Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Paradigm Shift in Evolutionary Theory?

In Paris Rue Lamarck is a considerable street while Darwin is a short dead end alley. It is conventional to consider Lamarck's theory outmoded and wrong, and Darwin's theory all-correct and the exclusive description of reality. However recent research done in France is just beginning to cast doubt on this proposition. A seminal new study has shown Lamarck was French and Darwin wasn't.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fair's fair

times today
The explosion was the latest in a series of attacks on mosques that began last week when insurgents destroyed the two remaining minarets of a Shiite shrine in Samarra. Several Sunni mosques in southern Iraq were destroyed in retaliation.
I hope they get even with us by destroying our mosques too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Class War

When a democracy elects only aristocrats and the wealthy to office, it isn't much of a democracy. Here is a list of the candidates and what their parents did for a living. (For Giuliani I have pasted a paragraph from Wikipedia lest you think I am making this up):

Gore - US Senator
Dodd - US Senator
Romney - Governor of Michigan, US Senator, Chairman of American Motors, Secretary of HUD
McCain - four star admiral

Rich kids:
Clinton - business owner
Obama - Muslim businessman
Richardson - Banker

Edwards - mill worker
Biden - car salesman
Kucinich - truck driver
Duncan Hunter - Hunter worked his way through college.
Ron Paul - father had an 8th grade education, mother owned a dairy farm.
Fred Thompson - used car salesman
Tommy Thompson - ran a gas station & country grocery store

Giuliani -
Wikipedia - Early life and education

Giuliani was born in Brooklyn, New York to working-class parents Harold Angel Giuliani and Helen C. D'Avanzo, both children of Italian immigrants. The family was Roman Catholic and its extended members included police officers, firefighters, and criminals.[12] Harold Giuliani had trouble holding a job and had been convicted of felony assault and robbery and served time in Sing Sing prison; [13] after his release he served as a mafia enforcer for his brother-in-law Leo D'Avanzo, who ran an organized criminal loan sharking and gambling operation out of a restaurant in Brooklyn. [14]

Saturday, June 16, 2007

from your mouth to His ears...

Times today
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the Fatah-controlled West Bank have effectively become separate political entities, endangering the Palestinian dream of forming an independent state in the two territories.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Limitations of Human Society, part 2

Times today,
“I will explain it to you,” said one looter, Mazen Qasas, 34, a vendor. “I am 34. I am married. I have six children. I am looking for a lamp, anything I can sell or use for my poor house. We are very poor.
And if he rubs the lamp....

Mazen Qasas is right. That IS the problem. Gaza has among the highest fertility rates in the world - 5.64 children per woman. Afghanistan is higher still - 6.64 children. If most of them survive, the population of each place will triple every generation. It might be coincidence that two of the places with the highest population growth rates are also the most chaotic. Or it might not.

One might also consider that in the context of the whole world. World population has been growing steadily for two hundred years and is not expected to peak until 2050. It may be that all the causes we assign to world problems are wrong, and all the shootings and oppressings that go on are really expressions of a larger problem.

One can certainly suspect a connection in China. China was appallingly poor and lost in the chaos of war, revolution, and the Cultural Revolution until strict population control was introduced. Since then China has prospered.

It might be, as Pogo once observed, that, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Limitations of Democracy, Part 6

Times today, about the now-disgraced prosecutor in the Duke Lacrosse case-
Mr. Nifong brought the rape charges while he was in an election contest against a better known former assistant district attorney. The bar accused him of pressing the rape case for political reasons.

Why There is a Security Fence, Part 14

Recently there were primary elections within the Labour Party. The incumbent, Amir Peretz, lost to Ehud Barak. Since the government is a coalition, under the compromise understanding with Kadima and the other coalition partners, the head of Labour would become defense minister. Prime Minister Olmert accordingly nominated Barak to the position. The nomination will be debated and voted on by the Knesset next Monday.

In other news President Mahmoud Abbas summarily dismissed Prime Minister Haniyah after Hamas forces overran the main Fatah stronghold and publicly executed the surviving defenders. Sources close to Haniyah denounced the dismissal as illegal and without substance.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Inconvenience of an Inconvenient Truth

As so often in life, it isn’t as simple as I thought. Seedlings are living creatures, not products that can be bought and shipped on demand. They can only survive transplantation when they are in their winter dormancy. CDF Reforestation begins taking orders in November and ships from mid-December until March. Saving the world will have to wait.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007





Unclear on the Concept

Chanting “Stop the killing,” some 1,000 Palestinians marched through Gaza City today, only to draw gunfire that killed two of the demonstrators and wounded four, according to Reuters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

When Fans Attack

New York Times 12 June 2007

Fatah forces also attacked the headquarters of Hamas’s television station, Al Aksa TV, and began to broadcast Fatah songs, but Hamas said later that it had repelled the attack.

Later the building was seized by forces of the Israel Philharmonic who began to broadcast Schubert lieder.

Falasha units of the Israeli Army took the building over the next morning and began broadcasting rhythm and blues.

Elements of the US 101st Airborne parachuted in and took the building that afternoon and began broadcasting hip hop.

French elements of the UN forces entered through an unguarded entrance and began playing Maurice Chevalier records.

A joint British-Polish force was landed by the Royal Navy and took over. They began broadcasting bagpipe and accordion polka music.

Whereupon all the other armies shelled the building simultaneously destroying it utterly.

The Arabs blamed Israel for the debacle.

'An Inconvenient Truth' and what to do about it

There are two things one can do when one finds oneself in a hole. One is to stop digging and the other is to start filling in the hole. Conservation really amounts only to digging more slowly. The solution to global warming is not just to put less CO2 into the air, but also to start taking some out. Trees do that.

The bigger and longer-lived the species the more CO2 it will take out of the atmosphere during its lifetime. Here is a link to the California Department of Forestry's seedling order form.


Vacant lots, roadsides, fields, hiking trails, private property, public property, anywhere is good. When Jews do this it is called Tikkun Olam. When non-Jews do it, it is called repairing the world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

So what's the deal with...

Religion and beards? Very religious Muslims wear beards. Very religious Jews wear beards. Very religious Eastern Orthodox wear beards. Very religious Mormons, Mennonites, and Amish wear beards. Sikhs same thing. The most religious Wiccans generally have some chin whiskers. Same for sexual repression and fear of exposed skin. Do beards cause religiosity?

The Democrats

It is going to be a long hard road to 2008. New Yorker is a magazine by and for the rich East Coast liberal elite. Until recently they were 100% behind their own Senator Clinton. But in their current issue they ran an article purporting to review some of the various books about Clinton now in bookstores. In fact it was a serious hatchet job of character assassination. Very surprising to see that in the New Yorker. Which suggests to me that there are some bitter divisions within the liberal wing of the party, probably about the war, that go well beyond the usual personalities-and-money issues. Politics, for all the publicity, is nevertheless largely done in semi-secret. One knows that something is going on but not what. It is like seeing two little boys wrestling inside a bag.

I was in Barnes & Noble last night and I saw a "book" which was a puff piece biography by the Obama campaign. It was short and mainly pictures so I skimmed through the whole thing right there in the store. It seems Obama as a young man rejected Martin Luther King and even W.E.B. DuBois as not assertive enough. His hero was Malcolm X. He does NOT go on to say how he later saw the light and rejected Malcolm X.

That is trebly disturbing. If you listen to old videos of Malcolm X speaking, he sounds pretty reasonable about the problems Black people suffer, until you get to the core of his message about who and what he thinks the problem is. Malcolm was an explicit antisemite and a racist demagogue. He popularized the expression "blue-eyed devils". The usual crap response when this is brought up is that he mellowed at the end of his life and became more tolerant. I, for one, do not find that a satisfactory answer. (If he advocated rape and murder most of his life but stopped advocating them at the end, does that make it alright?) He was the leader of the Black Muslims. For Obama to have EVER been of the same mind as Malcolm X makes him completely unacceptable. This is not some hit piece. This is his own campaign literature.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Homes of the Free

There are two kinds of nickbnames for towns, those made up by their Chamber of Commerce, and what the locals call the place.

Oakland is Oak Town. Placerville is Hangtown. Compton is the 'hood. Berkeley is Bezerkeley and People's Republic of Berkeley. West Hollywood is Boys Town. The city is "the city".

Chico is the City of Roses, but so is Pasadena. It is also the City of Trees but so is Sacramento. Gotta do better. The Ellensburg of California? Flatland?

El Cerrito has no nickname at all. Dullsville? Not Richmond?

Baghdad by the Bay

Maybe it is time for a new nickname for Fogtown.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Boy Genius

Two different shops were unable to get the Pachyderm's battery compartment door to latch properly. The catch was either not high enough or not in the right position. Or something. The last place literally told me it could not be fixed because it was "broken".

I decided to get heavy-handed and jury-rig something myself. In fiddling with it I discovered that the latch was loose in its mounting and free to move around, i.e. away from the catch. I tightened the bolt that secures the latch, et voila! No longer "broken".

I really shouldn't be so pleased with myself for being smarter than somebody who became an RV mechanic because he got passed over for assistant manager at McDonalds, but I am. Also the battery compartment door latches now.

High Plains Drifters

New York Times Saturday June 9

The story is that the US released these guys from Guantanamo. No one but Albania would take them.
Most of the five Uighurs in Tirana said they had left their homes in China’s far-western Xinjiang Province, an area the Uighurs call East Turkestan, to earn more money for their families and escape government harassment. They said they drifted into Afghanistan after travels through other Central Asian countries, and heard that the Uighur hamlet was a place where they could get free food and shelter while trying to figure out where to go next.

Assuming it's true, how stupid does one have to be to "drift" into Afghanistan?

from the same article:

One prospect was the west African republic of Gabon, which has a small Muslim minority. Gabon’s long-ruling president, Omar Bongo, said he was open to accepting the Uighurs. But according to two officials, he wanted not only compensation for resettling the refugees, but support for international loans to his government and a meeting with President Bush at the White House. He had already had one such meeting just months earlier, on May 26, 2004.

A small corrupt African country led by President Bongo?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Nuclear Confrontation

New York Times Thursday 7 June 2007
“Dialogue is better than mutual silence,” a spokesman for Mr. Putin, Dmitri Peskov, told reporters.
Let us hope that diplomacy will succeed in reducing tensions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Pea in the Sky

I figured out a strange thing about green. There are red stars, orange stars, yellow stars, white stars, and blue ones. A graph showing how much light is emitted at each frequency/color explains the variety. The temperature determines the peak frequency/color. Cooler stars have their brightness peak in the red, hotter ones in orange and yellow, and very hot ones in blue. Our sun is brightest in green. Our eyes and brains have evolved to see a mix of colors dominated by green as white. But it is actually mainly green light.

Plants use light to produce food and to grow. The more light they gather the better they can compete and flourish. Which is why they are green - because the sun is brightest in green. The true color of the sun is the color of the leaves outside your window.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Too Much Merlot and the Tube

'I, Robot' is silly, fun, terrific graphics, and Will Smith is endlessly likeable, and is given great one-liners. 'The Shield' is stupid and obnoxious but Catherine Dent makes me very happy.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

How Tough is Men's Tennis?

Thierry Ascione is a talented 25 year-old newcomer from Provence who is an up and coming new star. In the second round of the French Open he played the established old pro, the defending two-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal. Nadal is 20.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Iraq Again

Headline in New York Times, June 1
"Sunni Fighters Battle Al Qaeda in Baghdad Neighborhood"
What? I thought.... Could somebody explain this to me again? Hey, this scorecard is in Arabic....


Alfonse is back. He is as a sleek, fluffy-tailed, quick, and energetic as ever. If one can free oneself from a concern with individuals, it is clear, especially in springtime, that life is eternal and death an illusion. Of course, being oneself a dying individual makes that harder to hold on to than when considering the fate of squirrels.