Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday photo

Turkey Run State Park, Indiana. July, 2007.

Turkey Run is a beautiful state park in west-central Indiana, full of forests and sandstone canyons. It is probably the best-loved park in the state, also, but I've rarely found it to be oppressively crowded. More than anything else, my childhood vacations here probably set the stage for my love of nature.

On this occasion, I brought the tripod but forgot the shoe to attach it to the camera. The photo was handheld in low light and so isn't quite as sharp as I would prefer.

The sandstone is the remnants of a river delta from about 300,000,000 years ago, whose sand deposits eventually compressed into rock. More recently - way more recently - the retreating glaciers of the late Pleistocene era created heavy stream flows that carved out these gorgeous gullies. The water flow is pretty light nowadays, but it doesn't take much to make for some treacherous footing on the trails.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Indiana's game

Indiana has long claimed basketball as their very own game. Oh, sure, it was invented in Massachusetts, but that's just a trivial accident. Would Gene Hackman star in a film called Bay Staters? Hardly. Indiana is basketball's true home and we all know it.

Want proof? Check out this map from the Atlas of American Sports, tracking collegiate basketball players per capita from 1958-1988, by county of origin:

Okay, it's 20 years old now, but look at that Hoosier dominance! Yeah, baby!

By comparison, here's the same mapping of collegiate football players, showing a preponderance of southerners, who labor under the delusion that any other game could be better than basketball :

(Sorry for the blur - I only had my phone camera with me)

electronic v. print

Transitional phases can be confused and inconsistent. How confused is the transition from print to electronic publishing? UM's Taubman Medical Library has five print copies of the "APA Style Guide for Electronic Resources":

Friday, October 23, 2009

on Homo religioso

Friday photo

Yellowstone Lake, July 1988

Taken from Lake Butte, one of the best overlooks in Yellowstone, rising about 600 feet over the northeast end of Yellowstone Lake and offering a view of Mt. Sheridan at the south end and, on a clear day, all the way to the Tetons. Obviously, this was not a clear day, due to the now-famous forest fires that seemed to burn in all corners of the park in 1988. None of those fires came very close to Lake Butte (although it has since burned, in 2004 or so), but the cold lake always caused the smoke to settle over it. This evening, it was so smoky that you couldn't see the four miles to the other side.

It got much worse in August, though. At this point, the fires probably combined for a couple hundred thousand acres, which seemed extreme almost beyond imagination. Before it was all over, the total would be a million acres "affected" (although not necessarily burned or burned severely) and the smoke had become oppressive. The day before I left, I took some pictures of one of my coworkers standing on the bluff over the lake, right in front of the hotel; the water, only thirty feet away, couldn't be seen in the photo. I rather scorned the employees who ostentatiously wore bandannas over their mouths and noses in that last week before the hotel closed, but some months later I realized that my sense of smell had been greatly diminished and I've always believed it was an effect of breathing wood smoke for over a month; maybe they were smarter than me after all.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On progress

Has any company in the world ever inspired so much fear through the phrase "new and improved" as Microsoft does?

The 7 Deady Sins of Windows 7

(I was a bit taken aback at the reference to Windows' "leaner, meaner predecessors." As I recall it, Windows 95 was already considered a resource hog.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in July I wrote about a case where ASCAP is suing Verizon, claiming that musical ringtones on cellphones are a "public performance" and Verizon should pay performance fees; this depite - no, in addition to - the fact that Verizon already pays fees to ASCAP for selling these ringtones.

On Wednesday the judge ruled in the case and, wise public servant that she is, entirely agreed with me. Although the words were measured, the upshot was that ASCAP's case was ridiculous and was a misreading of both law and fact in virtually every aspect. A ringing phone is not a "public performance" by either the customer or the provider, signalling the phone to ring is not the same thing as playing a recording, and no amount of wishful thinking allows ASCAP's lawyers to redefine legal standards and the physics of wireless communications to their convenience. They still get paid for ringtone sales, but they don't get to doublecharge by pretending Verizon is both a music store and a radio station.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday photo

Farm, Montana, July 2005

I took this photo because I loved the blurry effect of the grass, but of course blur can too easily be mistaken for "out of focus." So it was necessary to include the farm at the top of the photo to provide a reference point. Don't let that mislead you, though; the photo is all about the grass.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arnica fire in Yellowstone

This is too cool for words, so I won't waste many:

This image comes from the International Space Station, via NASA. The wind seems to be solidly out of the north rather than the more usual southwest.

[Tip to the Yellowstone Insider, although I don't see this on their site. I got the link from their email newsletter.]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Patricia sent me this link of Ohio as a piano. Andy Woodruff at the blog has seized on the coincidence that there is exactly one Ohio county for each key on a piano and mapped the sounds to the map so that clicking or mousing over a county plays that note.

Where it gets interesting is that you can remap the sounds, according to the available GIS data. Low values play low notes, high values play high notes. Most of the music is too John Cagish for my taste, but I liked the Crop Acr97 mapping, where you can literally hear Ohio grow more farmable as you move southeast - northwest.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday photo

Main terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. May 2005.

Obama is awesome - compared to Bush, anyway

I don't know how else to interpret the Nobel Committee awarding the Peace Prize to Barack Obama, other than hoping to tell America, "Please don't ever elect another George Bush." It's perfectly in line with awarding the 2002 prize to Jimmy Carter and then flat-out saying, "[This] should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current [U.S.] administration has taken. It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States."

Like almost everyone else, I'm scratching my head wondering what he's accomplished that is so noteworthy, and not coming up with anything. But he does treat the rest of the world like adults, and that's a huge improvement over the years 2001-2008. During the Bush years, the rest of the world had only two roles available - enemy or toadie. America dictated and you were supposed to obey; "America expects" was the constant refrain. Obama doesn't take that approach, much to the world's relief. So he gets the Peace Prize for merely being a slightly better citizen.

Of course, this also demonstrates that the Nobel Committee doesn't understand American politics. The conservative movement in America, far from being embarrassed for their support of GWB, will see this as further proof that they're in an existential battle against atheo-communo-fascist-boogedy-boogedy Anti-Americanism. It will only inspire them to new heights of hysteria.

What you need to know about the conservative movement is summed up in John 15:18-19: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Merging Christianity with nationalism, which is the hallmark of conservatism today, you can immediately infer that if you're an American, the world will hate you; conversely, if the world doesn't hate you, then you're not an American. Ergo, still more evidence that Barack Obama is not an American, that he in fact hates America, and will do anything to destroy (real) America.

Let the screaming begin.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jesus - that f***ing pussy

Is it time to put Christ back into Christianity? Not according to Jan Markell at Worlview Times, who rails against "red-letter Christians"* who pay more attention to the words of Jesus than to the more hateful - and apparently, more important - passages in the Bible.

They feel it is convenient to blot out the words of Paul on homosexuality and focus in on the good deeds Jesus talks about. Most are pacifists who reject an "eye for an eye" (Leviticus 24:19-20). They focus on Jesus' words about helping the poor, ministering to "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40), loving our enemies, etc. That justifies abandoning hundreds, even thousands of condemning verses in the Bible they choose to wish away. That makes homosexuality OK and war wrong!

Of course, Jesus himself rejects "an eye for an eye" in Matthew 5:38. He goes on to say things like "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away," and, in the parallel passage in Luke 6, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned."

Jan Markell hates these verses and the people who quote them:
It is also tragic that these folks are frequently called "the evangelical Left." They don't have even 1% of evangelical theology in a single bone in their body. They cherry- pick the verses they like, almost exclusively the red letters of Jesus.
I expect she wishes those verses weren't in the Bible at all, since Jesus can't possibly have meant them. When Matthew 5:39 reports him saying, "resist not evil," that can't be an endorsement of pacifism, surely? That would contradict the entire Religious Right worldview (a favorite word of theirs), which is based on judging and condemning, warring against one's enemies, and despising all acts of mercy. If you listen to Jesus, "that makes ... war wrong!" Inconceivable!

Conservative Christians have traditionally couched their lack of mercy in more careful words, such as "love the sinner, hate the sin"(which sounds good, but in practice there doesn't seem to be much difference). But the mask is slipping. The hateful style of religion is growing so intense that its practitioners can barely disguise themselves any more. Jan Markell doesn't want you emphasizing the words of Jesus, because they don't say what she wants to hear, and she's no longer even embarrassed to say so.

* Since, in many traditional Bibles, all the words of Jesus are printed in red.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Talking about wolves

Ralph Maughan points to this account of a lecture by Doug Smith (USFW's head of the wolf recovery project). Interesting tidbits:

- Yellowstone's wolves, being protected from hunting, have older and more experienced pack members, so their dynamics aren't necessarily the same as other North American wolves;

- when hunting, fast females tend to lead a chase and secure a victim, while heavier males follow up and help finish the kill more effectively (I didn't know that there were gender roles in hunting!);

- Smith believes that elk and wolf populations will eventually attain a more stable equilibrium than they now have, one at which there may only be half as many wolves as there currently are.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday photo

Strange van. Choteau, Montana, August 2002

There's a story behind this, but I'll be doggoned if I can tell you what it is.

Hobbits aren't people?

Or, more accurately, the species currently known as Homo floresiensis may not belong in the genus Homo after all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The networked world

Many developing countries have connected their people with telephones by skipping the land-line phase and going directly to cellular phones. The Economist predicts that world-wide access to the internet will arrive in similar fashion, via mobile broadband technology.