Saturday, December 29, 2007


Plants with eyes and shit: an animation. Some of it sort of reminded me of Jim Woodring.

Mushrooms kind of freak me out.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Belugas with Santa hats

This is awesome.

Merry Xmas :P

How to make chickens sleep

How to make chickens sleep.

I'm sort of skeptical about whether the chicken is actually "asleep." I suppose you could test it with electrode brain-wave-reading devices.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

i want a pet puffer fish and i will name it puffy.

i wonder what it is like to be a fish under the ocean down where there is no light. one of those very ugly lantern fishes with the glowy lures on their heads. and the vestigial males.

i want a pet moa but i don't know what i will name it. maybe "rainbow". i think that would be a good name for a moa.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

weird animal drawings

Okay, some links:

Patricia Piccinini.

Some cool photography of places in Russia.

This is really awesome. Strange Science, "Goof Gallery." A bunch of fucked up drawings done by naturalists in times and places where, you know, they were going by like third-hand description and had never seen, e.g., a leopard or a giraffe. Organized by category, like mammal, dinosaur/dragon, sea monsters, hominids, monsters, etc. Anyway, and there is some seriously weird shit, and it's really worth a look.

I like stuff from when science hadn't quite branched off from myth, philosophy, etc.

Oh, and one more thing: footage of a pride of lions attacking an (adult male?) elephant. I'm not sure whether they kill him at the end, the footage is kind of ambiguous. There is silly melodramatic narration by Jeremy Irons for the first 3 minutes, in which nothing much happens, so skip 3 minutes in. Unless you want to hear Jeremy Irons go on about color symbolism (grey... versus gold. But the true color underneath it red. Or something like that, as though any of that will somehow make lions attacking an elephant more impressive than it already is) in a hushed voice while a elephant aims a vague kick in the direction of a recumbent lion for three minutes.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What 2000 looks like from 1910

This is pretty cool. I'm sure I'd be able to get more out of it if I spoke French better. Ah well.

Somewhere in the maze of links they also have a photo of a watch from Revolutionary France, back when they tried to make everything be on a base ten system.

Also, "Balance."

Also, a maki. Carly, if you thought that sloth was creepy, you may not want to watch this.

Also, this guy (Zdzisław Beksiński) is cool.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


So I "misplaced" my wallet (and will hopefully find it somewhere in my apartment soon). I went to the store where I thought I might have left it, and asked if they had any wallets. They asked my name, and I told them.

They didn't have my wallet, but they did have a wallet belonging to someone named Saxithorn (first name). Or possibly Saxathorn? I asked how it was spelled, and the guy said it was "pretty much phonetic."

This may be the best name ever.

Also, a bit of overheard conversation I forgot to write down, but that has been on my mind recently:

A young woman, walking with two friends: What would you think of me if I was exactly the same, but I wore Uggs?

Alas, I didn't hear the response.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

production, theological quandaries

In the last couple of days I've printed out most of the stuff that I've written over the last year and a half. Here is a picture of me holding it up. It feels weird, and it does not feel like that much. I was told that the amount I've produced is "exceptionally productive," but I dunno. Maybe if it was all poetry, because if so that would probably come to 2 or 3 times the poems I have now; about half of it or a little more is fiction. That contains only one finished story though. Apparently I have about 30 pages of SDN, which is more than I thought.

Maybe I feel weird or like it's not as much as I'd like just because I want to produce so much more, I have all sorts of ideas. I guess I should be grateful for that; it's just hard to find the time/fortitude/inspiration/etc. to finish a lot of these things.

I'm reading this really cool book, "The History of Hell." A quote:
Intelligent, educated men, who, if they had been born centuries later, might have explained the ineffable or metaphorical in terms of quarks and black holes in space, instead turned their attention to such considerations as whether food consumed during a lifetime would be part of the body at the resurrection. (Yes, was the answer, but then interesting questions of cannibalism arose.)

googly breakfast

Kind of terrifying.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

suicide safety smocks

Okay, so this CNN article made me google "suicide safety smocks."

And I found something incredible.

My first question is about the models. Did they coax actual deranged inmates into modeling these garments, or did they go through headshots, et cetera, and tell the guy not to wash his hair for a couple of weeks?

Some quotes:
* Safety: All of the products from Ferguson Safety are specifically designed to keep problem inmates from hurting themselves and creating more headaches for you and your colleagues.
* Security: Ferguson’s Original Safety Smock is designed to allow placement and removal of restraints, handcuffs and shackles.
* Savings: Ferguson products last years longer and are considerably more tear resistant than cheap knock-offs -- saving you replacement costs, staff time, and lowering your liability by preventing wrongful death lawsuits
Good deal.

From the FAQ:
Q1: Can't they take the smock off?
A: Yes. It's not designed to prevent exhibitionism. It's for people who wish to be clothed, which is the majority of suicidal inmates. We have given some thought to an anti-exhibitionist garment but haven't come up with a safe design. Would you let us know if you have any ideas?
Uh. Yeah, I'm thinking most inmates in general would prefer to wear clothing, which evidently has not always been an option for the suicidal:
While working at the jail a bulky gown was used to clothe their suicidal inmates. She learned that the only way that facilities could get such a garment was to make their own, and so inmates on suicide watch were often kept completely naked.
That would improve my will to live real fast. Man, wouldn't it be cold? Did they get blankets, or were those potentially something you could hang yourself with? Did they keep the cells well-heated then? Man.
Q3: Are they indestructible?
A: Have you heard about the Wisconsin inmate who tore through walls with his bare hands to pull out the wiring? How about the Wyoming inmate who bent a solid steel door in half? These actual events indicate how imprudent it would be to call anything made of fabric "indestructible". Our blankets and smocks are made of the strongest wearable, washable fabric available.

Q7: May we examine one?
A: By all means. We're happy to send you a smock or blanket to examine with no obligation (except to send it back if you don't buy it, of course).
Should I order one? I am thinking the orange is snazzier-looking.

Holy shit.

Monday, December 03, 2007

No bears named Muhammed!

Heard about the school teacher in Sudan who was facing whipping and years in prison? The kids in her class were trying to come up with a name for a teddy bear, and they picked "Muhammed." Which, you know, is one of the most common names in Sudan, and one of the most common names worldwide, period. But naturally if you name a stuffed bear that, it is an "insult to religion," and apparently in Sudan "insulting religion" can land you in jail with a lacerated back.

But fortunately the people of Sudan recognize that this would be an injustice. Ten thousand people thronged the president's palace in protest, insisting that the teacher be executed by firing squad instead.

This is ludicrous. Clearly it's the children who should be executed by firing squad, as they are the ones who picked the name. I'm sure it would set a good example. It is never too early to execute people who "insult religion," and I'm glad these fine citizens have their priorities in order.

divorce is bad for the environment, say morons

This is retarded:

People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered," Liu said.

I may use this as an example in class next term. You know, of an argument that fails.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ridiculous bento

Also, this is ridiculous.

And this is my 100th post! yay.

giant anteaters

Giant anteaters are so awesome.

"An adult anteater is capable of fending off or even killing its main predators, big cats such as the jaguar and the cougar"!

Needless to say they can also kill a person. They're so big they are sometimes mistaken for bears, and have slashy claws that can open a termite nest, which is pretty impressive because that is like being able to claw a hole in concrete. They are not to be fucked with:

"In April 2007, an anteater at the Florencio Varela zoo in Argentina attacked Melisa Casco, a zookeeper, mauling her abdomen and legs with its sharp front claws. The 19-year old zookeeper was admitted to the hospital in critical condition, and later succumbed to her injuries."

It has the best tail. I want to be an anteater when I grow up.


Great Pharyngula post.

Some highlights:

82 percent of Americans believe in God, according to a poll (I would have thought it was higher, actually, so an 18% being atheists or agnostics was pleasantly surprising).


Most of this 82 percent are not exactly the rational deistic sorts who deplore superstition and religious intolerance. You know, like the founding fathers. Almost all of this 82 percent believe in miracles, a literal fluffy angel land above and a literal firey demon land below, etc. 62 percent believe in the devil and hell.

And less than 50 percent believe that evolution happens.

Let's hope this turns around before we all die of antibiotic-resistant staph.

This sort of thing just makes me want to abandon the country like a rat from a burning building. Not, of course, that just getting out actually helps America, but I wouldn't be living in it.

Anyway, some more highlights:

Some dude:
I think there's a kind of a silliness to banging away at religious beliefs for their obvious falsehood, when in fact, if you're an evolutionist, the only way you would want to evaluate these beliefs is to examine what they cause people to do. Do they help people function in their communities? Then this might be an explanation for why they exist. It also makes it unnecessary to criticize these ideas, again and again, because they depart from factual reality. We should be more sophisticated in the way we evaluate beliefs.

In other words, these beliefs exist, so it's completely unnecessary to point out that they make no sense. I'm all for explicating the existence of religion in rational ways. I'm not sure I really see what the other option is, if one takes a rationalist, secular view of things. Ignoring it entirely, maybe?

My view is this: we humans are really good at finding patterns in things, at discerning cause-and-effect relationships, at creating models that explain the world. Sometimes we see patterns where they don't actually exist. There are lots of cognitive biases that keep us from discarding a view of the world, even if there is plenty of data to contradict it.

I don't think this is because cognitive biases are beneficial per se. I think this is because they are an outgrowth of other aspects of human cognition, perception, and self-perception. I can't see that continuing to adhere to cognitive biases confers any benefit which could not be countered by the benefits that come from not believing in bullshit, though if someone wants to argue the contrary i'd be happy to hear it--and it's silly to think that said biases must be helpful or they would not exist. It sort of seems like a version of the naturalistic fallacy to me, replacing "adaptive" with "moral" or something.

Is this guy even an evolutionary biologist? Sometimes traits keep existing, not because they're beneficial, but because they're not so deleterious that it makes the whole organism and/or species crash and burn. Sometimes these traits may be related to, or a more extreme version of, traits that are helpful. I immediately think of, for instance, sickle cell anemia. It sucks to have. No one would argue that it somehow confers great advantages upon the person with sickle cell anemia; it can be really painful and your life expectation is shortened. But if you are heterozygous for the sickle-cell genes, you're okay, and you've got some protection from malaria. Which is beneficial, if you live in a place with a lot of malaria.

Anyway, so apparently scientists should view religion as existing because of natural evolutionary causes. (As opposed to concluding that it exists by divine fiat?)
That doesn't mean it's not at odds with reality, and that we should nod and smile because in some vague, unsubstantiated way it might be "good for the community." I'm sure there are sociocultural reasons for the existence and popularity of Santa Claus mythology.

And a quote that makes me laugh, by PZ Myers:
If scientists won't stand up for accuracy, empiricism, and an honest evaluation of reality, who will? The priests? Wilson is plainly in denial.
Seriously. Apparently the polite and enlightened thing to do is either a) believe in religion, or, if you don't believe in religion, b) nod and smile and pretend that it's perfectly rational, or if not rational, that it's still just fantastic and is doing the world a lot of good, no doubt, and we'll just ignore all the insanity, wars, etc. that are directly because of people's religious beliefs. Those don't count. Because we all know that religion is a good thing, and it's saying anything to the contrary that is silly.

I remember reading a very interesting book, "God against the Gods," which was basically about the historical rise of monotheism and its eventual prominence over polytheism. And it's an extremely good book, and presents a convincing and devastating case to the effect that certain elements of monotheism, or at least this monotheism, are inherently conducive to intolerance.

Then the author ends the book by saying, "Uh, but despite all this, we mustn't forget all the good things that monotheism has brought to the world." Possibly because he actually thinks that, but likely to cover his ass. And of course he doesn't mention any of these good things. Because they're just so self-obvious and ineluctable that you don't need to, I guess, any more than you need to explain in what way, exactly, the sun makes it warm.