Saturday, April 29, 2006
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
May 2 Pearl Jam -- Worldwide Suicide (muddy vocals have never had clearer energy)
May 23 Dixie Chicks -- working with Rick Rubin!!
May 30 Amy Millan (in Canada only, but available on import if you're resourceful)
--check out this link to hear download Skinny Boy http://www.arts-crafts.ca/amymillan/
Sunday, April 23, 2006
In a joking way, as the only adult male on the staff, I have taken a "paternal" role at the newspaper. I tell the students (guys and gals) that they're not allowed to date until I'm dead or at least mentally incapacitated. I make sure that those who are dating are seeing people who "treat them right." In fact, my "grilling" is so intense that I "sound worse than my dad," according to one of my longtime students. Though I tell them that they shouldn't even be thinking about the opposite or same sex, I don't honestly feel that way, of course. And it's my sincerest hope that no matter what they face, they do so filled with as much reliable, scientific and medically sound data as possible.
Toward the end of our last staff meeting we went around the room and asked students to tell us about their new story ideas or for an update about stories they're currently working on. We got around to one student, a 16-year-old girl who attends and all-girls Catholic school, but she was a little too embarrassed to say her idea aloud. (She wants to write about masturbation and whether it's in fact a sin and about how the definition is taught in sex education. When she pitched the story idea, she couldn't tell her editor, because she was too embarrassed. Instead, she wrote it on a piece of paper and handed it to her editor.) After our the meeting ended, sheasked for an update on her story. She mentioned that she had sent a draft last week but hadn't received her edits yet. I told her to bug her editor and harass her for the next set of revisions.
She said OK and then hung around for a few minutes waiting for her ride. She started talking to two other students and they started comparing story ideas. When student 1, who attends the Catholic school, revealed her idea the two other students, who are sisters, had a positive response. I was very proud that they recognized the value of a story about masturbation and sex education. However, since I enjoy being "the dad" I also had to pick on them a little bit.
"You can't talk about that. It's a sin. You'll end up in hell," I interrupted.
"Oh stop it, Mike," said one of the sisters. Student 1 got sufficiently embarrassed that she blushed a wee bit and seemed silenced. ;)
"Yeah, it's a good story idea. It's natural," said sister 2.
"No you can't talk about that stuff. You're too young. We don't want you to get corrupted," I continued my "fatherly" speechifying.
After some laughing at my playing the "dad."
"Mike, you probably do it every day--"
"... Um, I'm not gonna answer that."
I'm never having kids.
Friday, April 21, 2006
According to Today's Papers at slate.com: At Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit with President Bush the White House announcer welcomed the "Republic of China." Or as it's known colloquially: Taiwan. note: the sarcasm of the last sentence was Eric Umansky's. I'd never steal that kind of snarkiness.
Go Sabres!! Fuck you Bobby Clarke!
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Radio talker and CNN commentator William Bennett complains that Dana Priest, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president. ...I don't think what they did was worthy of an award -- I think what they did was worthy of jail."
Maybe I'm just fucking stupid, but how is holding the President accountable for breaking the law and exposing the federal government's role in utilizing torture a bad thing?
Or maybe it has to do with this bit of info from the great state of Arizona ...
Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) dropped the veto hammer on eight bills, according to an article by Howard Fischer of the Capitol News Service in Phoenix. Among them:
The state legislature had passed a bill that would limit the governor's power power to impose restrictions on the sale, carrying or use of firearms during an emergency.
More from that article:
... "The conversations I called for last year among cities, builders, Realtors and affordable housing advocates are ongoing and have yet to result in a consensus for dealing with this issue on a statewide basis," Napolitano wrote Monday.
The veto drew a disappointed reaction from Senate Majority Leader Tim Bee. The Tucson Republican said he believes the Legislature needs to bar cities from enacting "inclusionary housing" requirements, like requiring builders to sell a certain percentage of their new houses at prices that are considered affordable.
So having people be able to afford to live in a city is bad? hmmmmmmm. I wonder ...
The governor also vetoed this one ...
One measure would have required parents to notarize any statement permitting their minor daughters to have an abortion, to prevent teens from forging their parents' signatures.
Napolitano called it "an unnecessary and unwise burden" on families, especially in small communities where there might be only a few notaries.
The governor also rejected legislation that would have barred state and local governments from providing employees with health insurance coverage that includes abortion.
I just wish Napolitano had been more forceful in why she vetoed this. A lack of a fucking notary is not a reason to veto legislation that hinders public health or that allows the government to dictate how I live my life or use my body. As a conservative, I cannot stand for something like that.
Monday, April 17, 2006
This is from slate.com
The LAT finds that Americans earning more than $500,000 a year pay about 22 percent of their income in taxes, barely more than the 20.6 percent paid by people earning $100,000 to $200,000. Those earning $40,000 to $50,000 pay 15.8 percent. Advocates of a flat tax have argued that this would lead to economic growth benefiting all. But, citing stats most of us have heard, the LAT argues that the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is still growing, putting the lie to the flat-tax pushers.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The blog look is going to change slightly this week, though this Sabres logo really doesn't have anything to do with that. The logo is a karma thing. oooooohhhhhhhhh. How unexcited are you readers 1 and 2?
They say California is a recipe for a black hole
I say I've got my best shoes on ... I'm ready to go
Monday, April 10, 2006
UC Sudan Vote Is a Lesson in Student Activism
Times Staff Writer
April 9, 2006
In the long history of college student activism in California, it was yet another victory: The University of California's regents had agreed to divest from companies with ties to the Sudanese government.
The divestment movement started quietly less than two years ago when six feminists met in a UCLA student's Westwood living room.
Members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, they had heard UNICEF reports of Sudanese women and girls raped when they left refugee camps to collect firewood and water. They were victims of violence that erupted in 2003 in Darfur, a western region of Sudan, between government-supported, mostly Arab militia and non-Arab black Africans. Reports suggest tens of thousands died.
In Baylee DeCastro's apartment, the students sat in a circle as they ate Red Vines and tortilla chips and shared research about Darfur. They made plans to meet twice a week.
Each invited friends, and 20 people came to the second meeting. Thirty attended the next. Soon they outgrew the living room.
In time, hundreds of students would be drawn into the movement. Along the way, they learned about organizing, the importance of timing and the art of compromise.
They also learned that, sometimes, compromise isn't an option.
"A number of students are moved by not only the moral imperative to do something, but the reality that there is something we can do," said DeCastro, 22, an international development studies major from San Francisco.
UCLA's Darfur Action Committee was born.
To understand the intricacies of the conflict, committee members consulted with faculty at the university's African Studies Center. They pored over reports from the International Crisis Group and Doctors Without Borders. They teamed up with other campus groups to sponsor an awareness week about Darfur last March, at which they showed films and had speakers talk about the conflict.
Meanwhile, nearly 400 miles away at UC San Francisco, Jason Miller, 27, also decided to take action on Darfur.
In April, on "a silly whim," he called the UC treasurer's office to find out how much the university system had invested in companies connected with Sudan. Although the number amounted to far less than 1% of UC's investments, Miller thought divesting from the firms could make a statement.
Next, he contacted the UC Student Assn. to seek others in California who were plugged into the issue. After "a monthlong chase" in phone calls and referrals, Miller said, he came upon the Darfur Action Committee.
For the next three months, Miller and fellow UC students attended regents' meetings to encourage them to divest. Together they wrote a 55-page proposal, released last October, describing the situation in Sudan and detailing a divestment strategy.
Their efforts drew in Adam Rosenthal, 26, a UC Davis student regent who shared their concern over what some aid groups and governments have called genocide.
In early November, Rosenthal presented a resolution to the UC Committee on Investments suggesting that the regents create a plan to mirror efforts by Stanford University, which five months earlier had divested from four foreign companies linked to Sudan.
But the students had only a week and a half before the Nov. 14 meeting at UCLA of the investments committee to mobilize mass support, Miller said.
Thus began a mad rush to establish press contacts and find a "big-name endorser," with calls to state and national politicians, said UCLA student Adam Sterling, 23, of Oak Park in Ventura County, who served with Miller as co-chairmen of the UC Sudan Divestment Task Force.
The day of the meeting, minutes before a 10:30 a.m. news conference, Sterling received a call: Actor Don Cheadle, whom the task force had been trying to reach, was on campus and looking for the group. Later, Cheadle joined students in a silent march around campus.
"Each time I said, 'Don Cheadle,' another 15 students would join the march," DeCastro recalled, laughing. By the time the committee convened, more than 100 students were on hand — along with Cheadle — for the 20-minute public-comment period. Others spoke by telephone from San Diego and Oakland.
Speakers read scripts that Sterling and Miller had banged out that morning.
"That was the turning point for the whole campaign," Miller said. The committee unanimously approved a resolution that called for a regent-created plan to divest from the same companies as Stanford did.
Yet, the students hoped they could get the regents to consider more companies than just those four. But roadblocks arose when the full board took on the divestment resolution.
On Jan. 18, the night before a scheduled vote in San Diego, Rosenthal presented task force leaders with an offer after talking to several regents: The regents would look into divesting from only the four companies, he said, because they did not feel comfortable going beyond that with the limited information they had on the subject.
In a room at a La Jolla motel, Miller and Sterling recalled, the task force leaders agonized over their options for more than two hours.
The co-chairmen called their fathers for advice. Should they accept the regents' less-than-palatable proposal? Or should they protest and risk losing any chance for change?
They phoned Rosenthal.
"We can't accept that offer," they said.
The students continued talking and arguing past midnight, Miller said, as Rosenthal tried to persuade them to agree. They wouldn't budge.
The next morning, they were prepared for a protest. Three buses from UC schools had arrived in San Diego for the event.
But shortly after the public-comment period, Rosenthal came to the co-chairmen with a compromise. The regents were willing to examine direct and indirect investments, as well as more companies.
"We had no idea we were actually negotiating," Miller said. "But that was actually what we were doing."
This time, the students set their own stipulations, which they demanded to see in writing before the vote, Sterling said.
The final agreement said the regents would create a formal study group, with student representation, on divestment; that group would meet at least three times before March, when the board would vote on the issue. A larger pool of divestment candidates also would be considered.
"We've all sort of found our way as we've gone along," DeCastro said of their campaign. "Everyone has just developed leaps and bounds."
The UC board reconvened at UCLA on March 16 for what the task force hoped would be the final discussion of their cause. Miller, Sterling and activists who had traveled overnight from UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz spent the day bouncing from the regents' open sessions to rallies and interviews, unfazed that they were missing classes — or by looming final exams.
The ending was surprisingly swift: The divestment resolution targeted nine companies, many involved in energy and oil, that had provided financial or military support to the Sudanese government.
It passed unanimously. Some students cheered. Others wept.
Sterling and fellow activists say the resolution was just a first step. They are in talks with the MTVu network, which broadcasts to colleges, to spread their blueprint for activism nationwide, DeCastro said.
On Thursday, many of the student activists were on hand in Sacramento when the board of the California State Teachers Retirement System voted 9 to 0 to explore selling its holdings in five foreign energy companies that do business in Sudan.
CalSTRS, as it is known, is the nation's second-largest public pension fund. The board's motion called for retirement system staff to use as a model the plan adopted by the UC regents — the very plan that traces its roots to Baylee DeCastro's apartment.
Friday, April 07, 2006
So that's why this story this week made me so happy. :)
One Small Step for Fish ...
Times Staff Writer
April 6, 2006
U.S. researchers have found fossils of what they say is a missing evolutionary link between fish and land animals — a strange creature that first crawled onto the shore about 375 million years ago.
The fossils, found on Ellesmere Island in Arctic Canada, suggest the limbs, skull, neck and ribs of four-limbed animals, but also the primitive jaw, fin and scales of fish, scientists reported today in the journal Nature.
"This really is what our ancestors looked like when they began to leave the water," said an accompanying editorial by zoologist Jennifer A. Clack of the University of Cambridge and biologist Per Erik Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden.
The newly discovered species, called Tiktaalik roseae, "blurs the boundary between fish and land-living animal both in terms of its anatomy and its way of life," said biologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, a co-leader of the expedition.
The creature lived in shallow waterways, where it hunted for prey with its crocodile-like snout and sharp teeth, but was able to pull itself out of the water for short periods of time and move around on its limb-like fins, scientists said.
The specimens, ranging from 4 to 9 feet long, were remarkably well-preserved. The scientists were able to examine the joints and to conclude that the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints were strong enough to support the creature's body on land.
"Human comprehension of the history of life on Earth is taking a major leap forward," said H. Richard Lane of the National Science Foundation, which funded the research along with the National Geographic Society and other groups.
"These exciting discoveries are providing fossil Rosetta Stones for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary milestone — fish to land-roving tetrapods," he said.
In the late Devonian period, nearly 400 million years ago, the landmass where the fossils were found straddled the equator and had a climate much like that now found in the Amazonian basin. It was a flat coastal plain with shallow, slow-moving rivers that meandered to the sea.
"This kind of shallow stream system seems to be the place where many features of land-living animals first arose," said expedition co-leader Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
But as Earth's continental plates shifted, the mass was carried north to Canada's Nunavut territory in the Arctic Ocean.
Finding and extracting the fossils presented major challenges, such as the need to travel by helicopter into the region.
Freezing temperatures and high winds limited the amount of time the team could work each day, and the near-constant precipitation prevented the plaster used in the fossil-preservation process from drying. "And we were always looking over our shoulders for polar bears. We saw lots of their tracks," Shubin said. Team members all carried guns for protection.
The key breakthrough came on a 2004 fossil hunting expedition — one of five yearly trips — when team members spied the front end of what looked like a fish skull sticking out of the bluff. "That's ideal — having the snout sticking out — because in the cliff behind it is likely the rest of the animal," Shubin said.
The researchers ultimately found three nearly complete specimens, but they weren't sure what they had until they returned to the lab and studied the bones.
"As each piece to Tiktaalik's anatomy was exposed, we began to see just how wonderfully intermediate this animal's features were between land and water," Shubin said.
The creature had a flat skull, like that of a crocodile, but it had armor like a fish, scientists said. And it had a neck, they said, making it the only fish known to have one. "The neck was one of the biggest surprises," Daeschler said. "This freed the skull from the shoulder girdle and gave the animal extra mobility."
At the ends of the powerful fins, the team found wrists and bones similar to fingers. But the fins also contained the thin rods found in fish fins. "Here is a creature with fins that can do push-ups," Shubin said.
And instead of the tiny rod-like ribs of a fish, Tiktaalik had full-fledged ribs that overlapped one another like those of an anteater. "Ribs like that produce a stiff trunk," said Farish A. Jenkins of Harvard University, another expedition leader.
"Fish that stay in the water are buoyant and don't need that, so this animal must have developed these structures for life in the shallows and making excursions onto land," he said.
Shubin said: "This animal is both fish and tetrapod. We jokingly call it a 'fishapod.' "
Rather than following the convention of using Latin for a species' name, the research team asked the Nunavut elders council for suggestions. It recommended Tiktaalik, which means "a large shallow-water fish" in the Inuktitut language. Roseae honors an anonymous donor.
Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals
Scientists have discovered fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish, a large scaly creature not seen before, that they say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on four limbs on land.
In two reports today in the journal Nature, a team of scientists led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago say they have uncovered several well-preserved skeletons of the fossil fish in sediments of former streambeds in the Canadian Arctic, 600 miles from the North Pole.
The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, four to nine feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals — and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.
In the fishes' forward fins, the scientists found evidence of limbs in the making. There are the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders. The fish also had a flat skull resembling a crocodile's, a neck, ribs and other parts that were similar to four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.
Other scientists said that in addition to confirming elements of a major transition in evolution, the fossils were a powerful rebuttal to religious creationists, who have long argued that the absence of such transitional creatures are a serious weakness in Darwin's theory.
The discovery team called the fossils the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition. The fish has been named Tiktaalik roseae, at the suggestion of elders of Canada's Nunavut Territory. Tiktaalik (pronounced tic-TAH-lick) means "large shallow water fish."
"The origin of limbs," Dr. Shubin's team wrote, "probably involved the elaboration and proliferation of features already present in the fins of fish such as Tiktaalik."
In an interview, Dr. Shubin, an evolutionary biologist, let himself go. "It's a really amazing, remarkable intermediate fossil," he said. "It's like, holy cow."
Two other paleontologists, commenting on the find in a separate article in the journal, said that a few other transitional fish had been previously discovered from approximately the same Late Devonian time period, 385 million to 359 million years ago. But Tiktaalik is so clearly an intermediate "link between fishes and land vertebrates," they said, that it "might in time become as much an evolutionary icon as the proto-bird Archaeopteryx," which bridged the gap between reptiles (probably dinosaurs) and today's birds.
The writers, Erik Ahlberg of Uppsala University in Sweden and Jennifer A. Clack of the University of Cambridge in England, are often viewed as rivals to Dr. Shubin's team in the search for intermediate species in the evolution from fish to the first animals to colonize land.
H. Richard Lane, director of paleobiology at the National Science Foundation, said in a statement, "These exciting discoveries are providing fossil 'Rosetta Stones' for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary milestone — fish to land-roaming tetrapods."
The science foundation and the National Geographic Society were among the financial supporters of the research. Besides Dr. Shubin, the principal discoverers were Edward B. Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Farish A. Jenkins Jr., a Harvard evolutionary biologist. Casts of the fossils will be on view at the Science Museum of London.
Michael J. Novacek, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, who was not involved in the research, said: "Based on what we already know, we have a very strong reason to think tetrapods evolved from lineages of fishes. This may be a critical phase in that transition that we haven't had before. A good fossil cuts through a lot of scientific argument."
Dr. Shubin's team played down the fossil's significance in the raging debate over Darwinian theory, which is opposed mainly by some conservative Christians in this country, but other scientists were not so reticent. They said this should undercut the argument that there is no evidence in the fossil record of one kind of creature becoming another kind.
One creationist site on the Web (emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs /evid1.htm) declares that "there are no transitional forms," adding: "For example, not a single fossil with part fins, part feet has been found. And this is true between every major plant and animal kind."
Dr. Novacek responded: "We've got Archaeopteryx, an early whale that lived on land, and now this animal showing the transition from fish to tetrapod. What more do we need from the fossil record to show that the creationists are flatly wrong?"
Duane T. Gish, a retired official of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, said, "This alleged transitional fish will have to be evaluated carefully." But he added that he still found evolution "questionable because paleontologists have yet to discover any transitional fossils between complex invertebrates and fish, and this destroys the whole evolutionary story."
Dr. Shubin and Dr. Daeschler began their search on Ellesmere Island in 1999. They were attracted by a map in a geology textbook showing an abundance of Devonian rocks exposed and relatively easy to explore. At that time, the land had a warm climate: it was part of a supercontinent straddling the Equator.
It was not until July 2004, Dr. Shubin said, that "we hit the jackpot." They found several of the fishes in a quarry, their skeletons largely intact and in three dimensions. The large skull had the sharp teeth of a predator. It was attached to a neck, which allowed the fish the unfishlike ability to swivel its head.
If the animal spent any time out of water, said Dr. Jenkins, of Harvard, it needed a true neck that allowed the head to move independently on the body.
Embedded in the pectoral fins were bones that compare to the upper arm, forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals. The joints of the fins appeared to be capable of functioning for movement on land, a case of a fish improvising with its evolved anatomy. In all likelihood, the scientists said, Tiktaalik flexed its proto-limbs mainly on the floor of streams and might have pulled itself up on the shore for brief stretches.
In their report, the scientists concluded that Tiktaalik was an intermediate between the fishes Eusthenopteron and Panderichthys, which lived 385 million years ago, and early tetrapods. The known early tetrapods are Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, about 365 million years ago.
Tiktaalik, Dr. Shubin said, is "both fish and tetrapod, which we sometimes call a fishapod."
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
The Los Angeles Times had this quoted statement from U.S. Rep. John Boehner (pronounced BAY-ner), DeLay's successor as majority leader:
"The country owes Tom a great debt of gratitude for helping lead America in a new direction--a direction outlined in the Contract with America that saw balanced budgets, historic welfare reforms, lower taxes, regulatory relief, and a renewed respect for the sanctity of life."
Let's get a few things straight Majority Leader Boner ...
The only balanced budgets passed in the last 20-plus years happened with a Democratic President. Since Tommy "the Hammer" got his own party's president into office, we devoured the largest surplus ever and magically transformed it into one of the worst deficits ever (adjusted for inflation. without inflation it's the worst ever).
Welfare reform, Democratic president ... check. With both houses of Congress, the Presidency, more governorships and perhaps, I think, more state legislatures under your control, you couldn't manage to reform Social Security b/c your plan was such an unmitigated cosmic-sized clusterfuck.
Lower taxes, yeah, Clinton managed to do some of that and not plunge us into a blackhole deficit because he realized that the billionaires running multi-billion dollar corporations could live without.
Regulatory relief ... yeah, that's been great. We've had the worst corporate scandals in U.S. history happen under the watch of Tom DeLay and the Contract with America, at least once they got an enabling President. Oh yeah, and the type of stuff that might help me (a lower cable bill, lower phone rates, lower prices at the pump ... nada.) Oh yeah, our air is gonna be dirtier than ever and so is our water. That's awesome! And schools are more federally regulated than they've ever been. That's even awesomer!
Respect for the sanctity of life? Executions at an all-time high. Sentient adults being told that they don't have control of their bodies or their decisions. Wait, that's regulatory relief, right? wrong? bueller? Oh wait, we're defending the rights of the unborn by allowing them to be brought into the world unwanted and unloved and also really, really poor. And in South Dakota hopefully with mothers who cannot provide for them because carrying the pregnancy to term will result in a permanently debilitating condition, but not death.
Monday, April 03, 2006
btw, if you're ever driving to Vegas make sure you stop at Buffalo Bill's in Primm Valley. Best black jack ever.