and windy, but we found it hard to complain. Bec and I fished the Sturgeon River on Friday on the way north. What a beautiful stream. And it's powerful water. This has to be the fastest flowing stream in Michigan. Wading just knee deep is a struggle. I caught my largest brook trout ever - 11". Not big but gorgeous.

Saturday, we were joined by 2 friends and we headed to the Ocqueoc to search for steelhead. We found no steelies but saw several bald eagles. Fortunately, we were sheltered from the wind for most of our time on the river.

On the way home on Sunday, we stopped to fish the AuSable River but found the wind and horizontal snow an obstacle to enjoyment. Casting sink tips and streamers with a 30-mph upstream wind is just silly. We each caught a little trout and called it a day.

All in all, a great low-impact weekend that felt like a real break from the work week.

14' Shoals Cabin

View of the Mackinac Bridge

Earth Day 35. Are We Getting Anywhere?
Meteor Blades at The Next Hurrah has a nice post about Earth Day, its origins and evolution over the past 35 years. At times it's been an effective focus on environmental issues and at others its only been a diversion. Ultimately, MB asks us what we're each doing toward the goal of environmental improvement and sustainability.
Whenever I get into this conversation with my friends, we all fervently agree that without an eco-friendly governmental policy – worldwide – the long-term future of human beings (and other large mammals) on this planet will be grim. But then comes equally fervent disagreement over how much each individual can or should do in the absence of government policy. I don’t mean whether we can all be like Goldman Environmental Prize winner Father José Andrés Tamayo Cortez - obviously not.

But what should we do when it comes to more mundane matters? Use public transportation more often? Stop eating meat growith fossil water and over-grazed public lands? Buy a composting toilet? Opt off the grid until hydrocarbons are out of the electricity-generating biz? Help kill the pesticide industry by spending more for organic lettuce and strawberries? Keep the air-conditioning off until room temperature hits 80? Light the house with compact fluorescent lights even though they’re ugly in some fixtures? Return that low-flow showerhead we yanked off one frosty morning? Remodel solely with often pricey green materials?

It’s a prodigious list of the big and the tiny, and after half an hour, the eyes of the SUV owners have narrowed into slits, a couple of vegans are having it out with the carnivores, and the sole owner of solar roof panels has tipped his nose way up into the air.

So, what have you done to make your personal life more environmentally sound? Be honest. Don’t tell us you bike 10 miles to work if you’re driving what Devilstower at Daily Kos christened the "Chevy Subdivision" on your commute.

21 April 2005
Meet Maggie Rose!
We've got a new little girl in the family as of today! A new niece for me! Here's the bullet:

Margaret Rose Butler
7 lbs. 11 ounces
21 inches
Born Thursday April 21, 2005 at 9:14am CST

Mom and Maggie Rose

Congratulations to Mom, Dad and big brother Patrick!
Here are a couple more pics.

19 April 2005
We were the 2 token chicks at the Great Lakes Spey Clave this past weekend...
It's the first time we've gone. It was a beautiful day for hanging out on the river with a bunch of flyfishing geeks. Many of the guys are incredibly good fishermen and casters. Our friend Jamey convinced us to go - we should always do what he says. We got a brief beginner's casting lesson from Andy Murray from the Hardy Co. in the UK. He's a great guy and an even better spey casting teacher.

Andy Murray

We managed to fish the Muskegon a bit as well. I landed 2 little 14" browns on my new-to-me 14' 9wt DS (thanks Bec! And Jamey!). I think I made good progress on the whole spey fishing topic. Becky ended the day with a gorgeous, deep pink steelie. At least I got to land it...

How to interpret research reports
Eduwonk sponsored a little contest last week offering a prize to the reader who could best describe the difference between a "hatchet job" and "overinterpretation of data" within the context of research report interpretation for PR purposes. Here's the winner's submission:

a matter of quadrants...

I think this approach could be used to develop guides for interpretation of many other things....

14 April 2005
Wow, there are some amazingly beautiful photographs on Flickr...
Here are a few of my favorites.

a gorgeous bull trout

irrigation equipment

barn & half a cow

13 April 2005
BBC News provides images documenting climate change around the globe

In pictures: How the world is changing

Argentina's Upsala Glacier was once the biggest in South America, but it is now disappearing at a rate of 200 metres per year.

Gary Braasch is the photographer responsible for recording and compiling these wonderful, terrible photogaphs. He has much more on the subject of climate change here.

Greenland's huge icecap, second only to Antarctica, is also showing signs of change - here in 2004.

Greenland's huge icecap, second only to Antarctica, is also showing signs of change - here in 2001.

12 April 2005
My 'Live' Tuesday Not-So-Random 50
Audioscrobbler is pretty cool for a relatively useless web app.

Is this any more hip than the FRT? I didn't think so.

09 April 2005
National Geographic Magazine's 'Crane Cam'
A group of sandhill cranes lands at Rowe Sanctuary

The live camera is set up in the Rowe Sanctuary in Nebraska on the Platte River to monitor migrating sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis). The camera is operational until sometime in mid-April when the migration will be more or less finished. Best viewing may be found in the hours around sunset and sunrise each day.

I've become interested in these large birds since moving here to the midwest. We have quite a few around my home and quite a few pairs now stick around to nest in the area each summer. Their calls sound like no other earthly creature - sort of a repeated, metallic "garooo-a-a" and they fly relatively low around here so you can easily wake up to a 'crane alarm' on most mornings.

In the morning, cranes shuffle up and down the river waiting for the sun to pop up over the horizon. As the sun rises, cranes head out to feed and loaf in the surrounding fields. During the day, cranes "dance" to relieve the stress of migration and strengthen pair bonds. Cranes are very "social" birds and in the evening, congregate in wet meadows before heading back to the river for the night.

Cranes are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal materials. With the abundance of cropland in the Platte River valley, corn makes up nearly 90 percent of their diet, providing carbohydrates for fat production. Wet meadows along the river provide invertebrates that make up the remainder of their diet. Worms and snails provide protein, with the snail shell being a source of calcium that is essential for egg development.
There are six subspecies of sandhill cranes, of which three are migratory and three non-migratory. Two of the non-migratory subspecies are endangered: the Mississippi and Cuban sandhill crane. All of the migratory subspecies pass through Nebraska and their populations are thriving (~600,000). The most numerous is the lesser sandhill crane, which is the smallest subspecies. The Canadian sandhill crane comprises about 15 percent of the birds staging along the Platte, and the greater sandhill crane about 5 percent.

The wings of a crane are approximately six feet long. Cranes are lazy fliers, relying on thermals to carry them along. Thermals are rising columns of warm air, and when southerly winds start to blow, you will see cranes testing them for flight conditions. Sometimes during flight, the upward wingbeat is very quick, giving cranes a mechanical look. Cranes ride thermals so efficiently that they have been seen flying over Mt. Everest (~28,000 feet).

An adult sandhill crane is between three and four feet tall and weighs 6 to 12 pounds depending on the subspecies. Adults have bright red skin patches on their crowns and are usually gray with brown stains. Juveniles have brown skin patches and can be dark grey to brown in color. Crane's can also stain their feathers by preening after they have been probing the ground for food.

Their bills and feet are important tools. A crane's bill is very sharp and sturdy, useful when probing frozen soil. The edges are serrated to grasp slippery food like worms and snakes. Not only is it used for preening, it is also used as a weapon.

The feet and legs work in conjunction with the beak. The foot has three long toes with claws on the end. These claws are very sharp and can be used for scratching in dirt to find food and for protection. When a crane is threatened, it will use its wings to maintain its balance and then jump up and strike at the attacker with its feet.

08 April 2005
Dubya's Rorschach test, by Mr. Fish
title text again
07 April 2005
I enjoyed reading Michael's comments in light of the continuous scary craziness currently coming out of the GOP's 'Culture of Life'® wing. His post is long, but a pretty interesting read.

It's a One Class Flight:
When medieval European nobles decided they wanted to take a road trip - preferably one that would provide them with an opportunity to draw upon their core skills as rapists, plunderers and dashers-of-baby-brains-against-rocks -- they turned to the Bible for moral guidance. And, under the patient tutelage of priests and popes they discovered that God would in fact be very enthusiastically supportive of princes, barons and assorted thugs setting off to reach the big Holy Land Souvenir and Gift Shop where they hoped to pick up pieces of the True Cross.

When the Spaniards reached the New World and discovered that it was populated by people known to Christendom as "future slaves" they found in the Bible all the support they needed to carry on their holy work of slaughtering children, raping women and incinerating Aztec priests. (Granted, the Aztec priests had it coming.)

Whenever Christians have found it necessary to deal with heretics, there was the Bible, their moral guide, ready to support them in their desire to stretch an Albigensian out to twice his normal length.

And when, on occasion (about five centuries, give or take) Catholics felt it advisable to massacre Protestants, or Protestants thought it might be helpful to slaughter Catholics, both sides reached into their ever-present Bibles and came up with all the theological support they needed.

Here in the United States the Bible was in one hand and the whip in the other as slave masters drew upon holy writ to justify selling children away from their parents, working their fathers to death, raping their mothers and then, with something approaching perfect efficiency, enslaving the resulting progeny.

Run, Injuns, run, the Lord says right here in this chapter, in this very verse, that I have the right, even the moral obligation, hallelujah, to burn you out, starve you out, and hound you through forest and across plain till you're exterminated, praise be.

Put a sheet on your head, string up a black man, castrate him and set him on fire? Absolutely, and let's sing Onward Christian Soldiers as we do it.

Every foul, malicious, cruel act that pops into the mind of a believer can somehow be rationalized in biblical terms. When it comes to justifying atrocities by the faithful the Bible is everybody's bitch. And what is so lovely is that this Bible is solemnly asserted to be the eternal and unchanging word of God.

Within living memory -- in fact, within my own personal memory -- the Bible has been used to justify official racism. God apparently was very concerned that whites and blacks not share drinking fountains. And certainly they should not be marrrying and, here is the crucial point, in order to see that God's will be done, in order to make sure that the US of A stayed right with God, we needed to write and enforce laws that made it a crime for whites and blacks to commingle. Again, this was not a million years ago and far, far away. This was in my life, in this country, right here where I'm sitting in North Carolina. Thus spake the Lord in 1959: niggers keep out.

And now, fresh as we are from discovering that the unchangeable Word of God actually doesn't kind of support slavery, and maybe wasn't all that favorable on the topic of torturing heretics after all, and just possibly did not really endorse genocide (oops, sorry guys, wanna build a casino?), and gosh, who knew, didn't even call for keeping black people as a permanent underclass, Bible scholars have dipped into the big book's endless ambiguity and come up with yet another divine decree: faggots should not be marrying other faggots. Thus spake the Lord, as we clearly see in this chapter and that verse and really, there is no possibility, none, none whatever, that this time we might be wrong like we were in every other case where the Lord seemed to call for us to treat our fellow man like shit.

I'm an atheist. Unlike many of my ilk (and we are an ilk) I've actually read the Bible cover to cover. Okay, I skipped some of the begats, and I probably lingered over portions of Solomon longer than strictly necessary, but I've read the Book. And here's what I know: I can find biblical justification for shooting you as you walk out of a McDonald's carrying a cheeseburger. Literally. The Bible is quite clear on the subject of mixing meat with any other product of the same animal. Like beef and cheese. In fact, if you weighed all the biblical references to food, against all the biblical references to homosexuality, you could fairly conclude that God cares a lot more about the kitchen than he does the bedroom. And yet I've never heard off a Christian demanding that we close McDonald's. (Can we at least torture the clown?)

When I read the New Testament, or what fundamentalists refer to as "Revelations and some other stuff," what I see is Jesus beating this message: show some compassion, show some mercy, show some generosity, show some humility, and don't presume to judge your fellow man because I am God, asshole, and you are not. (I paraphrase.)

We are not a theoccracy. This is not Iran or Afghanistan. Sorry, various TV preachers, Jesus is not in the Constitution. The Bible is a religious document intended for the moral guidance of believers -- a fact which must humilate God no end. It cannot be relied on as a guide to cheeseburgers (illegal) or adultery (death penalty called for) or money lending (goodbye Citibank) or slavery (sure, why not?) or gay marriage.

As the court in California has pointed out there is no rational basis for denying marriage to gays. None. Zero. And twenty or thirty years from now the Christians and Jews who are today condemning it with Bible references will develop the same amnesia as their parent's developed on the subject of miscegenation and segregation.

This is not a Right vs. Left, Republican vs. Democrat issue. The Dems have been as contemptibly gutless as the Republicans have been nasty. The issue here is whether we have in this country two different and unequal classes of citizenship: Americans with full benefits, and Americans with something less. I consider it a moderate position to maintain that every American, whether they are Mayflower descendents or Dad just waded the Rio Grande, whether they are rich or poor, black or white or any other color, Christian, Jew, Muslim or none-of-the-above, straight or gay, is equally an American citizen.

Welcome home weary girls
The MSU Women's Basketball team returned to East Lansing at about noon on Wednesday to a crowd of about 300 at the Breslin Center. The team looked exhausted and disappointed, but they spoke a few words and settled in for an extended period of autographing. I hope it helped them to feel a little better. In a few days when they're more rested, I hope they can gain the perspective necessary to fully appreciate their awards, their records and individual accomplishments this season. I stood in line for autographs too, and I had a chance to see what good young women they are. I'm already looking forward to next season.

We happened to speak with our AD and famous ex-hockey coach, Ron Mason, for a few minutes outside the Breslin Center before the rally. He seemed genuinely impressed and proud of Coach McCallie's and the team's accomplishments. I appreciate that he took a few minutes to chat warmly to a couple of anonymous fans.

MSU Women's Basketball Team greets loyal fans at the Breslin Center

Lindsay Bowen makes a young fan happy

06 April 2005
It's a sad day here in Mudville...
The MSU Women's hoop team fell significantly short of accomplishing their goal last night, losing to the Baylor Lady Bears 84-62. I feel bad for them. They did not play up to their normal standards and I'm sure they're crushed about that today. Nevertheless, we'll all remind them that finishing a season 33-4 and making it to the national final is nothing to sneeze at. We've had a long season to watch our favorite upperclasswomen and to learn what we have to look forward to with some of the freshmen and sophomores. It was a great season, it just doesn't feel like it right now.

Mitch Albom has more.

04 April 2005
Steelhead fishing on a warm day for a change
We hit a small nearby creek looking for some spring steelhead. They've been entering the rivers for the last two weeks or so and the recent rains have brought in more. This particular creek is still quite high from snowmelt and rain so clarity is off and flow is high, though it is returning to normal. Lots of folks were out trying their luck and I wish the crowd could all be a little more sensitive to taking good care of our streams, the fish and our natural environment.

We caught no steelhead on this day, but it was a beautiful day to be out wading and hiking a river. We caught 2 small, but gorgeous, brown trout.

Becky drifts a nymph through a promising run

PCreek - 3 April 2004

MSU Women recover a 16-point deficit to beat Tennessee Vols 68-64
No one seems to really know how they do this...even the players. We are all looking forward to Tuesday night!

03 April 2005
Here's a great, and appropriate, article written by Josh Greenman at Slate back around Christmas time.

A Giant Step Forward for Punctuation¡
Introducing the long-awaited sarcasm point.

The English language must evolve. Not with emoticons or lol or brb or l8r or GRATUITOUS all caps used for emphasis, not with Spanglish or bumbling Bushisms or even cryptic Kerryisms. We don't need more quotation marks that "hedge" or try to make the same "old" thing sound "fresh." What we need is an honest effort to incorporate the way we live today. My fellow Americans, we need to embrace a new punctuation mark—one that embraces the irony and edge of contemporary conversation and clarifies rather than condenses or confuses.

It is time for the adoption of the sarcasm point. Why the sarcasm point? We have a mark that conveys that we mean or know something. We have one that says it with volume and force! We have one that communicates that we don't know something, don't we? We need one more: to do for language what shade did for drawing, what color did for television, and what eyebrows did for expressions—introduce finesse.

The problem is simple. We live in a whiplash, light-speed world in which motion can range, within minutes, from standstill to supersonic, decibel levels range from NPR to Limbaugh, and the range of sincerity can shoot from earnest to irreverent in nanoseconds.

Believe it or not, the world we've landed in is not only more image-obsessed than we've ever seen. It's also more text-based than ever. We finger-type and we thumb-type. We e-mail, we IM, we blog. And the forms cannot contain the content. There's a dastardly disconnect. Among other things, it makes Dave Barry columns somewhat difficult to read. Someone must step into the sarcasm chasm¡

I'm serious¡ See, there are people who are relentlessly sincere. So, what are they supposed to do when they're trying to sound a bit bitter? Suppose you're IM'ing that oft-earnest friend you have, and he writes: "I need to go to church tomorrow and confess the jealousy in my heart." You forget—have you ever heard him say nice things about God or do the opposite? "Wait … do you really?" "Sorry. I mean, I need to go to church tomorrow¡ To confess my jealousy¡ And the fact that I just renewed my subscription to Maxim¡" "Oh. Me too. Only as a Jew, I must do these things in synagogue¡"

And then there are people who are relentlessly sarcastic. How do we know when they're being straight? The other day my brother told me he respected Colin Powell. I had no idea what he was trying to say.

The sarcasm point can strengthen our communities and unite our broader culture¡

Sarcasm purists, Norm McDonald, and his acolytes might be troubled by all this talk. Good sarcasm, they'll tell you, is cueless. It trips dishonestly off the tongue. "What I'm looking forward to in prison is the prospect of anal rape." Telegraph your insincerity and the thrill is gone. Announce it and your friends won't experience the same delight in the spasm of sarcasm you use to praise the president.

The other day I told my girlfriend I loved her. I did it on Yahoo! Instant Messenger. And the sarcasm just didn't come across.

I grant that blue states will be at the vanguards in anointing the new sarcasm point. We'll use it in our MoveOn action alerts. We'll teach it our public schools, in those grammar classes they fail to teach. We will type it with excitable hands in Bruckheimer scripts and lace it in our advertising.

Red states will be slower to come along, perhaps. The first sarcasm point won't work its way into the Republican Party platform until 2028, into a Georgia English textbook until 2032, and won't appear in a prayer book until, I'm guessing, 2080. But the spread will be inevitable, kind of like civil unions.

Williams Safire and F. Buckley, chiefs of the language police, are retiring not two moments too soon. Let the organized grammatical crime commence¡

Do yourself a favor. Begin today. Suck in and cough out this little virus of an idea. Beam the meme. Use it at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals¡ Try to keep it under wraps at gay coming out parties.

I mean it¡

And since I'm going to copyright this bugger, you'll have to type¡© But don't worry. You can take the copyright symbol ironically.

02 April 2005
We're very proud, around here, that both the men's and women's MSU hoops teams have had a terrific run and are in the NCAA Final Four.

Once again, Izzo shows he's da man

Your team hasn't a prayer - And I won't resort to hillbilly jokes

MSU won't alter fast-break style vs. North Carolina

McCallie stays calm as stakes rise

Best of luck this weekend!

01 April 2005
Pat Buchanan doused with salad dressing
Here in the midwest, we're not really known for such ballyhoo, but I've got to commend these WMU and Earlham students for their confrontation. Students, apathetic? Not these days...

KALAMAZOO, Michigan (AP) -- Commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan cut short an appearance after an opponent of his conservative views doused him with salad dressing.

"Stop the bigotry!" the demonstrator shouted as he hurled the liquid Thursday night during the program at Western Michigan University. The incident came just two days after another noted conservative, William Kristol, was struck by a pie during an appearance at a college in Indiana.

And regarding Mr. Kristol...

Friday Random Ten...
Here are Feministe's rules for the FRT. She says it's not cool anymore, but I'm a slow-adapter.

1. Joan Baez - Stones in the Road
2. Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Long Way Home
3. Rusted Root - Rising Sun
4. Ryan Adams - La Cienega Just Smiled
5. Emmylou Harris - May This Be Love
6. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones - Interlude-Libation, the Water Ritual
7. Sam Bush - Brilliancy
8. Sarah McLachlan - Possession
9. Indigo Girls - Southland in the Springtime
10. Tom Petty - Cabin Down Below

and hey, happy April Fool's Day.

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