Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Never Trust a Pig

From the Wiki article:

Pigs are omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and small animals. Pigs will scavenge and have been known to eat any kind of food, including dead insects, worms, tree bark, rotting carcasses, excreta (including their own), garbage, and other pigs. In the wild, they are foraging animals, primarily eating leaves and grasses, roots, fruits and flowers. Occasionally, in captivity, pigs may eat their own young, often if they become severely stressed....

Pigs harbour a unique (when compared to other domestic animals) range of parasites and diseases that can be easily transmitted to humans. These include trichinosis, cysticercosis, and brucellosis. Very commonly, pigs are also known to host large concentrations of parasitic ascarid worms in their digestive tract. The presence of these diseases and parasites is one of the main reasons why pork meat should always be well cooked or cured before eating. Some religious groups that consider pork unclean refer to these issues as support for their views.

Pigs are extremely susceptible to pneumonia, usually caused by weather. Pigs have small lungs in relation to body size; for this reason, bronchitis or pneumonia can kill a pig quickly.

Pigs can be aggressive and pig-induced injuries are relatively common in areas where pigs are reared or where they form part of the wild or feral fauna.

Domestic pigs are often inbred, leading to the expression of recessive traits. Congenital malformations are common. One such malformation is the duplication of a pig's head.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Traffic Jam of the Brain

Sitting with the thinker
Trying to work it out
It's a traffic jam of the brain
Makes you want to scream and shout
Presidential party
No one wants to dance
Looking for a new star
To put you in a trance
Let's go all the way
Let's go all the way

Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Let's go all the way

"Let's Go All the Way" by Sly Fox

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Snakeoil Sales in the Marketplace of Ideas

Lubos recently posted an interesting and stimulating essay on the market of ideas and how it might work better in science. Well, I'm not really going to talk about that detailed of a topic but more of a survey of one of the problems with a market of ideas. (We're only wading in here since my intellectual tide is so low. ;-) )

Every market that has ever existed has had its share of snakeoil sales. This is just one of the inherent traits of an open and free market in which all types can participate. There will always be room for less than honest people trying to make a buck off of gullible and/or desperate people, whether they are offering some miracle cures for ailments, a utopian sociopolitical system, a perfect religion, a scientific theory, or any other good, service, or idea (or combination of those). It would be nice if I'd go and list a bunch of examples of each type and how and why they fall into the snakeoil sales category. But can't everyone already think of some examples? Besides I don't want to get caught up in some "debate" about which examples are or aren't snakeoil. That's not my point here. (I'm using that reason because I learned it from an "intellectually serious" person. ;-) )

Okay, now what was I going to say? Sometimes I crack myself up and lose my train of thought. It's an occupational hazard to being the Sacred Fool. ;-) Well, crap. That train's done left the station. I'll have to wait until it comes back around. Sorry.

La, la, la, la, la. Well, here comes another.

The previously mentioned Lubos essay got me into a miscommunication with someone. I was trying to help him save some time by telling him that something was snakeoil and why it was snakeoil. I was only trying to tell him the "bottom line" but he didn't want to hear it for some reason. Some people are like that though. I'm like that too, actually. I like to think things out on my own before I decide if some advice is valuable or not. Anyway, some people too readily dismiss some ideas which is as much a problem as too readily accepting them. Sometimes it is hard to know which is the snakeoil and which really is a good new thing. But things being hard to do shouldn't mean that we shouldn't try to figure them out.

So now what? We know that snakeoil will always exist and that some people will buy it right up without any thought and that some people will quickly know that it's snakeoil and not buy it at all. And we know that sometimes fights break out when the two different types of people start talking about the snakeoil. But we also know that sometimes fights break out because some people who make snakeoil will say that the good stuff isn't good in an attempt to make more money. It's all part of that dishonesty trait that all snakeoil salesmen have.

Well, what in the world can you do to maintain some peace in the marketplace when there is all of this fighting? And how do the customers know who to believe and what to buy? How do the good guys convince the people that the snakeoil guys are lying and not to waste their money? Testimonials. (See, I'm the Great Wizard of Hoes, and I'm giving out prizes to the fearless few who dare to listen. ;-) )

Testimonials are when someone tells you from their own experience that something works well and is a good value. I guess testimonials vary in value too depending on the giver's and receiver's own traits, and that is why they aren't always successful. (And why my own testimonial was dismissed in the previous miscommunication.) Of course, the snakeoil salesmen can make up and/or buy fake testimonials too, and that further complicates things.

You know, that train just stopped. I think I'll get off of it and see about another one. Wait a minute. Why am I talking about trains when we're supposed to be wading in a low tide?

Okay, sorry, this is how things go when you are constantly interrupted with "momma, momma, momma" when you're trying to think and write.

Maybe what I was going to say is that sometimes there are people who just have to try that snakeoil for themselves just so they know for sure, even when they've been told plenty that it really is snakeoil. And even though that is going to cause problems in the marketplace, if it's going to be a truly free and open marketplace then they should have that freedom to try the snakeoil if they really want to. Of course, we must have laws to protect people from things that are obviously more dangerous than not, but I don't want to get in a debate about examples of those right now either. ;-) (I've already covered some of those in the past anyway.) And there will always be a few people who just don't ever realize that the snakeoil is exactly that. Maybe they like it? But it is their choice, I suppose.

So there you go. I hope your feet aren't too soggy, but maybe it wasn't too hard to see the point of wading instead of diving (not that there's anything wrong with diving). I haven't "solved" any specific problems here, but I hope I've at least shown that when looking at certain concepts it is necessary to accept some "pre-existing conditions" (or "assumptions", I guess, is what the serious people call them ;-) ), like the existence of snakeoil. You don't have to dive too deep to see the bottom when you're wading in the low tide. And sometimes that's a good thing.

The fine print: In case it's not obvious, I really did intend to use the Wizard of Oz, a snakeoil salesman himself, as an ironic allusion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Dark Side

The dark side's callin' now, nothin' is real

"On the Dark Side" by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band

Sometimes I have the opposite of Messianic fantasies. Sometimes I wish I could be the vigilante anti-hero who rids the world of all the asshole bullies running around being mean and nasty. If I had the gumption to write fiction I'd tell the story of Rae the Emasculator, a modern female incarnation of Vlad the Impaler. But instead of impaled bodies the Emasculator would string up all the nuts of the asshole bullies. Of course, my weapon of choice would be a hoe. ;-) Maybe sometimes it would be a razor sharp one for when time is at a premium, and maybe sometimes it would be a dull, rusty one for when I want to devote a little more time to my task (and want to inflict more pain.) Some men truly do not deserve to have testicles.

You can't have light without dark. Just last night I was watching a show and heard a guy say that if you played a guitar on Mercury you wouldn't hear the sound because there is no atmosphere to transmit the sound waves. Well, of course, I had learned that in school but hadn't thought about it since then. It was one of those "oh yeah" moments. Just because we have no way of detecting or sensing something does not mean it doesn't exist. Those guitar strings are still vibrating and sending out waves of energy even though we can't hear them. We all have a dark side even if we don't recognize it or acknowledge it. The Universe has its Darkness too.

Not to sound all Star Wars or anything, but this light and dark balance stuff has been around a lot longer than George Lucas. When I was a kid I sometimes secretly wanted to be Darth Vader. The power of the dark side is seductive. The ability to crush your enemies with your mind was very appealing to a girl who was frequently by bullied by boys. Before the boys grew bigger than me I used to kick them between the legs when they were mean to me. (the Emasculator tendency started young) But after they outgrew me I had no physical means of fighting back. But if I could have crushed their nuts with my mind, there would presently be quite a few sterile bullies in the Southeast.

Well, I suppose I've frightened every male who has happened to read this. Trust me, you have nothing to worry about as long as you are nice. And why would you expect anything less from a Vicious Momma? ;-)

PS Another little bit of disclosure: the truth is unfortunately that I am genetically 25% pitch fork.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thrilling Physics

This summer we got the family season passes to Dollywood, the current incarnation of a theme park that has been around for longer than I have. When I was a young child it was called Goldrush Junction, and then in 1977 it was changed again to Silver Dollar City. In 1986 it became Dollywood and has since grown in size and significance as a theme park. (click link above for more detailed history)

In 1978 Silver Dollar City opened a roller coaster called The Blazing Fury. I was one of the very first riders and received a badge proclaiming "I survived the Blazing Fury." My dad knew the promotions director for the park and got us season passes so we got to go on opening day and ride the new ride when it opened.

I knew I would be glad I saved this thing after all these years. ;-) You can sort of see where I scratched in my then initials, RAH.

In recent years Dollywood has added some very high quality roller coasters. I hadn't been to Dollywood in many years due to having babies and children too young to really enjoy the experience. But this year we decided to get season passes since our youngest is now big enough to ride all the rides there. His favorite is Thunderhead, an impossible-looking (click for series of photos showing the odd angles and turns) wooden coaster that is a few years old.

Most wooden coasters don't look like this one. It's kind of insane that people have been able to manipulate the laws of physics to create this coaster that looks like it shouldn't even remain standing let alone hold a train full of people traveling at 55 mph.

click for more photos from site this one is from

I like the Thunderhead, but my very most favorite ride is Dollywood's newest, opened this year, called Mystery Mine.

It is absolutely maniacal! There are two totally vertical lifts, the second and tallest plummeting 85 feet at a 95 degree angle. That's practically straight down. Insane! And totally thrilling.

construction photo of the vertical drop

Click here to listen to the queue line music that is perfectly creepy to set the mood. This ride is so good that I could ride it all day long. Well, almost, anyway. ;-)

I may not be able to understand the physics (and engineering) that make these rides possible, but I sure do feel and very much appreciate the thrilling results. ;-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Jelly Day

Blackberry juice looks kind of like blood when it's draining from the strainer into a bowl. And the large quart jars are full of the thick, somewhat viscous juice too.

It's not an accidental or an artificial coincidence that I made jelly on almost the same date last year. It is just the way it has worked out. Despite a very late freeze this Spring and a drought this Summer the blackberries came as they normally would. This is because most life on this part of the Earth is well-adapted to big variations in conditions from year to year (and even from day to day because it was 20 degrees cooler today than it was on Monday). No year is ever the same as the last.

Also the big, late Spring freeze killed all the newly emerged leaves on the trees and shrubs like the blackberry canes. Did that spell disaster for the them? No, they sprouted new leaves within weeks. The trees and shrubs "knew" to do this because they have adapted to changes over many millennia and have retained the "knowledge" to replace frozen leaves. Life is resilient that way.

And actually, my blackberry yield has been even greater than last year's despite the bad weather. (But in all fairness several people have marveled at my yield because their own blackberry patches haven't done as well this year. Maybe I have magical powers? ;-) ) Last year by this time I got enough juice to make 14 cups of jelly, but this year I've made 20 cups. There are still berries ripening, and I'll probably pick a few more for pies. But I think I have enough jelly now. ;-)

I think I'll label these "Vicious Momma's Intense Blackberry Jelly" because it is that good. ;-)

I love the sound of lids popping and pinging to let me know the vacuum seal worked. As the jelly-filled jars cool from their boiling water bath in the canner, the change in temperature causes a suction to pull down the lid for an airtight seal. Pop, ping, pop, ping! Music to my ears. :-)

Hey, maybe I should get some kind of carbon tax credit for making my own jelly. No illegals were hired to pick and process the berries. I didn't even have to drive to get them. The jars are reused from last year. I wonder what the total economic cost of twenty cups of store-bought jelly is compared to twenty cups of homemade. Someone should do those calculations and lobby for a new tax credit for homemakers. ;-)

Which brings me to an opportunity to use some pictures I've had a while and wanted to put up here at some point. Back in the WWII era people were asked to do many things to help their country get through the Depression and the War hardships. One of those things was planting a "Victory Garden." Unfortunately, Al Gore might read this and decide to make it one of the sacraments of his Global Warming Religion. ;-)

For instructions on juicing berries see last year's jelly post.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Broken-Hearted Savior

Yeah... Out on the back street,
Taking love where I can,
I found a sweet madonna
Ooo with a bible in her hand.
She's waiting,
Anticipating well,
For someone to save her soul;
Well I ain't no new messiah,
But I'm close enough for rock and roll

"Rockin' Into the Night" by 38 Special

Rock and Roll Fantasy

Sometimes I have Messianic delusions (a variety of delusions of grandeur and persecution), but then it always gets to the part when I'm supposed to suffer and die. And I change my mind. Well, can you blame me? Nobody likes true pain, the kind inflicted upon us by others. (Masochists don't count.)

Most of us will pain ourselves with various things at times, like worrying over silly things, or sometimes serious things too. But that kind of pain is really just an illusion because we have ultimate control over it. We can stop thinking about whatever and the pain subsides. We can't and don't have ultimate control over external forces though.

Most saviors have to suffer on the behalf of others because the very nature of saving is dangerous. Why do some of us willingly suffer for others? I'll get to that in a minute.

Even Jesus bemoaned his fate because the physical and emotional pain really hurt:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46 (KJV)

It is a totally natural reponse to avoid pain. And to complain when we feel it. But pain is a very normal and basic experience, and often unavoidable. So what makes that pain bearable? Well, some people call on God to give them strength, but for those who object to God we can call it Love. God is Love.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8 (New American Standard)

Love is Divine. How else could such a thing exist than by the hand of God? And if it's purely "chemical processes" in our bodies and brains that result in this feeling and knowing of love then why can't that be considered evidence for God? How can one prove love to someone who's never felt it? Some people spend entire lifetimes trying to prove their love to one person. Why must that mean that love isn't real, just because the one person has never felt it or refuses to see it? Why must it mean that God doesn't exist if no one can prove it? Can anyone disprove love? Likewise, can anyone truly disprove God? Well, if they have I sure haven't heard about it and you'd think that would be pretty big news. ;-)

And if God (and Love) are delusions, as Richard Dawkins proclaims, then they're pretty f*cking awesome delusions and that's why they survive. :-) I'm sure Dawkins is a nice enough guy, but his focus on the bad aspects of human-created, imperfect religions is very similar to the cherry-picking of evidence that the global warming alarmists do to support their ideas. I'm sure if someone wanted to take the time and energy, he could write a book about all the evil done in the name of Science and it would equal if not exceed that done in the name of religion.

Thorns In My Fingers

This post's title comes from a song I heard the other night. I'd been thinking about this post for a while and thought that was an appropriate title.

And now, even later, I've thought of Thorns in My Fingers because I literally have some broken-off blackberry thorns in my fingers. They do hurt. What does this have to do with love?

Oh, yeah, Love Hurts too. Like being a savior and having blackberry thorns in your fingers - or a thorn in your side, whatever works for you. ;-) All of this is related. I endure the pain of picking blackberries because of love. Blackberries need blood (no, I can't scientifically support that statement, but as a 'shaman' I know it), and it's right and proper to offer them a little in exchange for their nice berries. And also I know my family enjoys the berries, and I am willing to suffer a little to make them things that they enjoy. Actually, my entire life is pretty much devoted to my family which means that I've sacrificed many selfish concerns for them. But that doesn't necessarily make me their savior. I'm just the Momma.

This is kind of falling apart, but maybe I can tie some of the loose ends. Or maybe I'll just start a whole new string?

Where was I anyway? Broken-hearted saviors. Yeah. Why are saviors broken-hearted? Well, they are broken-hearted because they know that their sacrifice will not really matter all that much to everyone, especially not to those who refuse to acknowlege the Divine Forces. All of their pain and suffering will largely go unnoticed and unappreciated and even criticized and scorned by the unfaithful. They are also broken-hearted because it's only through a broken heart that Love can really do its work.

Viruses of the Soul

Dawkins calls religion "viruses of the mind." The viruses of the soul are hubris, greed, and other purely human traits that separate us from God/Love. The war on religion and God that so many militant atheists are trying to fight is nothing less than an attack on the Freedom of Thought which is the root of our First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech and Religion. It's terribly unfortunate that 'distinguished' scholars can't or won't see that, ignoring it like a (spiritual) mole that is destined to become a malignant melanoma (of the soul).

Love is God's immune response for our souls. Love can heal our pains, but also the process of healing is sometimes painful, like the hot inflammation of the skin where the body is fighting an infection or has been burned. This relationship between God and Love and pain is complex. It is a mistake for people to judge God because of the pain in the world. That is like judging Nature by viruses and other predators. It's all necessary and natural.

From the broken-hearted savior maybe someone can learn that God is no more a delusion than Love or the Space that scientists still don't quite understand.

And that is today's sermonette.

Previous post on very similar subject.


This morning we've been making all manner of fun of the "Live Earth" concert today. It's so stupid for these silly entertainers to be up there using up all kinds of electricity to run their guitars, amps, microphones, speakers, light shows, air conditioning and whatever other amenities they have backstage. They are doing this all in the name of saving the planet from a "Climate in Crisis." That is like giving out beer to stop alcoholism.

There is no crisis except for mass stupidity and hysteria over bad weather. And that they think having a bunch of electricity-sucking concerts will help anything is just the icing on the cake of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Joker

Some people call me the space cowboy
Some call me the gangster of love

"The Joker" by Steve Miller Band

My oldest is very interested in card tricks and other illusionist/magic stuff and was opening a new pack of cards. He asked me why there were always Jokers in decks of cards. Since I don't really know much about card games I told him that it's probably because some games need them, but I don't know for sure.

In Tarot, the Fool card is somewhat related to the Joker somewhere back in their histories.

Please click picture to be able to read the meaning next to it, but "ancana" should be "arcana". Sorry for the error.

Along comes a Trickster.

About six months ago I solved the riddle of my clown phobia.

There is a basic psychological truth that says we most fear those things that reflect the parts of ourselves that we hate or reject. I'm only now, at 39 years old, beginning to accept my fate or role as the Holy Fool, Trickster, Jester, Clown.

This is probably why I was such a quiet and shy child. I refused to be the Clown or Trickster but had not yet learned how to be something else. It took me a long time to learn how to provide comic relief, at least that's how I remember it. ;-) God love her and this is not a serious criticism, but my mother seemed to be startled or puzzled by me most of the time until I became an adult. I think I interpreted her puzzlement as disapproval or some other subtle form of persuasion to subdue my "tricksterness." Well, maybe that's just a bunch of psychobabble. ;-)

Whatever the reasons, being the Joker isn't as bad as my mom or I worried it would be. Maybe it's because being a gangster of love is pretty fun. ;-)

Previous mention of the Trickster

Monday, July 02, 2007

Electric Hoe

Black and Decker has made a cordless electric hoe (cultivator).

I suppose now all of us old-fashioned types are really becoming obsolete. Well, lately it appears to be a real trend since my husband also seems to wish I was newer and more electrically charged. Maybe I should buy him this vibrating hoe for his birthday in a few days. ;-)