Sunday Reads: Billion Pixels of Red Dust and a Cast Iron Petticoat

1921Good Morning

And here we are, another Sunday morning…well, yesterday was the first time in weeks that I found myself suffering from a migraine.  As I write this post, I still feel the after effects; that groggy disoriented unattached feeling that comes with a sense of exhaustion and overwhelming emotional blah…with all that being said, the links this morning will be quick and to the point. I just can’t muster up the energy to do anything more than that.

I am going to start with this kick ass photo from NASA. It is a billion, let me say that again….a biiiiiilllllion pixel photo of the planet Mars, and it is interactive! Seriously, take a look, there is a rock that is called “Toilet Seat Rock” and when you zoom in you can see little Marvin the Martian dude from Looney Tunes sitting there making his very own an “Earth shattering kaboom”….Mars Exploration Program: Interactive: Billion-Pixel View of Mars from Curiosity Rover

Original Caption Released with Image:
FireShot Screen Capture #479 - 'Mars Exploration Program_ Interactive_ Billion-Pixel View of Mars from Curiosity Rover' - mars_nasa_gov_multimedia_interactives_billionpixel_index_cfm_image=PIA16919&view=pano
This image is a scaled-down version of a full-circle view which combined nearly 900 images taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. The Full-Res TIFF and Full-Res JPEG provided in the top right legend are smaller resolution versions of the 1.3 billion pixel version for easier browser viewing and downloading. Viewers can explore the full-circle image with pan and zoom controls at http://mars.nasa.gov/bp1/.The view is centered toward the south, with north at both ends. It shows Curiosity at the “Rocknest” site where the rover scooped up samples of windblown dust and sand. Curiosity used three cameras to take the component images on several different days between Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, 2012.This first NASA-produced gigapixel image from the surface of Mars is a mosaic using 850 frames from the telephoto camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera instrument, supplemented with 21 frames from the Mastcam’s wider-angle camera and 25 black-and-white frames — mostly of the rover itself — from the Navigation Camera. It was produced by the Multiple-Mission Image Processing Laboratory (MIPL) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.This version of the panorama retains “raw” color, as seen by the camera on Mars under Mars lighting conditions. A white-balanced version is available at PIA16918. The view shows illumination effects from variations in the time of day for pieces of the mosaic. It also shows variations in the clarity of the atmosphere due to variable dustiness during the month while the images were acquired.NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover’s 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity’s Mastcam. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover.
Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Image Addition Date:
2013-06-19

That is the description of the image shown above, to get a better view of the picture you can click on the link and check it out yourself. It is freaking cool! And I bet you will spend some time getting lost in the red dust on the Martian surface.

You may have seen the next few links during the past few days, but I will put them here in link dump fashion just in case.

Goodwill pays workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents an hour – Salon.com

In 2011, the multibillion-dollar nonprofit Goodwill Industries paid Pennsylvania workers with disabilities wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents an hour, according to Labor Department records obtained by NBC News. In 2010, an Applebee’s in a tony New York suburb hired hearing- and visually impaired employees through a placement program with the Helen Keller National Center and paid them between $3.97 per hour and $5.96, well below the state minimum wage of $7.25.

And it’s perfectly legal due to a Depression-era loophole in federal labor law, as NBC reports:

Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage…

The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue Service centers.

While employers like Goodwill defend the practice as providing jobs to people who need and want them, disability and labor rights advocates have called the loophole exploitative, saying it traps workers in a “two-tiered” system that says “Americans who have disabilities aren’t as valuable as other people,” as Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, told NBC. “That’s wrong. These folks have value. We should recognize that value,” he added.

When we lived in Tampa, my brother worked for Marriott at Tampa International Airport, they paid minimum wage and with the exception of the last manager who did not want to work with the Downs students at Denny’s school, the experience was very good for both Marriott and my brother. But…this crap about below minimum wage…that is ridiculous. There is a bill proposed which could repeal Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act…but it is facing opposition. Guess we will just have to wait and see.

This next link from Digby:

This really is Big Brother: the leak nobody’s noticed

by digby

This McClatchy piece (written by some of the same people who got the Iraq war run-up story so right while everyone else got it wrong) is as chilling to me as anything we’ve heard over the past few weeks about the NSA spying. In fact, it may be worse…

She links to this article: Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S. | McClatchy

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

I know that this was linked to in the comments yesterday, but I thought it deserved to be on the front page. Creepy is what Boston Boomer thought about it. Yup…it sure is.

Well, in the finance news: SEC Wants Banks To Admit Wrongdoing – Business Insider

For decades, the SEC has let companies and individuals settle charges without actually admitting guilt, letting bigwigs more or less off the hook with only tacit — but not legal — acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

No longer. The Commission will begin to push for more accountability on a “case-by-case” basis, the Wall Street Journal reports:

From the Journal:

The new policy, which came out of a review [SEC Chairman] Ms. White began when she joined the agency in the spring, will be applied in “cases where…it’s very important to have that public acknowledgment [of wrongdoing] and accountability,” she told reporters at a Wall Street Journal CFO Network conference in Washington, D.C.

Decisions will be made on a “case-by-case” basis, Ms. White said. But she added the agency intends to target cases of egregious intentional conduct or widespread harm to investors.

Most cases still will be allowed to settle using the standard “neither admit nor deny” formula, Ms. White said.

Washington legislators like Elizabeth Warren have recently urged the SEC to take big banks to task for wrongdoing, the Journal reports.

I can’t even think straight to make sense of anything dealing with finance, numbers, math, numbers, but I will say that I sure liked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s signature when it was all loopy-loops. Treasury chief’s loopy signature evolves into something almost legible – U.S. News

The official signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on a $5 bill, top, and Lew’s signature on a 2011 memo.

The top finance official in the federal government was given the humiliating nickname Loopty Lew. Worse still, the treasury chief is one of two people whose signatures grace United States currency. President Barack Obama joked that he might devalue the dollar.

This next item is something that worries me, hopefully it does not give us a preview of what we are going to see here.  Google Makes Google News In Germany Opt-In Only To Avoid Paying Fees Under New Copyright Law | TechCrunch

Google News in Germany will soon change. Starting August 1, it will only index sources that have decided to explicitly opt-in to being shown on the search giant’s news-aggregation service. Google News remains an opt-out service in the other 60 countries and languages it currently operates in, but since Germany passed a new copyright law earlier this year that takes effect on August 1, the company is in danger of having to pay newspapers, blogs and other publishers for the right to show even short snippets of news.

Publishers will have to go into Google’s News tools page to agree to be indexed by Google News. Publishers who don’t do this will simply be removed from the index come August 1.

Many of Germany’s publishers had hoped to force Google to pay a licensing fee for their content, but today’s announcement does not even mention this. Instead, Google notes that it is saddened by the fact that it has to make this change. On its German blog, Google argues that Google News currently gets 6 billion visits per month and that, if anything, it’s providing a free service for publishers that brings them more traffic.

One of the main issues with the “Leistungsschutzrecht” (how’s that for a good German word?) — the ancillary copyright law that the German government passed after large protests earlier this year — is that it’s not clear when a “snippet” becomes a snippet. The law doesn’t feature a clear definition of how long a snippet actually is (140 characters? 160? 250?).

Google always argued that the new law was neither necessary nor useful and that it wouldn’t pay for links and snippets. A number of major German publishers have already said that they will opt-in to being featured in Google News, but there is a good chance that quite a few will decide that they don’t need the traffic.

It then makes you wonder what will eventually happen here in the US, with more and more newspapers going to paywall subscription services…and what that means for bloggers and news-aggregate or RSS services.

Deep in the heart of Texas via Policy Mic: Texas Passed Abortion Laws In a Special Session, Because Trampling On Women’s Rights Can’t Wait

Late Tuesday night, the Texas Senate advanced anti-abortion legislation known as SB5, raising serious concerns for the future of abortion clinics in Texas. Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to discuss redistricting issues which arose from the 2011 court rulings that deemed Texas’ redistricting as discriminatory. SB5 passed 20-10 in the Texas Senate, leading way to a vote in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives in Texas.

The bill includes many provisions to limit women’s access to health care resources in Texas. The bill would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy with one or two exceptions. In addition, the bill also would require abortions to be conducted in ambulatory surgical centers by doctors with admitting privileges. These surgical centers have to be within a 30-mile radius of a hospital near the clinic. Furthermore, the bill would ban telemedicine, which would require doctors to only give abortion-pill prescriptions in person and not via telecommunications such as Skype or other means.

This provision would endanger all but five clinics in Texas, severely limiting women’s access to healthcare options and limting their right to choose. This is in line with what Governor Perry and some other Republican state sentors have said about reshaping a “Culture of Life” in Texas. Such provisions have been said to “reshape the landscape” in the state, as fewer clinics and longer distances to reach them will make it far more difficult for women in many parts of Texas to obtain abortion if they choose to.

And the latest on the Paula Deen mess:

[VIDEO] Paula Deen Apologizes but Food Network does not renew her contract.

They are lining up to stuff their mouths and support Deen In Savannah, Many Defend Paula Deen From Critics – NYTimes.com

This video explains the situation down in Brazil, give it a look see if you have some time.

The next few links revolve around one photo I saw yesterday on Reuters. Photos of the week | Reuters.com

FireShot Screen Capture #476 - 'Photos of the week I Reuters_com' - www_reuters_com_news_pictures_slideshow_articleId=USRTX10WII#a=3

The caption reads:

A submerged statue of the Hindu Lord Shiva stands amid the flooded waters of river Ganges at Rishikesh in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, India, June 17, 2013.
REUTERS/Stringer

When I saw this image, it immediately made me think of an image from an old movie…from 1939. I will show you the image shortly. The film was called The Rains Came, according to TCM:

The Rains Came (1939) A lavish and expensive prestige picture, budgeted at $2.5 million, and based on a critically acclaimed novel, The Rains Came (1939) stars Tyrone Power as an Indian doctor in the mythical city of Ranchipur, India. He begins an affair with a married British noblewoman (Myrna Loy) until a massive flood, earthquake and plague disrupt everyone’s lives. To complement its huge star Tyrone Power, Twentieth Century-Fox borrowed Myrna Loy and director Clarence Brown from MGM, and George Brent from Warner Brothers. Rounding out the cast is a splendid roster of supporting players including Maria Ouspenskaya, Henry Travers, Jane Darwell, H.B. Warner and Nigel Bruce (cast against type).

It’s Power’s show all the way, however, as he is costumed stunningly in outfits ranging from turbans and satins to military uniforms and hospital whites. Power’s most significant co-star here is probably the special effects, which won the first-ever Oscar® in that category. The picture was also nominated for five further Academy Awards: Art Direction, Black-and-White Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound, and Musical Score.

You can see the first scene in the film here at this link, in it you will see the statue that mimics the image in the Reuters photograph above.

Rainscame1

“The Cast Iron Petticoat”

Rains Came, The (1939) — (Movie Clip) Cast Iron Petticoat

From the opening scene, Brit artist Ransome (George Brent) and local doctor Major Safti (Tyrone Power) discuss the former’s inertia and the state of contemporary India, a missionary mother and daughter (Marjorie Rambeau, Brenda Joyce) visiting, in The Rains Came, 1939, co-starring Myrna Loy.

FireShot Screen Capture #472 - 'Пришли дожди _ The Rains Came _1939_ — Видео@Mail_Ru' - video_mail_ru_mail_armog68_RETRO__FILMS2_24949_html

This statue of Queen Victoria later becomes one of the iconic images in a film that was loaded with advance special effects and cinematography…from the TCM link above:

Cinematographer Arthur Miller had plenty of fascinating recollections about The Rains Came, too. He was asked to replace Bert Glennon early in production because Glennon was not lighting the sets the way Brown wanted. For a grand dinner-party scene, for instance, Brown wanted the furniture and dcor to shine, “and Glennon had made it shadowy and soft.” Miller got the brilliant, shiny look Brown was after by spraying the tables and other furniture with oil, and having the silverware polished over and over until everything glistened. “When the old Maharajah died and the veil over the bed blew a little in the wind, I made the whole scene glow as vividly as possible, to suggest a spiritual, transcendent quality.”

Miller had photographed Myrna Loy once before, on The Truth About Youth (1930), and he knew some of her tics. He described one exchange which says much about how stars of the time tried to control the technical aspects of their on-screen appearance: “She asked me before we did the test to have a matchbox light with a red gelatin on it shine in her eyes with fifteen candle power. I thought, ‘What the hell was the use of that when I already had hundreds of watts shining on her anyway?’ And I asked her what she wanted it for. And she said, ‘It makes my eyes dark.’ Crazy, of course, but I jiggled it around for her and whether she had the light and the gelatin on it or not didn’t make any difference! It was all hokum; stars get that way. Luckily, she accepted my point that the light she wanted had no sense, and from then on we got along O.K.

“But oddly enough, I did use the red gelatin once. It’s when she takes a drink in the hospital and you know she’s become infected with a disease and her face fills with shadows. I just wanted a special kind of look in her face, as though death is coming over her and she doesn’t know it. And the gelatin was wonderful for that.”

Miller continued: “I became obsessed with rain on that picture; I was always amazed when I left the studio that it wasn’t raining. I hate movie rain that falls straight down, and I know that rain never does; it always falls at an angle. I made the prop department adjust the spouts accordingly. I even shot the raindrops so they seemed much larger. You never saw such water in your life! Brent and the others took a hell of a beating on the picture. There was one scene when Nigel Bruce and his manservant were on the landing of their house and the water rushed in and ‘drowned’ them in one shot, without a cut. And in fact the actors actually took the full force of that, and even had bits of the set flying on to them! They risked their lives, even though the material was balsawood; if it had hit them the wrong way it would have killed them instantly…

“One trouble with the way they handle rain today…is that they don’t backlight it. You have to backlight rain or you don’t see it; it’s just a blur. And all the way in my picture the rain shines; it was the theme of the film.”

Beautiful, that is what the film is.

There is another post, from the blogMatte Shot that looks at how the film makers actually shot some of the sequences in this movie: Matte Shot – a tribute to Golden Era special fx: December 2010 Fred Sersen burns Chicago and floods Ranchipur – the effects shots from IN OLD CHICAGO and THE RAINS CAME  I will give you a quote from the section that deals with The Rains Came:

An invisible matte shot that features early on in the proceedings.  Truly a testament to the skills of the matte painter.

And here is that same matte being painted by Hector Serbaroli.  I’d like to compliment the effects cameraman for this shot too as the composite is flawless and at no time would one suspect a trick is being played on us the viewer. *Photo from the collection of Joseph Serbaroli

You need to go to the blog Matte Shot and read that post to fully understand the work behind these “old school” special effects, which I think looks way better than some of the CG shit coming out today.

Anyway, I want to show you the two photos side by side, so you can see why I thought of that specific shot from this old 1939 movie…

Photos of the week I Reuters_com' - www_reuters_com_news_pictures_slideshow_articleId=USRTX10WII#a=3

FireShot Screen Capture #473 - 'Пришли дожди _ The Rains Came _1939_ — Видео@Mail_Ru' - video_mail_ru_mail_armog68_RETRO__FILMS2_24949_html

Anyway, here are the rest of the links….after the jump and yes, I am sticking with the movies for a little longer.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Spring Ahead already?

b55b3da77169bac66e68b8fa992cc7e3Good Morning

Did you set your clocks ahead?

Oh, this time change always gets me. In fact, my head is killing me…so this is going to be a strictly link dump post.

Set clocks ahead for daylight saving time

Spring must be around the corner. It’s time to set the clocks forward for daylight saving time.

At 2 a.m. local time Sunday, daylight saving time arrives with the promise of many months ahead with an extra hour of evening light.

You lose an hour of sleep, but make sure to turn the clock ahead — spring forward — before heading to bed Saturday night to avoid the panic of a late rise.

It’s also a good time to put new batteries in warning devices such as smoke detectors and hazard warning radios.

Isn’t this whole clock thing happening earlier than usual?

Moving on, Harriet Tubman park to be on Maryland land she worked as a slave | Reuters

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s struggle to help roughly 70 slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad was remembered on Saturday at the groundbreaking of a Maryland state park in her honor.

An escaped slave herself, Tubman toiled in bondage on the land that will soon be the 17-acre Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park on the eastern shore of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

Construction of the park on open marshland and forests in Dorchester County marks the 100-year anniversary of the abolitionist leader’s death.

It also coincides with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile drive with more than 30 historical stops related to Tubman’s early life and the Underground Railroad. Highlights include the Mason-Dixon Line, a one-room school, a historic village store with artifacts from the 1800s and, eventually, the new Harriet Tubman park itself.

“I think the byway is awesome, because we’re connecting the dots again. We’re telling the complete story,” said Patricia Ross-Hawkins, 51, a distant relative of Tubman who spoke to the crowd of more than 200 people at Saturday’s celebration. The morning’s events included singing by a local Baptist church choir, a theatrical speech by a Harriet Tubman re-enactor and remarks from Govenor Martin O’Malley.

“It’s been a long time coming but it’s here,” she said.

This next link is something I found earlier in the week.  Did the Man who Tried to buy our Presidential Election Get rich by Bribing Communist China? (Engelberg) | Informed Comment

Stephen Engelberg writes at ProPublica

Last week’s admission by Sheldon Adelson’s casino company that it had “likely” violated provisions of the federal law barring U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials raises some intriguing questions. Chief among them: Which transactions by Las Vegas Sands and its far-flung subsidiaries are at issue?

Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, came to public prominence during the 2012 campaign, when he and his wife Miriam donated at least $98 million to various candidates and groups. Included was $30 million for the Restore Our Future super PAC that supported Mitt Romney and $20 million to Winning Our Future, a super PAC that backed Newt Gingrich. Late in the campaign, Adelson asserted that federal investigators had targeted his company because of his political activity.

I don’t know about you all, but I sure miss seeing Hillary’s name in the news.

Hillary Clinton Ate Hot Chili Peppers To Keep Her Going

Exactly how did the most traveled Secretary of State in history, Hillary Rodham Clinton, keep up with her strenuous schedule? According to biographer Kim Ghattas, it was hot chili peppers.

In an interview posted on Thursday, Ghattas discussed her upcoming book, “The Secretary,” with Politico, citing how Clinton “eats those hot chilis that make you sweat.”

“It wakes you up,” Ghattas said. “It flushes your system, maybe from whatever viruses are there.”

Clinton has been a hot pepper popper for years, starting back in 1992. She often talked up her heat habit in her 2008 presidential campaign.

Comets and asteroids have been in the news a lot lately…

Comet Pan-STARRS: Bright comet will be visible starting around March 8.

Comet Pan-STARRS, photographed by Phil Hart

Comet Pan-STARRS on Mar. 3, 2013, from Victoria, Australia. This shot, by Phil Hart, is one of the best pictures I’ve seen of it.
Image credit: Phil Hart

Northern Hemisphereans, alert! The kinda-sorta-maybe bright comet Pan-STARRS will soon be visible low in the west after sunset. The best dates to look will be Mar. 12 and 13, when the very thin crescent Moon will guide you. You’ll need binoculars to pick it out of the twilight sky, but comets this bright are rare, and you should give it a shot.

Icy Ball

Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (hence the odd name). At discovery it was incredibly faint, just 19th magnitude—the faintest star you can see with your eye is still 150,000 times brighter than the comet was at the time!

Animation showing the discovery images of the comet.

Animation showing the discovery
images of the comet taken by the
Pan-STARRS observatory.
Click to encomanate.
Image credit: Henry Hsieh, PS1SC

The comet is non-periodic, a fancy way of saying this is the first time it’s dropped into the inner solar system. There is a reservoir of trillions of such iceballs far, far past Neptune, called the Oort cloud (named after Jan Oort, the Dutch astronomer who was one of the first to predict its existence). Pan-STARRS has been falling from this distant region for a long, long time, perhaps millions of years, and is now approaching the Sun on its incredibly outstretched orbit.

It reaches perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the Sun) on Mar. 10, and then begins the long climb back out again. It has brightened considerably over the past couple of years as it’s neared both the Sun and Earth, and by Mar. 12 should be at least as bright as 2nd magnitude, about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. It could get even brighter.

In other space news:  Slight Chance Comet Could Hit Mars in 2014, NASA Says | Space.com

Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will come within about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) of Mars in October 2014, according to the latest estimate from the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The trajectory of 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is still not known well enough to rule out a dramatic comet collision with Mars, though that could change.

“At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded,” JPL officials wrote in an update today (March 5). “However, since the impact probability is currently less than one in 600, future observations are expected to provide data that will completely rule out a Mars impact.”

And I will end this post with a little history lesson…

From Islam to Christianity: the Case of Sicily

Introduction: The history of high medieval Sicily bears all the hallmarks of a regional crossroads which, between the 9th and 11th centuries, exchanged hands between three major civilizations. The island’s political upheavals, military confrontations, social change and cultural transformations read like an index page to central Mediterranean history. The fall of Muslim Palermo to the Norman conquerors in 1072 was a landmark in the high medieval wave of Latin Christian expansion across the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the island’s Muslim rulers was completed within twenty years of the fall of the capital city, but the last Muslims of Sicily left the island one hundred and eighty years later, towards the end of Frederick II’s reign. Beyond the formal political chronology, three, more or less equal, yet distinct epochs, mark the transition from Muslim to Latin Christian Sicily: 1072 to 1130, during which period the Norman conquest of the island, launched in 1060, became first a feasible reality, then a political fact consolidated with the establishment of the Regno; 1130 to 1190, when the relationship between the island’s Christian rulers and inhabitants and the subject Muslim populations was gradually entrenched in terms of feudal bondage; and 1190 to 1250, which was marked by Muslim armed resistance, the setting up of a rebel polity under the last Muslim leader of Sicily, and Frederick II’s ‘extermination’ of Islam.

You can click here to read this article from Cliohres.


Ooooo, just what we need…

raise itGood evening…

Many of you may have already seen a transcript of Obama’s inaugural address. If you haven’t, I have a bunch of links for you to check out…It is various thoughts from different people and you may find it interesting. (I realize there was an earlier post on the speech, but these are different links.)

President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address [w/ video] | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

The Volokh Conspiracy » Jefferson Lives!

Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall | emptywheel

Obama’s Startling Second Inaugural – James Fallows – The Atlantic

3 Words Of Advice For Obama From Regular Americans

The Tuskegee Airmen Define Patriotism

Pictures: Bill & Hillary Clinton at the Inauguration « Still4Hill

GOP Lawmakers Tweet Nothing But Nice Words For Obama On Inauguration Day | Mediaite

Another shooting, this one could have been even worse, if the killer was not talked out of carrying out his plan.

New Mexico man allegedly killed by son was prison minister, friend says

New Mexico Teenager Is Charged With Killing His Family

New Mexico teen accused of killing family wanted to kill more, police say

Meanwhile, on the red planet… Study: Mars could have held watery underground oases for life

Mars McLaughlin Crater

This image of Mars’ McLaughlin Crater shows evidence of layers of clay and carbonate, signs of the presence of water. (University of Arizona/JPL / January 21, 2013)

And one last link, ‘Adventurous human woman’ wanted to give birth to Neanderthal man by Harvard professor

They’re usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species.

So what woman would want to give birth to a Neanderthal baby?

Yet this incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world’s leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man’s long-extinct close relative back to life.

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.

His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church’s ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.

He said: ‘Now I need an adventurous female human.

‘It depends on a hell of a lot of things, but I think it can be done.’

Want a laugh, check out the comments….
This is an open thread.

Sunday Reads: Full Moons and Uranus

Good Morning

There has been a lot of “space” news this weekend. So our first few links will focus on the skies…Did you see the Harvest Moon last night? What was interesting about this Harvest Moon was its relationship to Uranus. (Ha….) No Seriously! If you missed it, here is a video from the SLOOH space camera.

When you gaze at the full moon this weekend, think of farmers working late into the evening to gather their crop, because that’s how the Harvest Moongot its name.

The Harvest Moon allows farmers at the peak of the current harvest season to stay in the fields longer than usual, working by the moon‘s light. It rises around sunset, but also — and more importantly — the moon seems to appear at nearly the same time each successive night.

Uranus Rings Tilted
Near-infrared views of Uranus reveal its otherwise faint ring system, highlighting the extent to which the planet is tilted.
CREDIT: Lawrence Sromovsky, (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison), Keck Observatory

Uranus’ atmosphere is dominated primarily by hydrogen and helium, with a small amount of methane that gives the “ice giant” its bluish-green tint. The planet has a ring system and 27 known moons. It’s also tilted so far that it essentially orbits the sun on its side; researchers think the planet may have been knocked askew by a collision with another large body long ago.

If skywatchers wish to see Uranus through their own telescopes Saturday night, they should scan just below the moon and look for the only green “star” in the field of view, Slooh officials said.

Hmmmm, I never thought Uranus would be described as a bright green light in the night sky. (Okay I am being way to infantile here.)

In other worlds news, Curiosity found an old river bed on Mars. NASA Rover Finds Old Streambed on Martian Surface – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence — images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels — is the first of its kind.

Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream’s flow.

Best View of Goulburn Scour

“From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep,” said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. “Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we’re actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it.”

Go check out all the photos and more information at that link to Nasa’s JPL site.

Now on to some news from our own Earthly planet.

First let’s go with a bit of intimidation….there is a woman who is getting a first hand look at an Attack from the PLUBs, I think I would prefer Martians any day. Intimidation: Now It’s a First Amendment Right! | RH Reality Check

For anti-choicers, the right to freedom of speech is like a game of Calvin-ball, the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip “sport” in which all rules could be revised, changed, updated, and discarded depending on what it took to win. They claim that freedom of speech trumps literally every other right, as long as it is done under the guise of “saving babies.”

It’s “freedom of speech,” for example, to “inconvenience” Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh by picketing her home. Tosh told the WinterPark, Florida, city council that she felt “threatened and ambushed” when anti-choicers picketed her home, and the council passed a short-term ordinance forbidding assembly on a residential property.

Of course, there were some folks who disagreed with this action.

 After all, it was just one woman being intimidated. In an op-ed written by the Florida Sentinel, the paper argues:

Winter Park modeled its measure after ordinances that already had passed constitutional muster, so we aren’t arguing legal merits. But we do question the knee-jerk response to a single citizen’s complaint—precipitated by the distribution of pro-life handouts and, nearly a week later, some nonviolent picketing. And we question the need for a new law when laws exist to protect citizens against protests that grow unruly. And we question why government officials are so quick to crack down on freedom of speech. Imagine the outcry if commissioners had tried to go after the Second Amendment. Having to push past protesters toting signs that read “Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women” certainly is unpleasant. We sympathize with her. However, her need to avoid disturbing, anti-abortion expressions outside her home shouldn’t trump the rights of the many to exercise their First Amendment rights within public areas in residential areas.

Is it merely “unpleasant” to have people picket your neighborhood in a group, using your name and calling you a baby-killer? Does making someone feel unsafe in her own home not matter if it somehow infringes on the right of a group to make that person feel intimidated? And where exactly do “free speech” advocates draw the line for what constitutes “unruly?”

The article also mentions the courts reactions to these intimidation tactics.

it seems as though courts are bending over backwards toignore the physical intimidation involved in many of the anti-choice protesters’ activities. In a recent FACE act case involving an anti-choice activist at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the judge decided that touching an escort is just another way of expressing “freedom of speech.”

“In his attempt to continue talking to the patient, [anti-choice "sidewalk counselor" David Hamilton ‘pushed [clinic escort Jane Fitts's] arm down slightly,’” [U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman] found.

But the judge said the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), requires the prosecution to show Hamilton used force with the intent to injure or intimidate someone because that person was seeking or providing reproductive health services.

There are questions for a jury concerning whether any contact “was used intentionally to injure, intimidate, or interfere” and “whether Fitts was indeed providing reproductive health services.”

The judge suggested it was possible that Fitts was not an “escort” at all but would be “more accurately characterized as a counter-protester.”

“U.S. courts are charged with protecting the freedoms of all American citizens,” said Cody. “Sidewalk counselors have the same rights as other people.”

How is pushing an escort’s arm down in order to make contact with a patient trying to access abortion services not an attempt to “interfere” with or “intimidate” both the escort and the woman seeking a termination?

Anti-choicers don’t appear to “have the same rights as other people.” They claim more rights, supra-rights, a secretly granted set of rights that appear to trump the rights of those who seek reproductive health care, those who provide it, and those who assist in ensuring the first two can meet each other without hindrance. If the right to freedom of speech outweighs the pursuit of happiness—i.e.: the ability to access care, the ability to walk the streets without unwanted physical contact, the right to feel safe in your own home, then how does anyone else have any freedom at all?

(I thought that was a great post btw…that was why I used so much of it.)

Hey if not intimidation, lets talk disenfranchised voters?  Warning, this link goes to Fox News…but I thought it was an interesting spin on the Voter ID laws and the push from the GOP to make it hard as hell for Dems to “get out the vote.”  Drop in Ohio voter registration, especially in Dem strongholds, mirrors nationwide trend | Fox News

Speaking of party lines…The Bottom Line on Party ID | TPM Editors Blog  That link will take you to a short post with a rather big graph. Take a look, it is interactive!

There is a real good post on Juan Cole this morning, written by Alice K. Ross:  Obama set precedent with Drone Killings for Romney to become Terminator-in-Chief (Ross) | Informed Comment

President Obama’s personal involvement in selecting the targets of covert drone strikes means he risks effectively handing a ‘loaded gun’ to Mitt Romney come November, says the co-author of a new report aimed at US policymakers.

‘If Obama leaves, he’s leaving a loaded gun: he’s set up a programme where the greatest constraint is his personal prerogative. There’s no legal oversight, no courtroom that can make [the drone programme] stop. A President Romney could vastly accelerate it,’ said Naureen Shah, associate director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at the Columbia Law School.

That is just a taste, you go read the rest of it at the link.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution broke the story about the cheating scandal last year, they have a new investigative report that you should read.

More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test…

The stain of cheating spread unchecked across 44 Atlanta schools before the state finally stepped in and cleaned it up. But across the country, oversight remains so haphazard that most states cannot guarantee the integrity of their standardized tests, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found.

Poor oversight means that cheating scandals in other states are inevitable. It also undermines a national education policy built on test scores, which the states and local districts use to fire teachers, close schools and direct millions of dollars in funding.

The AJC’s survey of the 50 state education departments found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. And most states make almost no attempt to screen test results for irregularities.

Please take a look at that article.

I was going to post a link to this post from WhoWhatWhere, but Susie Madrak also read it and wrote about it…so here is her take on the piece. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Nuclear Standoff With Iran | Crooks and Liars

Over at WhoWhatWhy.com, Christian Stork has a thorough analysis debunking the most common myths propagated about the West’s nuclear stand-off with Iran. It’s all so familiar, isn’t it? I know if I think really hard, I can figure it out. Oh, wait – it’s just like the buildup to both wars in Iraq! And of course both times, the media did their best stenography impression.

That’s why stories like this are so important. In his “Idiot’s Guide to Iran and the Bomb,” Stork lists 8 important lessons for all people to keep in mind when surveying the media landscape around Iran’s nuclear program.

[...]

The first lesson taught, with exhaustive documentation, is that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. Considering how hard the mainstream media is working to convince us otherwise, it might be hard to grasp. But that’s why stories like this tutorial are needed. Click here to see the rest of what Stork calls his “introductory course in intellectual self-defense”

Go and check it out.

I will end this post with a couple of articles about history, I know Dakinikat will like this first a story about an ancient burial site in Denmark.

Ancient burial shroud offers up surprise

The National Museum of Denmark

This 2,800-year-old Lusehoj textile made from imported nettles was found in a grave along with the bones from what may be a Scandinavian man, scientists reported on Friday.

Ancient scraps of fabric found in a grave in Denmark are not made of cultivated flax as once believed, but instead are woven from imported wild nettles, suggesting the grave’s inhabitant may have traveled far for burial.

This discovery, announced Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, casts a new light on the textile trade in Bronze Age Europe, said study researcher Ulla Mannering, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen.

“Since the Stone Age, they had very well-developed agriculture and technology for producing linen textiles,” Mannering told LiveScience. “So it’s really unusual that a society which has established agriculture would also take in material from things that are not of the normal standardized agricultural production” — in other words, wild plants.

[...]

“The fibers we get from the European nettle are very, very fine and soft and shiny, and we often say this is a sort of prehistoric silk textile,” Mannering said. (Silk, made from insect cocoons, is known for its shimmery texture.)

Previous analysis pegged the Danish fabric as woven from flax, a plant widely cultivated in the region. But along with nanophysicist Bodil Holst of the University of Bergen in Norway, Mannering and her colleagues used advanced methods to reanalyze the scraps of cloth. By studying the fiber orientation as well as the presence of certain crystals found in plants, the researchers were able to learn that the fabric is not flax at all, but nettle, a group of plants known for the needlelike stingers that line their stems and leaves.

Nor is the nettle local, Mannering said. Different soil regions contain different variations of elements. The variation of one of these elements, strontium, found in the fabric, was not local to Denmark, suggesting the plants the textile was made from grew elsewhere.

There are a few regions that match the strontium profile, the researchers found, but the most likely candidate is southwest Austria. The bronze burial urn holding the remains is from Austria, Mannering said, and it makes sense that the fabric might be too.

Hey, what do you know… he was a traveling man?

Despite these imported grave goods, the remains appear to be those of a Danish man, Mannering said. The personal objects in the grave, such as two razors, suggest he was a Scandinavian, albeit perhaps a well-traveled one, she said.

“Maybe he died in Austria and was wrapped in this Austrian urn and Austrian textile and was brought back to Denmark in this condition and then put in a big burial mound,” Mannering said. “The personal objects that were placed inside the urn together with this textile and the bones indicate that he is a male of Scandinavian origin, but it doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have died abroad.”

And, lastly this blast from the past….my son will be very excited about this link…he loves the Beatles. I think many of you will appreciate it too.  October 1962: the month that modern culture was born

Photo of Beatles

The Beatles at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, in 1962. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

On 5 October 1962, a new sound filled the nation’s airwaves. It was raw, simple, direct and sexy. “Love, love me do,” sang Lennon and McCartney, “You know I love you.” The Beatles had arrived, and a new generation had a new soundtrack to their lives. Seventeen years after VE Day and VJ Day, the war was finally over. Nothing – in culture, in society, in the everyday world itself – would ever be quite the same again.

When, exactly, did the 1960s began? Was it when JFK announced he was running for president (31 January 1960)? When Harold Macmillan acknowledged “the winds of change” sweeping through colonial Africa (3 February)? Or when the chain-smoking Princess Margaret announced her engagement to a commoner, photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones, on 26 February? Or was it when Kennedy finally won the US election, by a whisker, on 9 November?

Some would go further, and deny that any kind of transition occurred until the new American president had, thrillingly, been sworn in on the icy-blue morning of 20 January 1961. Until then, they say, the west was still in the grip of the sclerotic gerontocracy represented by Eisenhower and Khrushchev. One thing is certain: the 1950s took a while to pass into the limbo of lost time.

Enjoy that article, and have a wonderful Sunday Morning!


Sunday Reads: Don’t like spiders or snakes, you fool…

Good Morning…

Yesterday was a crazy day for me, our car broke down, and it cost more to fix it than it was worth…so we ended spending most of Saturday in a dealer showroom. It was excruciating.

Then last night we had a candlelight vigil for my friend Derrick, who was killed last year. That was both upsetting and emotional…

So I’m writing this post blind, and hope that these links are not repeats for ya.

The latest news out of Chicago: Thousands Gather in Support of Chicago Teachers

the first teacher strike this city has seen in 25 years, a rally — not quite victory party, not quite vitriolic protest — was roaring just miles away.

Thousands of people, the largest celebration of union force since the strike began nearly a week ago, shook homemade protest signs in the air and wore the signature red T-shirts of the Chicago Teachers Union as they descended on Union Park, just west of downtown. The city skyline rose behind a stage from which a lineup of politicians, teachers, students and activists spoke about union strength and the need for better school conditions in the city.

They may be close to an agreement, or at least getting down to the nitty gritty, according to the Chicago Tribune:  Teacher rally as lawyers labor over details

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis becomes emotional Saturday as she greets supporters at a rally at Union Park. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune / September 15, 2012)

Thousands of teachers from Chicago and beyond rallied at a Near West Side park Saturday as lawyers labored into the night at a Loop office to turn a framework for a new contract into finer points that can become a deal.

Parents can expect to wait until Sunday afternoon or later to find out whether their children will return to class Monday morning after missing a week of school because of the Chicago Teachers Union strike. Hundreds of union leaders are supposed to meet Sunday for a potential vote that could end the walkout.

While attorneys talked terms in private, the Saturday afternoon rally was filled with very public symbolism. Out-of-state teachers traveled to Union Park in solidarity with a city teachers union that has attracted national attention as organized labor looks for lessons in a fight with cash-strapped government.

After last night’s vigil, we went to eat at one of the local chicken joints…and Fox news was blazing away on the big screens. By the looks of all those “Fox News alerts” something big was going on.  Via HuffPo US orders some diplomats out of Sudan, Tunisia

The State Department on Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential U.S. government personnel from its embassies in Sudan and Tunisia and warned U.S. citizens against any travel to the two countries due to security concerns over rising anti-American violence.

“Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens,” said department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

In Tunisia, the warning advised Americans that the international airport in Tunis is open and encouraged all U.S. citizens to depart on commercial flights. It said Americans who chose to remain in Tunisia should use extreme caution and avoid demonstrations. On Friday, protesters climbed the walls into the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, torching cars in the parking lot, trashing the entrance building and setting fire to a gym and a neighboring American school that is now unusable.

In Sudan, the warning said that while the Sudanese government has taken steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, some remain and have threatened to attack Western interests. The terrorist threat level remains “critical” throughout Sudan, the department said. It noted that U.S. officials are already required to travel in armored vehicles and to get permission to travel outside Khartoum, where crowds torched part of the German Embassy and tried to storm the U.S. Embassy on Friday.

They are reporting some holdup in deploying the Marines because of the Sudan Government.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked the phones on Saturday, calling top officials from seven countries to discuss the situation following a wave of protest and violence over an anti-Muslim film that has swept across the Middle East and elsewhere in recent days. An obscure, amateurish movie called “Innocence of Muslims” that depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a pedophile sparked the outrage.

I will post some updates in the comments below, it seems things are not cooling off any time soon.

The rest of today’s links will be on the human interest side.  Mars has been in the news a lot this week, check it out, from Geekosystem:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Shows It Snows Dry Ice on Mars

While Curiosity has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention lately, it’s worth remembering that everyone’s favorite rover isn’t the only one doing cool stuff with Mars. When it’s not getting some glamour shots of its ground-based cousin, the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter (MRO) is still finding out all sorts of neat things about our nearest sibling in the solar system, like confirming the suspicion that Mars has instances in which it snows dry ice — carbon dioxide that has frozen at temperatures below -193 degrees Fahrenheit.

The super-cold snowfall takes place at the Martian poles, where solid dry ice has been known to exist for some time. It has never been observed as falling snow, though, so its origins, though suspected, remained uncertain. Not anymore, though. Analysis of clouds of CO2 imaged by the MRO in the Martian winter of 2006-2007 demonstrates that in addition to familiar, hydrogen dioxide snow, which was seen on the planet in 2008 by the Phoenix lander, the red planet gets snowstorms of frozen carbon dioxide.

Cool innit?

Also, from Mars, this time from the Opportunity Rover:

The above picture may not look like much, but it could be a huge deal. The photograph, taken by the Opportunity Rover at Mars’ Cape York site, shows iron spherules that researchers commonly refer to as “blueberries.” Similar formations are found here on Earth. The catch is that, here, they are formed with help from microbial organisms, suggesting that these unassuming iron marbles could be a telltale sign of ancient life on the red planet.

Typically just a couple millimeters across, iron blueberries are a pretty standard part of the Martian landscape, found on the ground of the Cape York site where Opportunity is doing its research or embedded in rock. They bear a distinct resemblance to the “Moqui marbles” found around the American southwest. Ranging in size rom BB pellets to cannonballs, Moqui marbles are not unlike geological M&Ms, consisting of a thin iron shell filled will sand.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Geology found strong evidence that the marbles are not a purely geological oddity, but were formed with an assist from microbes. That finding is a strong suggestion that the Moqui marbles’ Martian cousins may be a good candidate for indicators that Mars once sustained microbial life.

It looks like coral to me. ;)

This next history, archeology, science link is really interesting…King Tut Death: Epilepsy Killed Boy King Tutankhamun, New Theory Suggests Wow, as someone who suffers from epilepsy, it is strange to see how they have developed this new theory.

A British surgeon is touting a new theory regarding what killed King Tut, the Egyptian pharaoh who died at 19 and whose life and death have fascinated the public since his tomb was discovered in 1922.

[...]

People have attributed the cause of death to murder, a fall from a chariot that led to a fractured leg and even a hippopotamus attack. But according to Hutan Ashrafian, a surgeon at Imperial College London, Tut suffered from a hereditary form of epilepsy, the Washington Post reports.

Ashrafian said Tut’s supposed feminine features — the king has been depicted in statues and renderings as having had breasts and wide hips — are signs that he had a form of epilepsy that affects the temporal lobe, which is known to be involved with hormone release. The disease might be to blame for Tut’s death in addition to the deaths of several of his predecessors who died at young ages, Ashrafian claims.

Ashrafian also points to King Tut’s broken thigh bone, which he argues may have come from a fall during a seizure. The religious hallucinations Tut and his predecessors reportedly experienced were further evidence of the disease, Ashrafian told the Post, citing that seizures starting in the temporal lobe can result in such visions after sunlight exposure. The doctor reportedly came to these conclusions after reviewing family history of the king.

DNA studies have show that Tut suffered from malaria and a bone disorder that comes from inbreeding. (I could make a comment out Banjoville, but I won’t.)

Since the chests of both Tut and his father were missing, the researchers couldn’t definitively say whether or not Tut and his father had feminine features, which could suggest the presence of a genetic disorder.

However, the scientists noted that the mummies didn’t have signs of gynecomastia or Marfan syndrome, conditions that would result in the development of breasts in males. Some researchers theorized that representations of Tut and his father with breasts could reflect the belief that gods were androgynous.

According to Discovery News, however, German researchers later disputed the conclusions, instead suggesting that abnormalities in Tut’s foot were indicative of sickle-cell disease.

In 2005, researchers ruled out the murder theory after conducting CAT scans. They concluded that a bone fragment found Tut’s skull was from the mummification process rather than a blow to the head.

With the conclusion of that article I have to post this:

King Tut

Yes, it is a link to Steve Martin’s performance on SNL back in the seventies….

On to another cool dude, this time he is not wearing “jammies” he is sporting a bow tie, I am talking of course about Dr. Who…this American Prospect article by Amanda Marcotte discusses women on the new Dr. Who series: Bowties Are Cool, but So Are Kickass Female Characters

(AP Photo/ Donald Traill)

Actors Matt Smith and Karen Gillian are seen on location filming “Doctor Who” in New York on Wednesday, April 11, 2012.

For fans of the BBC’s reboot of the long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who, the beginning of season seven this September has a lot on offer so far: The Doctor in full badass hero form, a new potential sexy genius Companion, dinosaurs on spaceships, and Daleks, the villains that have been fan favorites since nearly the beginning of the series.

I wasn’t so crazy about the last remake, that doctor was too good looking and not “geeky” enough. I guess that is why I like the BBC’s latest version.  But as Marcotte points out, the role of women on the show is stereotypical female. The show is getting pushed into a new direction from Steven Moffat who took over the show this season.

has doubled down on tinkering with the show to make it more appealing to mainstream audiences. To do so, he decided to turn down the volume on sci-fi cheese and inject more story lines about love, family, and romance. While this idea appeals in the abstract to many feminists who want the world of sci-fi and fantasy to stop being so decidedly dudely, many feminists have strong objections to how Moffat went about it. His strategy was to take the Doctor’s new companion, a character role on the show that is traditionally all about wide-eyed curiosity and boundless courage, and turn her story line into one about getting married and having babies.

Ever since Amy Pond first set foot onscreen, feminist fans have complained that Moffat created a fun character, gave the role to off-the-charts charming actress Karen Gillan, and then turned her into a passive object whose main job is to be married off to her simpering boyfriend Rory Williams. To make it worse, the relationship fits neatly into what feminists have deemed the “nice guy” narrative: That if a man hangs in long enough and shows enough devotion, a woman is pretty much obliged to be with him, even if her heart isn’t in it. Last year, Sady Doyle wrote the definitive piece detailing feminist objections to any and all stories about the Pond marriage:

The moment the Doctor found out about Rory, the importance of time-traveling adventures decreased radically. Instead, the Doctor became a matchmaker and alien fairy godmother, single-mindedly devoted to making sure that Amy overcame her ambivalence about Rory and married him straight away. He referred to this process as “getting [Amy] sorted out.” From henceforth, both the Doctor and the show have been cramming every bony, whiny inch of Rory down our throats, in a doomed attempt to convince us that he is awesome.

Read the rest if you are a Dr. fan…or not. There needs to be some more kickass roles out there for women, obviously…no question about that, but I think you may find Marcotte’s take on the new female character interesting.

Finally, I hate spiders and snakes: Alien Snakes Help Spiders Overrun Guam

Yuk, this island is full of both!

he jungles of Guam have up to 40 times more spiders than do the forested areas of nearby Pacific islands thanks in part to the brown tree snake, according to a study published this week in the journal PLoS One.

The bird-devouring snake from northern Australia and nearby islands was introduced to Guam in the 1940s. The ravenous reptile became the dominant predator; bird numbers plummeted. By the 1980s, 10 of 12 native bird species had been wiped out, and the last two survive only in small areas, protected by intense snake-trapping.

Small-scale experiments show that areas without birds have more spiders – which makes sense, because birds eat spiders and the insects upon which spiders feed. But the sheer numbers of spiders found in Guam’s jungles were much greater than predicted by these small studies, suggesting the removal of birds from an entire forest can have unforeseen — and creepy — effects.

You can guess what those are, yes?

Study author Haldre Rogers, a researcher at Rice University in Houston, counted spiders throughout Guam’s jungles by counting spider webs (which correlate with spider population and are commonly used as a stand-in measurement).

The difference between the number of spiders Rogers and her colleagues counted on Guam and three nearby islands that still have birds “was far more dramatic than what any small-scale experiments had previously found,” she said in a statement from Rice.

“Anytime you have a reduction in insectivorous birds, the system will probably respond with an increase in spiders,” Rogers said. And she thinks this may be true elsewhere. “With insectivorous birds in decline in many places in the world, I suspect there has been a concurrent increase in spiders.”

That creeps me out, but it does lead me to the title of today’s post.

So y’all have a wonderful day, and please share what you are reading and thinking about this morning.