Friday, October 31, 2008

This is what worries me about Obama ...

... sooner rather than later, I imagine I'll be considered "upper class" and I'll be taxed to death. Exactly what is his threshold for "middle class"? It seems to be a moving target.

IIRC, when Obama started this whole deal with defining the middle class, he pegged it at anything above $75K. No freaking way. As a married government employee, my wife and I come close to that, and we still live paycheck to paycheck. Student loans and a mortgage take out a considerable chunk of our pay. An increase in our taxes would kill us.

Then it was raised to $250K for a family. Pretty high ceiling there, but now it seems to be creeping down again. Where it actually stops, is anyone's guess. Give me a damn number, and then stick to it. Jimminy Christmas!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Uh, what?

Palin not going back to Alaska, even if she loses next week. And here I thought she was governor of the state. Does this mean she's stepping down?

If Obama and Biden win next week, I predict the death of the Republican Party as we know it. While quite a few people will rejoice at that, I don't think it's such a Good Thing. While a two party system is horrendous (essentially picking between dumb and dumber), a single party would be a damn nightmare. It'd be essentially mob rule.

Oh well, guess the Republicans brought this on themselves. I still blame Perot though. If he hadn't gone all loopy and pull his "I'm dropping out, no I'm here, here's my VP he's a total dumbass" stunt back in 1992 we might have a healthy three party system right now.

Busy again today ...

... preparing a talk for a seminar I'm giving on Friday to the local Astronomy club. Managed to find a way to put two of my favorite intellectual pursuits (Astronomy and Microbiology) together ... Astrobiology! So, I'll be talking about the potential for life on Mars. When I'm done, perhaps I'll put my lecture on the web.

Sheeple ...

So Obama paid for a thirty minute freakin infomercial during prime-time television, delaying the start (or end, as it were, damn Phillies) of the World Series game. Nevermind the fact that if he had kept his promise to accept public financing (read the entire article) this never would have happened ... but instead he's managed to pull in over half a billion dollars and has so much money left over, it appears that he'll just be throwing it to the wind in the next few days. Yay. Just what we needed ... wasteful spending when the economy is in shreds. Can't wait for those tax breaks and a rejuvenated economy and balanced budget. Oh wait, looks like that won't be happening.

Anyways, this infomercial was so special-rific that it's moved people to tears, definitely more than one it seems. You've got to be kidding me. Am I a curmudgeon or simply unmoved by the unabashed attempt to get people to vote emotionally rather than logically? You tell me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sometimes it's all about perspective.

There are plenty of times that I get frustrated with this country. For all the boneheaded decisions our politicians make, for all the greed that big businesses practice, for all the idiotic things that private citizens do ... it makes me want to pull out my hair and scream.

And then, I read articles like this one.
The condemned inmate, his body torn apart by guard dogs, slumped unconscious as the three executioners fired. The bullets shattered his skull, splattering blood near other prisoners forced to watch.

His offense: trying to escape from the remote prison camp in North Korea.
Compared to this, life here is pretty damn good. I don't say this to excuse the wrongdoings that go on here, because they most definitely need to be pointed out, stopped, and those responsible held accountable. However, I do think it's important to note that despite our problems, we still hold a lot of promise and potential.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Speaking of idiots ...

... Richard Dawkins is a bore.
The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in "anti-scientific" fairytales.
Dawkins, it's called "fiction". Children don't grow up believing in witches and wizards, it's a good yarn. So what's next? Is he going to rail against Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, or Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth? Or does he just have fantasy fiction literature in his sights?

Perhaps Dawkins would prefer if children just read The God Delusion? That'll certainly generate interest in reading, right? What ever happened to the imagination?

h/t to Mark Shea.


1. What sort of idiot lets his 8 year old fire an uzi?

2. This one is just a plain idiot (well, they're all plain idiots). First she calls the cops complaining that the trunk of her daughters car reeks of death, and then when the cops concur ... she refuses to believe it.

3. How is this idiot still not in jail?

4. Yah, you thought you would never get caught, eh?

5. Ummm, what the hell you fool! First you call your constituents racist. Then you "apologize" by clarifying your comments to merely call them all rednecks. Why don't you just shut up you jackass.

Currently ...

Listening To
Rolled Gold Plus - The Rolling Stones

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique (Post 1)

The first post outlining the badges I've earned in my career as a scientist.


Talking Science Badge - Every geek talks about their science, don't they? Not that the non-science people in our lives really understand half of what we're saying, but the fact that we take the time to put it into layman terms (well, most of us do I suppose) must mean something.

I Blog About Science Badge - This one is pretty much a given since I blog here, right? Well, maybe this one is a bit suspect lately since I've done more blogging about music and sports than actual science, but since it's my blog I can do what I want. Then again, since I don't blog for Science Blogs ... oh wait, nevermind. Half of their blogs don't ever blog about science so who are we kidding?

I'm Pretty Confident Around An Open Flame Badge - Bunsen burners are cool. When that bunsen burner is simply a nozzle slapped on top of a can of butane, it gets even cooler. Yah, what can I say ... our lab doesn't have a gas hookup. It doesn't have vacuum or air either. *shrug*

"Sexing Up" Science Badge - I earned this one with my work on the STD Neisseria gonorrhoeae. I think I earn even more kudos for this badge given the fact that we actually tried to given gonorrhoea to baboons. It didn't work, though not for lack of trying. Next time you can claim that your P-1000 has been up the menstruating vagina of a baboon, come talk to me.

I've Frozen Stuff To See What Happens Badge - Whether it's throwing things in the minus 20, or better yet the minus 80, to see "what happens" -- in science we call that "making an observation" -- well, I've done it. What is especially cool is when you pull out the buffers for your restriction enzymes and it's still a liquid but when you flick the tube it immediately freezes solid. That's cool.

I've Frozen Stuff in Dry Ice to See What Happens Badge - Heck, in my graduate school lab we had a dry ice maker. It was this block of wood that you could connect a tank of carbon dioxide to and make the stuff. Scary as hell the first time you fired that baby up, but after that ... man the stuff you could put inside and then freeze. Total coolness!

I've Frozen Something in Liquid Nitrogen to See What Happens Badge - This is a bit scary. When you contemplate the fact that if you stuck your hand in the liquid nitrogen tank it'd die almost immediately and probably shatter into a million tiny pieces ... it's a sobering thought. So we had a few yucks with it, but that was about it. Of course one of the girls in the adjoining lab would use the LN to burn off warts. Weird. Effective, but weird.


Has it already begun to take shape?
The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to provide a "Multi-Robot Pursuit System" that will let packs of robots "search for and detect a non-cooperative human".
Can I file this under "Bad Idea"?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You know ...

... when someone writes a perfectly damn good story, and someone else tries to make a movie out of it, the least they can do is be true to it! On that note, I suppose I should not be surprised by the stupid crap Hollywood does, so when I watch a movie which has been "altered" from the way the book ended, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised or upset.

The two movies which have recently irked me to this effect? [WARNING: Spoilers below.]

1. I Am Legend - I can't begin to count how many people don't quite understand the meaning of the movie's title. I've had to explain to them what the actual title of the movie means, because if he's NOT the only one (human) left, he's not really a "legend", at least not how Richard Matheson meant it.

2. The Mist - Typically Steven King movies suck, but this one was alright. That is, it was alright until they went and made Drayton a mass murderer at the end.

STD Greeting Cards

Did you give your partner an STD? Having a difficult time as to how you're going to break the bad news to them? Don't fret. Email them!
The site, , is a way for people newly diagnosed with an STD to notify their partners to be tested, too. The e-cards, a sort of greeting card you’d rather not receive, are direct and to the point.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Never a fun thing I imagine, and not really a trivial matter. Some can be/are eventually fatal (syphilis and HIV), can lead to other life-threatening complications/diseases (HPV), or increase the risk of contracting a fatal STD (gonorrhea and chlamydia). The following link is to the CDC webpage on STDs.

The site featured in the first link is: inSPOT dot org which stands for [STD] Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks. You really can't make this stuff up.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Patent Crap

I'm handling patent stuff today so blogging will be scarce. I'll be back soon!

In the meantime, here are the next ten songs on my iTunes playlist:

1. White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
2. Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin
3. For Those About To Rock - AC/DC
4. Heartbreaker - Led Zeppelin
5. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad - Meatloaf
6. Honky Tonk Woman - Rolling Stones
7. Heart of Gold - Neil Young
8. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
9. 25 or 6 to 4 - Chicago
10. Behind Blue Eyes - The Who

What's everyone else listening to?

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Happening - A Review

I can sum the movie up in three words.




It was atrocious. I swear Marky Mark was in a coma in this movie. He speaks in monotone for most of the movie, and it's ... well, just plain stupid! If you've seen the trailers, you've seen the first five minutes of the movie, because all the "good stuff" is put right up front. I can't even begin to get into the details of the movie, like how Marky Mark is a science teacher, and he and his wife are in the middle of a bad marriage ... because, well it's not even integral to the movie except for about 10 seconds in the movie when Marky Mark uses his *ahem* skills as a science teacher to come up with the solution basically to "Run!" (away from the breeze).

I think the funniest bit is when, in the middle of a "terrorist attack" and people are told to evacuate NYC, Penn Station is friggin empty. EMPTY! IT'S NEVER EMPTY! 600,000+ people go through there each day ... and when the city is told to evacuate you think it's going to be anything other than shoulder to shoulder? Sheesh.

This movie sucks.

Currently ...

Listening To
Blue Oyster Cult - (Don't Fear) The Reaper is one of the best songs of all time. The song needs more cowbell!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tom's Excellent Adventure

Went with Mrs. Thomas Joseph to Atlanta this weekend to catch her favorite team, the Chicago Bears, take on the Atlanta Falcons. Me, I'm not a fan of either team ... though I had to sort of root for the Bears, otherwise I'd have found myself in the dog house this week.

Anyways, the Superdome is a nice facility, the game food was good, the atmosphere was great, and the game was fun as well. If you're not a fan of either team, a close game is about all you can ask for. If it's a blowout, who cares ... right? This game was close, and then with about 2 minutes to go it got fast and furious. Orton (Bears QB) threw for a touchdown with less than a minute left to put the Bears up by 1 (see picture).Then Lovie Smith had a brain fart. A squib kick got the Falcons within striking distance. Then a pass by Matt Ryan, against a prevent defense, a play later and the Falcons were looking at a 48 yard field goal with Jason Elam about to kick the rock. His long is ~63 yard (IIRC) so this was a chip shot. Of course, as time expires, he knocks it through the uprights. Game Over. Atlanta Wins.Of course, this wasn't the only mistake Lovie Smith (the Bears head coach) made that day. His decision to run J. McKie on a 3rd and 1 at the goal line (instead of running Matt Forte) was dumb, and then foregoing the field goal (when they still needed two scores) to try to punch it in on 4th down is really what cost them the game IMO. Regardless though, it was a fun time ... and dinner at The Varsity afterward capped a great day.

Currently ...

Listening To

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who do I thank?

Since this time last year, the cost per share in one of my mutual funds has dropped 45%. w00t!

Fortunately, I have time on my side ... others are less fortunate. What about them?

The Happening

Netflix will be delivering this movie to my door (or my mailbox as the case may be) this afternoon. It has a horrible rating over at Rotten Tomatos, and was pretty much panned before it hit the theaters, which is why the wife and I didn't shell out our hard earned ducats to see it on the big screen. But now it's a cheap rental, so what the heck! Claims of "anti-science" have been thrown about when talking about this movie ... so it'll be interesting to see just how blatant it is.

Rabies - A survivors story

I've blogged once before about rabies, and how it's a severe and often fatal disease. As a matter of fact, it's so severe that only one survivor who did not receive the rabies vaccine after being bitten is known of. Her story is up at the Scientific American website.

How did she manage to become the lone survivor? Not by luck. She had some pretty smart doctors.
Instead of giving her up for dead, the doctors decided to "shut the brain down and wait for the cavalry to come" by inducing a coma to give her own immune system time to build up antibodies against the virus, says Rodney Willoughby, an infectious disease specialist who treated Giese at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Willoughby devised the treatment credited with saving Giese there, which has since become known as the Milwaukee protocol.

Rabies kills by compromising the brain's ability to regulate breathing, salivation and heartbeat; ultimately, victims drown in their own spit or blood, or cannot breathe because of muscle spasms in their diaphragms. One fifth die from fatal heart arrhythmia. Doctors believed that Giese might survive if they suppressed her brain function by sedating her while her immune system attacked the rabies virus.

This was the first time the therapy was attempted, and doctors had no clue if it would work or, if it did, whether it would leave her brain damaged. But Willoughby says it was the only chance doctors had of saving her.
This protocol is being used to treat another girl in Colombia (she's mentioned on the first page), and it appears to be working. If so, this is a great (but rather expensive) break through.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hail Satan!

Doll delivers Satanic message, as well as a blurb about Islam.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Currently ...

Listening To


Green Fluorescent Protein has won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry!

Ok, maybe the protein didn't actually win, but the people who characterized it did. They're Osamu Shimomura, of the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, New York, and Roger Tsien of the University of California, San Diego.

I remember when GFP first hit the commercial market, after the publication describing the vector pGFP (GenBank accession number U17997) by Chalfie et al. in Science in 1994 (PDF, 4 pages).

Congratulations to the winners, to GFP, and to all the wonderful uses it has found in science!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Go Fish!

Fish species takes the crown of "Deepest Living Fish Species Evar".
The fish, known as Pseudoliparis amblystomopsis, can be seen darting about in the darkness of the depths, scooping up shrimps.
Sidenote: I like how the BBC video has a volume control that goes to "11".

Have we ceased to evolve?

According to one geneticist, the human rate of evolution is slowing down.
Although chemicals and radioactive pollution could alter genetics, one of the most important mutation triggers is advanced age in men.

This is because cell divisions in males increase with age.

"Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error," he said. "For a 29-year old father [the mean age of reproduction in the West] there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on — each one with an opportunity to make mistakes.

"For a 50-year-old father, the figure is well over a thousand. A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Congratulations ...

... to the latest Nobel Prize Winners.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi & Luc Montagnier (France) - Discovering HIV.
Harald zur Hausen (Germany) - Discovering cancer-causing HPV.


My Roth IRA has lost about 25% of its value in the last couple of months, and it's set to lose a bit more in the upcoming week. And who do I think should share a large measure of responsibility in this fiasco? Barney Frank, who it seems had a little* incentive to deregulate Fannie Mae.
Although Frank now blames Republicans for the failure of Fannie and Freddie, he spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations on the mortgage giants. In 1991, the year Moses was hired by Fannie, the Boston Globe reported that Frank pushed the agency to loosen regulations on mortgages for two- and three-family homes, even though they were defaulting at twice and five times the rate of single homes, respectively.
*Maybe sarcasm isn't warranted here. Barney Frank had a huge incentive to fight for Fannie Mae to be deregulated. It's criminal, really.

Not a good day to be a mammal ...

... 1 in 4 mammalian species in danger of becoming extinct.
The new report updates the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, which overall includes 44,838 species, of which 16,928 are threatened with extinction. Of these, 3,246 are in the highest category of threat, critically endangered, 4,770 are endangered and 8,912 are vulnerable to extinction. The IUCN estimated that 76 mammal species have gone extinct since 1500.
That's a staggering number, and it's due primarily to man's own actions.
"Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."
The word for today is: Conservation.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This little twirp ...

... needs a serious ass whooping for this stupidity. And his parents need to be levied a severely hefty fine, one they won't soon forget. Damn deadbeat parents.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Snowflake Sleeper Cells

Joe Biden claims:
At a Sept. 9, fundraiser, Biden addressed his national security credentials by talking about "the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down. John McCain wants to know where bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That's where Al Qaida is. That's where bin Laden is."
So, his helicopter was "forced down".

John Kerry explains:
"It went pretty blind, pretty fast and we were around some pretty dangerous ridges," Kerry told The Associated Press afterward. "So the pilot exercised his judgment that we were better off putting down there, and we all agreed."
"It" being a snowstorm.

[sarcasm]Well, at least we know that Biden, as Vice-President will be able to save us from inclement weather released upon us by the terrorists.[/sarcasm]
We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to do it.
Well, at least we know it's an option.

Heaven help us ... this election is a total lost cause.

Shameless plug ...

... if something scientific in this blog tickled your fancy, nominate it at Open Laboratory 2008. Please?

If I want a camera ...

... I'll use a camera. If I want a phone, I'll use a phone. I won't use my camera to make a call. I won't use my phone to take a picture. Capeesh?

Nothing is simple anymore, is it? Besides, these extra "upgrades" to devices drain their batteries that much quicker.
While cell phone talk times generally range from 3 to 7 hours, once you add in extra duties, such as Internet use and video, all bets are off when it comes to figuring out battery life.

China: Use at your own risk ...

Sooner or later we're going to realize that China just has no control of just about anything that comes out of it. That is, until people get sick and die. Most often innocent children.

And you know what, with their aggressive population control measures, I honestly don't think the government cares if a few hundred children die. The only reason they then hunt down and kill those responsible is to put on a good face for the world in a "Hey, we don't tolerate this sort of stuff, see?" sort of way.

The reason why things are so cheap in China? They cut corners. They've got to make a profit too, right? So what makes any of us think that they're not cutting corners? It's a don't ask, don't even think about it sort of environment businesses that deal with China work in. Disgusting.

I'm honestly starting to look at where everything I buy is made. I'm not always going to find items not made in China ... heck, I doubt I'll always find items made in America (they do still make things in America, right?) ... but I'm definitely going to try. Even if it costs me a bit more in time and money. I think my health is worth it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Death of a Postal Worker

The Post Office may not be long for this life.
The Postal Service lost $1.1 billion in its latest quarter. That number would be even larger if it weren't for direct mailings, which now constitute 52 percent of mail volume, up from 38 percent in 1990. Revenue from direct mail "is the financial underpinning of the Postal Service—it could not survive without it," says Michael Coughlin, former deputy postmaster.

But 89 percent of consumers say in polls that they'd prefer not to receive direct-marketing mail; 44 percent of it is never opened.
That's definitely not a good sign for the Postal Service. Worse yet, there is a company which, for a minimal fee, will contact businesses and tell them you want to opt out of direct-marketing mail. They're called GreenDimes. According to their website:
With GreenDimes, you can stop up to 90% of your junk mail - guaranteed. We work with you and the largest group of marketers and catalogs — over 4,500 and growing — to make sure you get only the mail you want.
Not bad, definitely a start. Plus ...
With GreenDimes, you'll make the world a better place by saving paper. We help you go farther: new Premium members, we'll plant 5 trees on your behalf. It's like growing your own tiny forest, in exchange for all your junk mail.
Woo hoo! They're green to boot. Their Premium service? $20.