Category Archives: Kardashians

The Pencil Today:

HotAirLogoFinal Sunday II

THE QUOTE

“Never follow the crowd.” — Bernard Baruch

Baruch

DIG THE NIGHT SKY IN 2013

This, from the Science Lama:

13 Must See Stargazing Events for 2013

[EP ED: Events and explanations reproduced verbatim unless otherwise noted.]

1) January 21 — Very Close Moon/Jupiter Conjunction

A waxing gibbous moon (78% illuminated) will pass within less than a degree to the south of Jupiter high in the evening sky. Your closed fist held out at arms length covers 10 degrees. These two won’t get that close again until 2026.

2) February 2-23 — Best Evening View of Mercury

The planet Mercury will be far enough away from the glare of the Sun to be visible in the Western sky after sunset. It will be at its brightest on the 16th and dim quickly afterwards. On the 8th it will skim by the much dimmer planet Mars by about 0.4 degrees.

3) March 10-24 — Comet PANSTARRS at its best

First discovered in 2011, this comet should be coming back around for about 2 weeks. It will be visible low in the northwest sky after sunset. Here are some sources predicting what the comets may look like in the sky.

Image through Faulkes Telescope South

Comet PANSTARRS, Observed August 9, 2012

4) April 25 — Partial Lunar Eclipse

[Not visible here in the Midwest, so forget it.]

5) May 9 — Annular Eclipse of the Sun (“Ring of Fire” Eclipse)

[See above.]

6) May 24-30 — Dance of the Planets

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will seemingly dance between each other in the twilight sky just after sunset as they will change their positions from one evening to the next. Venus will be the brightest of all, six times brighter than Jupiter.

7) June 23 — Biggest Full Moon of 2013

It will be the biggest full moon because the moon will be the closest to the Earth at this time making it a ‘supermoon’ and the tides will be affected as well creating exceptionally high and low tides for the next few days.

"Supermoon," March 19, 2011

The Supermoon Will Eat The Earth!

8) August 12 — Perseid Meteor Shower

One of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year producing upwards of 90 meteors per hour provided the sky is dark. This year the moon won’t be in the way as much as it will set during the evening leaving the rest of the night dark. Here is a useful dark-sky finder tool. – http://bit.ly/UdcDUY

9) October 18 — Penumbral Eclipse of the Moon

[See comments for items 4 & 5.]

10) November 3 — Hybrid Eclipse of the Sun

[See above.]

11) Mid-November through December — Comet ISON

The second comet this year, ISON, could potentially be visible in broad daylight as it reaches its closest point to the Sun. It will reach that point on November 28 and it is close enough to the Sun to be categorized as a ‘Sungrazer’. Afterwards it will travel towards Earth (passing by within 40 million miles) a month later.

12) All of December — Dazzling Venus

The brightest planet of them all will shine a few hours after sundown in the Southwestern sky and for about 1.5 hours approaching New Years Eve. Around December 5th, a crescent moon will pass above the planet and the next night Venus will be at its brightest and won’t be again until 2021.

Moon & Venus

The Crescent Moon & Venus

13) December 13-14 — Geminid Meteor Shower

This is another great (if not the best) annual meteor shower. This year put on a show at about 120 meteors per hour and in 2013 it won’t be much different so expect another fantastic show. However, the moon – as it is a few days before full phase – will be in the way for most of the night obscuring some of the fainter meteors. You might have to stay up in the early morning hours (4am) to catch the all the meteors it has to offer.

SCIENCE VS. FEAR

I’m gonna make enemies here again.

No, no, I don’t mean the right-wing-nuts whom I skewer on a regular basis. As far as I know, none of them visit this communications colossus anyway. (BTW: That doesn’t mean there are no Republicans among our loyal readership — there’s a world of diff between good, solid GOP-ers and the too numerous loons who have been trying to hijack the party in the last half century.)

Scene from "Hogan's Heroes"

“We Must Take Over The Party.”

I suppose I mean — Gulp! Dare I say it? — the left-wing-nuts.

Yes, I admit it, there are those among my brethren and sisteren who are just as paranoiac, just as reactionary, and just as full of crap as those on the dark side of the political spectrum.

Matt Taibbi has a great account of the lunacies on both sides of the aisle in his 2008 book, “The Great Derangement.” In it, he compares and contrasts the right-wing whack-jobs of the evangelical/charismatic Rev. John Hagee’s ovine congregation and the left-wing subculture of 9/11 “Truthers” who live on the interwebs and in their own delusional world.

One group staunchly believes, in the face of virtually all expert, scientific evidence, that someone — probably Dick Cheney in overalls and a disguise — somehow planted bombs within the various buildings that collapsed following the 9/11 attacks.

The other group — again, at odds with the scientific community — is certain that climate change is a worldwide hoax.

Taibbi concludes that there’s next to nothing to distinguish between the two, save for their haircuts, god-loyalties, and eating habits.

Now, I’ve harped on this before and here I am, at it again. But a certain phenomenon seems to be growing bigger by the day. The anti-GMO movement, especially here in Bloomington, one of the capitals of Foodfetishstan, is gaining currency and popularity.

To hear some folks talk about it, one might think even looking at a food product containing a genetically modified organism is more dangerous than having a ton of Tarot cards fall on your head.

At first glance, their argument is seductive. Monsanto Company is the acknowledged worldwide leader in GMO research and development. Nobody’s ever mistaken Monsanto for for a corporate teddy bear. The company has attempted to corner patents on common livestock breeding techniques. It has persecuted farmers for seed-saving. It exploits the legal justice system to bully critics and competitors.

Pig

Monsanto Wants You To Know: It Invented The Pig

It is the bête noire of the agribusiness universe.

Ergo, if Monsanto does it, it is by definition vile.

Which sounds to me like the commonest logical fallacy employed by the right.

I’ve argued in these precincts in the past that the preponderance of expert, scientific opinion holds that there is little evidence that GMOs are dangerous. This is not to say we might discover some unintended consequences of the proliferation of the little mutants in years to come.

Hell, who in 1910 would have foreseen that the automobile would actually change the planet’s weather?

If we outlaw everything that just might be problematic at some time in the fuzzy future, the only legal option left would be for us to sit cross-legged in a field and hope nutrients enter our bodies through the pores in our skin.

Every invention poses risk. In the 1930s and ’40s, the technogeeks of the day saw television as the greatest tool for mass education ever conceived. Who knew TV would have given us the Kardashians? But even before TV became a fixture in every living room, people like George Orwell imagined it as a hammer in the fists of tyrants.

And, I suppose, some modern-day novelist might pen a bestseller entitled “Twenty Eighty Four” in which GMO monsters seize the White House.

That doesn’t mean it’ll actually happen.

That said, all we can go on is the consensus opinion of scientists. I mean, that’s the criterion we’re using to try to convince the ostriches of the right that Homo Sapiens sapiens has caused climate change, isn’t it?

That’s why a recent speech by one of Europe’s top anti-GMO activists, Mark Lynas, is big news.

As far back as the mid-1990s, Lynas was leading the charge against test-tube agriculture and Frankenfoods. Many European nations are in the vanguard of the GMO=disaster school of thought, some banning their use in food outright, thanks in large part to Lynas’ efforts.

Lynas spoke at the Oxford Farming Conference three days ago and made a starling admission.

“As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely,” he said.

He had been, he says, dead wrong about GMOs.

He explained to the conference how this metamorphosis took place. “…[T]he answer is very simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”

Lynas admitted to having sabotaged clinical trials of experimental GMO crops. He confessed, “… I had done no academic research on the topic, and had a pretty limited understanding. I don’t think I ever read a peer-reviewed paper on biotechnology or plant science….”

Now, Lynas says, the growth of the Earth’s population makes it imperative we utilize biotechnology to produce more food. He believes the current rage for “natural” agriculture and micro-farms, if unchecked, could lead to starvation for millions.

In other words, he had been a member of  a crowd that some two decades ago began to convince itself that GMOs are evil. And now he is quitting.

There’s a madness, Scottish journalist and author Charles Mackay once opined, in crowds.

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and the old men and the old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.” — Brendan Behan

THE LOST WALLABY

So, an Evansville guy has lost his wallaby.

Yep. The man has (or, more accurately now, had) an albino wallaby named Kimba.

Typical Albino Wallaby

A week ago today, Ron Young let the critter out in his fenced backyard and, next thing he knew, Kimba had taken a hike. Well, actually four hours later, the animal took her hike.

Wild creatures can figure out many ways to escape a fenced enclosure if you give them four hours. Hell, if I left Steve the Dog out in a fenced yard (which we don’t have) and came back four hours later, I’d find the yard empty save for a pair of fence cutters dropped in haste on the grass.

I mean, Steve likes me and The Loved One well enough, but the allure of out there is irresistible. And this is a  pampered hound who looks at me as if I’m from the moon when I suggest he go outside in a light mist to do his business.

“I Like Youse Guys But Gimme Half A Chance And I’m Outta Here.”

Anyway, Young is a former director of the Evansville Zoo. You’d think he’d know better. And not just about leaving an animal unattended for such a long period of time.

Just having a non-native animal in Southern Indiana seems rash to me.

Wallabies, I’ll hazard to guess, don’t want to be here. Were we to give the macropods a vote in the matter, it’s a good bet they’d overwhelmingly elect to stay in Australia, New Zealand, or any of the nearby Oceania islands they inhabit.

Which reminds me of an egregious example of humans introducing a non-native species to a strange geographical environment.

A wealthy goofball named Thomas Austin brought a couple of dozen cute little bunnies to his estate in Victoria in 1859. He’d wanted to shoot at them for fun and games. See, rabbits had never before lived in Australia and a man can become bored blasting away at the same old 755 different species of reptile as well as countless platypi, echidnae, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus, kookaburras, dingoes, and other mammals and birds native to that land.

Apparently, Austin never bagged his limit because the surviving bunnies did what bunnies do — that is, they bonked and bonked and bonked until they’d essentially taken over most of the continent within forty years.

You might say, So what? What can cute little bunnies do to a continent? The answer: devastate it.

The hundreds of millions of rabbits who now hold sway over the entire landmass have eaten so much foliage that exposed soil and land erosion is now a major problem in many huge swaths of Australia. Not only that but a significant number of plant species have now gone extinct, thanks to the voracious rabbits. And since the plants have disappeared, at least two mammals species, the bilby and the bandicoot, have essentially vanished.

Australian Rabbits Are Heavy Drinkers, Too.

Some estimate that the damage caused by Austin’s rabbits costs the Australian economy more than A$500 million a year.

Not that we have to worry about wallabies taking over North America now that Kimba has escaped her pen. She’s probably dead now since wallabies really don’t know how to live in winter climes.

Folks, if you want a pet, go adopt a dog or cat from the City of Bloomington Animal Shelter.

SHUT UP AND EAT

When I was a bartender at Club Lago, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, one of our cooks was a funny man named Chico. He loved to concoct new dishes using only the stuff that was leftover in the kitchen at the end of the night. He’d serve up plates of the scrumptious stuff to the waitstaff and me after we’d locked the doors.

Occasionally, a new hire might ask before digging in, “What’s in this?” To which Chico would swiftly reply, “Just shut up and eat.”

I found his directive to be sensible and easy enough to follow.

Not that Chico was worried we’d learn he’d been dumping toxic substances into his skillet or pot. His philosophy was if you really love to eat, just eat. The act of consuming comestibles should be enjoyed without worry or fear. Eat!

Admittedly, one might want to question the company that whips up, say, Spam. A wise person wants to know how many species have sacrificed their lives for that rectangular hunk of “meat.”

“Food”

But Chico’s dishes were made of fresh vegetables, succulent seafood, lovingly-stirred sauces, and prime meats. Just shut up and eat.

Which brings me to a recent study that indicates the food fetishists of this holy land — thousands of whom seem to have settled here in Bloomington — ought to try to hew to Chico’s axiom.

Apparently, according to the study, people tend to think a food is more nutritious, is safer, and is more pure only because it carries labels like “fair trade,” “natural,” or “organic.”

It’s called the “health halo” effect. And it’s pretty much bullshit.

Yeah, It’s Natural — But It’s Still Junk Food

Now, the organic designation is defined by federal law. It means simply that the grub you’re jamming into your mouth is reasonably free from certain prohibited substances like dangerous pesticides or controversial additives. The organic designation in no way affects the taste or nutritional quality of a food. It’s conceivable, for instance, that Hormel Foods could apply for and receive the USDA’s approval to slap the organic logo on its cans of Spam.

“Fair trade” and “natural,” on the other hand have no legal definitions. I could market cow flop tomorrow, calling it “all-natural” — which it is — and be well within my legal rights. And making sure some Colombian coffee growers get a fair price for their crop doesn’t make my cup of joe any different from yours.

Still, the study found that people will go so far as to believe a piece of fair trade chocolate contains fewer calories than one not marketed under that label.

So, yeah, we’d like to make sure we’re not screwing the world’s farmers to death because we need to stuff ourselves with sandwich cookies. And it’s good to know there isn’t a cupful of Red Dye No. 3 in that package of Jujubes.

But let’s try to be reasonable. Just shut up and eat.

WHO ARE THE KARDASHIANS?

For the longest time, my mind has refused to retain information about the Kardashians.

The gray mass inside my cranium is like that. It has also prohibited me from understanding basic economic precepts for many long years. For example, I’d ask somebody what the national debt is. Not how much it is, but what exactly it is, as in its definition. Financially savvy pals would explain it to me in excruciating detail and I’d nod my head as if I were taking it all in.

But — swear to god — ten minutes later all those words and ideas would have spilled out of my ear and onto the floor, only to be mopped up by the bartender or busboy at whichever saloon or restaurant I’d just had my lesson in.

Not Even IU’s Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Ellie Ostrom Can Help Me

Same thing with the Kardashians. I must have asked at least three dozen different people through the years who the Kardashians are and why this holy land knows of them.

And every time the knowledge imparted to me simply departs my brain, leaving no forwarding address.

When  it comes to the national debt, I feel bad about my ignorance. But I’m proud of my Kardashian stupidity.

Duh, I Dunno

Apparently, many others in the Great United States, Inc. also are less than enthralled by the K-clan. This despite the fact that all corporate news outlets must record and recount the family’s every muscle move.

Ranker.com come has compiled a list of the 40 Americans least deserving of their fame and fortune. Within the top ten on the list, there are three Kardashians: Kim, Kourtney, and Rob.

Now I don’t feel so out of touch. On the other hand, who the hell is The Situation?

Um, Uh, What Was The Question?

WHITE ROOM

Right off the bat, I’m not advocating the use of heroin. Lemme put it this way, back in the days when I and my circle were willing to ingest anything for a high, the very idea of heroin scared the bejesus out of me.

I’d met a young woman when I was about 23 years old. She never missed a chance to extol the wonders of heroin. I asked her what it was like. Her eyes turned dreamy and she said, “It’s the greatest feeling you’ll ever know. After heroin, sex is nothing.”

I vowed at that moment never to try it — and I never have.

Eric Clapton waged a well-documented, years-long battle against heroin addiction. He’s been clean for nearly forty years. But his heroin-free output includes such treacle as “Tears in Heaven” while his “White Room” with Cream was recorded at the height of his horse ride.

I’m just saying.

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