The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Love XKCD

Another home run for XKCD. Check it out...as I'm sure you already have from about seventeen other sources, and as they've all likely said, read the mouse-over text. It's awesome.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jewish Men - It Is 2011

Take a quick look at this article. While you're reading and looking at the accompanying photo, keep in mind that it's 2011 and the story is taking place in New York city, one of the most progressive and largest cities in the world.

Only religion and its archaic, misogynistic, helmet-headed reasoning can get a pass like this. Don't black people have a whole meme about this situation? A famous woman - Rosa Parks, remember? Why the fuck is it different when not just one race, but a whole gender is being discriminated against on a public bus by a bunch of bigoted, unintelligent, sanctimonious douchebags.

And don't even get me started on the hat. It looks like something the Ugandan guy in the third row of the Dave Matthews Band would play. How do you take that fella seriously about anything?
...the mayor (Michael Bloomberg) said that segregating men and women was “obviously not permitted” on public buses. “Private people: you can have a private bus,” he added. “Go rent a bus, and do what you want on it.”
Exactly. So, you're going to fine the offending company and monitor them so they don't act in a discriminatory manner in the future, right? Right? Ok, as always, there will likely be talk, followed by the dull sound of continuing with the status quo.

Why don't women rise as one and tell these costumed idiots to keep their religious nonsense in the synagogue & their homes, and that outside of those places it's about 2000 years past when the stupid ideas that make up their fanciful bullshit were relevant or socially acceptable? That would be great.

Seriously, look at that hat....

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Letter to Today's Parent Magazine

To the Editors of Today's Parent, in particular Deputy Editor Jacqueline Kovacs,

While reading the November 2011 issue of your magazine, I came across a small sidebar in the "your kids Health" section entitled "A flu alternative". This turned out, sadly, to be an endorsement of oscillococcinum. I find it difficult to believe that the entire staff of editors at your magazine are unaware of the implausible and nonsensical nature of homeopathy in general and of the utter farce that is oscillococcinum - the ridiculousness of homeopathy wrapped around an ignorant misunderstanding of a scientific principle by its inventor.

Most people think that homeopathy is just "natural medicine", which is why it remains so poplar despite its silliness. In brief, homeopathy lies on two principles: the law of similars, or "like cures like"; and the law of infinitesimals, or "the more dilute, the better the medicine". Both of these are fundamental to homeopathy and both are wrong.

"Like cures like" means that a substance that causes some reaction in a person can, when properly diluted, cure that reaction (or one like it) in a well person. For example, poison ivy causes itching, therefore a dilution of poison ivy will cure any pruritus (itching). This idea is pre-scientific and wrong. The second "law", dictates that the more dilute the potion, the more effective the "cure". This is claptrap of the highest order. A 30C dilution (quite common) is the equivalent of having one molecule of the "active" ingredient present in a sphere of water with a diameter of about the distance between the Earth and the sun. Think about that for a minute and then ask yourself if you want to recommend this nonsense to your readers.

Adding to the above, oscillococcinum specifically is not even real. The person who invented the product saw, in slides of flu patients, small round particles moving about - oscillating, if you will. He thought that he had discovered the cause of not just the flu, but of all disease and, because of the roundness (cocci) and movement (oscillating), named these particles oscillococcinum.

He was wrong. The "particles" were likely air bubbles and they moved because of Brownian motion. The ludicrous house of cards continued to build, however, and the inventor decided, for whatever reasons he took to the grave with him, that the most concentrated location of these non-existent "oscillococcinum" particles were in the liver and heart of the Muscovy duck. This unfortunate animal has been the source of the dilution material ever since. I cannot do better than 20-year veteran infectious disease doctor Mark Crislip at the group blog Science Based Medicine in telling the tale of oscillococcinum.

You say in your short sidebar, "...a recent US study is backing them (many people) up, concluding that Oscillo 'probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting with influenza symptoms.' While that might not seem like a ringing endorsement, homeopathy remains controversial within the North American medical community." This is self-contradictory in that you say the study "backs up" the idea that oscillococcinum works, but immediately after you admit that it is not a "ringing endorsement". Which is it?

Homeopathy is not "controversial" among doctors who keep up with research, know about scientific methods, and have their faculties of critical thinking intact. The public is being knowingly misled by the purveyors of so-called "alternative" medicine because if they explained exactly what it is, their sales would drop off quickly and in large volume. "Alternative" medicine is not a real branch of health - it consists entirely of products that have not been proven to work or have been proved to not work.

Please, your magazine is very popular and usually very good. Get a science editor or at the least, a science consultant who can keep your health advice to parents based in reality and the best knowledge currently available.

Thank you for your attention,

Michael McCarron

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Peanut Allergy? SCIENCE!

Scientists seem to have worked out how to fix food allergies in a mouse model, giving hope to sufferers of severe peanut allergies. Check out the article here for the full deets.

Basically, what these awesome people did is attach peanut proteins to white blood cells and then re-introduce the cells to the mice. Paul Bryce, PhD, study co-author, explained thusly:
T cells come in different 'flavors'. This method turns off the dangerous Th2 T cell that causes the allergy and expands the good, calming regulatory T cells. We are supposed to be able to eat peanuts. We've restored this tolerance to the immune system.
How great is that? Science, bitches.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jews Fling the Poos

So ultra-orthodox jews can suck it.

Check out this disgusting story via the BBC about a girls school being "picketed" by ultra-orthodox jews (no, I will not capitalize that word here) because the girls are "not dressed conservatively enough".

The girls are orthodox jews, but apparently unless you're "ultra" orthodox, you're just a harlot out for cock, and that's embarrassing, dammit. The men in the black dresses with the delightful ringlets think that it's not appropriate, for heaven's sake.

Side note: why do these assholes always dress so effeminately? Priests wear dresses, these ultra-orthodox idiots wear dress-like coats and have pretty hair curls; what gives? I think they're just pent-up gay dudes over-compensating. Just my theory.

In any event, what sort of pathetic cowardly losers throw rocks, tomatoes, eggs, and feces at little kids? Funny how when the police show up - you know, the other grown men in this story - these false-bravado jelloheads stop coming around. I guess it's only fun to pick on 9 year old kids when no fellas are there to punch you in the face for it.
I Fling Poo
Jews, you need to reign in these potatoheads and tell them to chill. If I'm going to yell at Muslims to put a cork in those jihadi motherfuckers, then I have to hold the line and yell at you to lay a beat-down on the curlique brigade when they start throwing shit at children. Capisce?

Tip of my enraged hat to Rebecca at Skepchick

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jehovah at the Park

"(T)he second you take control of a conversation to steer it towards a desired result, you're not a person anymore - you're a salesman - and it's no longer a conversation - it's a pitch." Phil Cooper (Danny deVito) in The Big Kahuna

A while back, I wrote a post on dishonesty and religious proselytizing. I referenced the movie quoted above and was reminded very recently of why it annoys me so much.

I was at the park in the morning with my son. He's one and a half years old, so he was happily playing on the equipment while I watched. It was early so we were the only ones at the park, all covered in dew. It was really nice.

I noticed a guy approach us; he had that purposeful stride that meant he was going to talk to me and I saw the bible in his right hand. I thought, "Dammit..." I'm sure he saw the look on my face, but, like the professional salesman he was, he plowed ahead. He started a conversation about what a nice morning it was, asked how old my son was, commented on what a great thing it was that I had time to spend with him on a weekday. All I was doing was waiting for the go-to.

The "go-to" is where they present the material. He did, fairly quickly, go to his give-away copy of Awake!; a special issue titled, "How to Raise Responsible Children". An interesting aside: inside that pamphlet was another, hidden one, The WatchTower. It had as its main article, "Five Lies About God, Exposed!" Slightly more aggressive than the parenting one, but not really once you read them both. ...but I digress....

I thought, do I tell this guy to fuck off? Do I refuse his material? Do I accept it because that's the fastest way to get him to go away? Because of the situation (i.e. my kid was there), I opted to just take his crap and let him leave, but it really bothered me.

It took a bit of thinking on my part, but finally the realization that bubbled up was that it bothered me because of the blatant dishonesty he displayed. He had no interest in me or my kid. He could have cared less about how old my son was, whether or not I was a nice or interesting person, or what my beliefs were - all he wanted was to get his stupid pamphlet into my hand. He was a salesman, and a shitty, dishonest one at that.

I've thought about what the best response would be if he or any other JW approaches me again. I thought that maybe I could say, "Tell you what: if you can tell me why we can sometime see the moon in the daytime, I'll take your information and read it." Of course, we could replace that question with any basic science question, but I didn't like that option in the end because, what if he is a scientist? He might know all about that - then what? You're in for a potentially long conversation when that was exactly what you were trying to avoid.

The rude-route is always an option, but then I'm an asshole too. I don't like that. Contrary to my blog presence, I try to be a nice guy in the real world. The conclusion I came to was to just be honest about how I feel when approached by a person like that. I think saying something like, "Listen, I really feel like you're a salesman right now and that you're not being genuine. All you seem to want is to get promotional material in my hands, and I'm not interested in that. I'm very comfortable in my view of the world, and that view does not include any god or gods."

We'll see how that works out.

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Spelling Beating

I have to make a quick comment on this story because it's so stupid and sad. There's this article from the Toronto Star which outlines the story of Faryal Bhatti, a grade 8 student in Pakistan. She is a Christian student who misspelled the word "praise" in Urdu, changing its meaning to "curse". That didn't fly in her classroom and the teacher beat her in front of the other students before sending her to the Principal.

What do you think happened next? Well, she was expelled from school, her mother had to leave her job, her family were evicted from their home, and they've gotten death threats from psychotic religious assholes. I would, however, be remiss if I didn't say that there were some clerics with somewhat saner points of view. Like Maulana Mehfooz Ali Khan, for example, who said:
I protest against the decision of expelling the child and transferring the mother...This action by the committee has printed a very negative image about Islam on the child’s mind, we want the people to learn about Islam, not to make them hate it.
Yeah, exactly. There are far too few religious moderates willing to stick their necks out for tolerance and non-murderous behavior - mostly because they'll get fucking murdered.

If you read the article, then you will have seen the bit about Salmaan Taseer, the assassinated former governor of Punjab state, who wanted to repeal or lessen Pakistan's blasphemy laws. His insane bodyguard killed him because of this, shooting him 27 times in the back.

Sure, Islam has mostly moderate people in its ranks, good people who just use the religion to get through the day and to help them be better people. The trouble, as always, is that the scriptures of Islam lean in favor of the maniacs and psychopaths who use murder, intimidation, beatings, and menace to control populations. It's the ravings and blatherings of the few loud Koran-thumpers who get the ink and the attention and it's about time that the general population raises its collective voice and tell them to shut the fuck up.

Get on that, will you Pakistani populace?

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

How Does A Virus Get You Sick?

This is an awesome video illustrating how a virus invades your body and makes you sick. It's badass.

Tip of the viral protein to Greg Laden via his twitter.

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