Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The slow slow progress of science

microsoft clip art

It seems I spend a lot of time trying to explain to my relatives how the scientific method works: observation/idea which creates a hypothesis, which is either confirmed or disproven by observation/experimentation and if proven, becomes a theory (a great explanation in more detail here).  A theory, in this case, in the scientific sense, isn’t just an idea you’ve pulled out of your ass, like purple polka-dotted furry sentient fruit orbit Alpha Centauri, but something confirmed by facts.  Theories can be adjusted to account for new facts.  Damn few things are called “laws”, like the “law of gravitation”; they seem to only get that moniker when it’s pretty damn obvious that gravity isn’t going to up and change or say the laws of thermodynamics aren’t going to change.  No sane individual will willingly pick up a white-hot bar of steel in their bare hand on the assumption that heat exchange will magically not work that time.  It’s very hard to get religious people to understand that this is what they essentially try to make believe in, to pretend that the things that they depend on everyday will magically stop if they want it to, by contacting their god.  

Unfortunately, it’s not only theists who can take their time coming around to facts.  It can be done though, with enough work on both the part of the skeptic and those around them. It’s often very long, very hard work even with scientists. No wonder it’s taken so long to get this far. 

Dr. Richard A. Muller, often touted climate change skeptic, has changed his mind thanks to research and looking at the facts. He now thinks that climate change does exist and it is largely due to mankind’s activities. But not after doing as much damage as one man could by doing his part to further delay any action against such climate change.  He did this by having a opinion, based on a dispute about the use of mathematical techniques and letting everyone know it. If he had a question, I would have thought he could have said “I don’t know enough about the data, so I’ll get back do you when I do.” and that would have been that.  Unfortunately, he didn’t and ended up in bed with climate change deniers, like the Koch brothers who are notorious for sticking their heads in the sand when its convenient and supporting things like PBS’s NOVA series when its not.  Their picking and choosing of what science to support is quite like creationists when they want to enjoy the benefits of science but then attack it when it dares to show their dearly held myths to be utterly wrong.  Continue reading

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From the Bar – 3 wines from southern Europe reviewed

Three wines up this week.  Pennsylvania operates under a state store system for liquor purchases in the Commonwealth.  When I was quite a bit younger, the state stores didn’t have much of a selection, Black Velvet, Riunite,  wine coolers, etc.  But the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) now has professional staff to select what the state system purchases, which has improved the selection vastly.   They’ve also opened a website: http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com which has online exclusives and very nice sales.  Alas, they do not ship outside of Pennsylvania.

As a result of one of these sales, and free shipping, I purchased four wines, three of which will be reviewed here.  The last, La Gitana Fino Sherry will be another entry.  They were chosen because of their curious places of origin, the Basque region, the Languedoc and Verona. Continue reading

A Night Out – Cobblestone’s Restuarant and Sports Emporium

Central PA is dotted with a lot of small cities, all about what was a day’s horseback ride from the next.  York, PA is one of these and home to one of my favorite bar/restaurants, Cobblestone’s.  Oh and again, this isn’t a “night out”, more like a “mid-afternoon out”.  Lots of pictures so follow the jump Continue reading

Not so Polite Dinner Conversation – Tell them when they are wrong because they vote

If they can vote then they need to know the facts.

As many people do, I got a forwarded email from an older relative.  This wasn’t my “Uncle Jim” of recent internet meme, but from “Aunt Jane”.  This particular email was promulgating various lies and half-truths about how horrible stamps mentioning the Muslim holiday of Eid were, how Obama was responsible for it, and how “patriotic Americans” would refuse to have anything to do with such things. Snopes.com has of course done a good job at ripping such nonsense apart. As readers here will know, I’d prefer if there were no mentions of religious nonsense on stamps or anything else.  But if you want them, I’m not going to stop you from having Eid stamps, Hanukkah stamps, Christmas stamps or Flying Spaghetti Monster Pirates, Strippers and Beer Day stamps.

Many times before, I thought I should just let it slide, that they are old and won’t change, that why cause trouble for myself.  And, I have let it slide.  The one time I didn’t; well, I don’t hear from that relative, another aunt from the other side of the family, anymore after showing them that the email they forwarded was full of lies.  Never called auntie a liar, only told her she was passing along nonsense that wasn’t true.  It was a shame since she was the “cool” aunt, but I guess she couldn’t accept finding out what she believed wasn’t true. 

Bingo is it???

I kept up with keeping quiet, not rocking the boat, until I was recently pontificating on a forum where someone else had received crazy relative email.  I wrote that such things should never be ignored because these people vote.  And here I was doing just that thing myself because I wanted to give *my* family the excuse and give *myself* quiet family gatherings.  It was me being a hypocrite. That isn’t going to happen anymore. 

I’m going to read those emails from my relatives and tell “Uncle Jim” and “Aunt Jane” what’s wrong with those emails.  Because these people vote and affect *me* and others.  Allowing them the luxury of their nonsense helps no one. At one point I respected these people, they were older and knew more than I did.  I find it disrespectful in the extreme to content myself with saying “But they can’t learn. They’re old and are from a “different time”. They just can’t understand.”  That’s bullshit.  Old people aren’t dumb and only good for playing bingo.  They can learn and they can make a choice.  They can pay attention to the facts and make their decisions from them, not some lying screed built on greed and fear. 

Or they can choose not to, and then and only then I will have a good reason to have no respect for them at all.

What the Boss Likes – Iron Sky Review

Space Nazis!

Find a way to see Iron Sky.  Yes, you want to; you really really want to.  Do what Vel says.  But fair warning, it is not politically correct at all in the best way possible.  If you are offended by “tea party” icons and ideals vigorously ridiculed, it’s my guess you’ll have a lot of trouble with this movie.   

This movie isn’t quite what I thought it was going to be when I first blogged about it.  It’s better.  The cgi is phenomenal, and damn near miraculous looking for a low-budget production and the story is funny, vicious and cynical.  Hopefully without giving too much away by just saying this, I have to say that this is on par with a movie I very much love: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

SPOILERS and such below the jump. You have been warned. Continue reading

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Critical thinking, the lack of it and the usual result on the theistic mind

Cute little guy isn’t he?
Microsoft clip art.

I’ll admit it was nice when I still was sure that some magical being that is omnipotent and omniscient agrees with whatever you decide it does.  You can claim anything for this god and be sure that it has your back.  If something happens that wasn’t what you wanted, you just convince yourself that this magical being has a “plan” that needed that child to die, those soldiers to be blown up or that hospital to be destroyed in a tornado.  You’re sure that it simply “has” to lead toward the “greater” (aka your) good. 

This lack of critical thinking leads to all sorts of rather ridiculous actions by theists. Not thinking critically does that to people.  And in this atmosphere of religious fervor by conservative Christians, the silliness is ripe for the picking.

First up, we have Louisiana Representative Valerie Hodges who is “shocked, shocked* that her state’s bigoted idiocy in attempting to funnel money to religious schools would include religions that she finds unacceptable.  This is reminiscent of how lawmakers in PA were surprised that their voter ID nonsense would impact those religious people who were their “friends” and how some legislators in PA wanted to determine which religions were allowed to marry people in the state.  It seems that, in their attempts to lie about how the United States of America is a “Christian Nation” they’ve started to believe their own lies, forgetting that there are plenty of other sects and religions here in the US.   Alas for them, the rest of us do not have a “memory hole” that we can shove inconvenient facts into. Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – Science, art and food

Thanks to my peripetations around the internets, I occasionally find nifty things.  Caren Alpert, a photographer, has taken food photography to a new level.  A scanning electron microscope is the new imaging device to get to know your food intimately.  The Smithsonian Magazine has a good interview with her and you can see her lovely images on her website.

Micrographs are only in black and white thanks to the process.  Ms. Alpert re-colors them to their original.