Thursday, February 28, 2013

Invisible Privilege

Just in time to piss all over Black History Month, right-wing nutbag and unjust Justice Antonin Scalia has characterized the Voting Rights Act as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement". Of course, normal people know that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought protections from impediments to voting that resulted in the disenfranchisement of black voters througout much of the country. By characterizing the right to vote as a "racial entitlement", Scalia denigrates the legacy of martyrs to the cause of civil rights such as James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. By characterizing the right to vote as an entitlement, Scalia denigrates the legacy of all of those who fought for the expansion of suffrage. Here is the text of Scalia's jaw-dropping statement:

Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.

The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.

Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.

That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.

Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?

The problem with straight white male male privilege is that it is invisible to its beneficiaries. Straight white males tend to think of themselves as the "default setting" for humanity. Because they are largely free from discrimination (it has to be noted that most attacks on white male privilege are conducted by white males from a higher socioeconomic stratum), straight white males often believe that members of minority groups are similarly unaffected by discrimination, which leads the straight white males to view any protections extended to minority groups as "perpetuation of racial entitlement".

Tragically, straight white males don't view minorities in a correct light- minorities serve as the "canaries in the coal mine"- attacks on minorities often presage attacks on other groups. For instance, the predatory lending practices which largely affected minority lenders soon spiraled out of control and affected white homeowners living in exurban areas. Similarly, poor treatment of minority employees in the workplace presaged wage stagnation and job insecurity for the majority of Americans. Sadly, Mr Whitefolks didn't look at what was going down in black households and see the threat: "Coming to a theater near you."

A white, male middle class individual may look at Scalia's characterization of the Voting Rights Act and think, "What's the big deal?" After all, nobody's thinking of disenfranchising white male voters. Women know better- more than one conservative has verbally attacked women's suffrage. While straight white guys don't see any threats to their franchise, such threats are not inconceivable- after all, the current political climate is one in which proposed legislation could give corporations the right to vote, and the average white male clockpuncher would not fare too well if his corporate paymasters really had their way.

Of course, the real solution to the issue of voting rights would be to make voting a constitutional right, and to explicitly extend the right to all citizens over the age of eighteen, to expand the scope of the Voting Rights Act rather than to drop it.

Scalia being a corporatist (and arguably a fascist, just like his old man), it is not inconceivable that, not being content with attacking the franchise of minorities, Scalia would attack the franchise of the average white working class schmo. White guys, open your eyes and see that you enjoy a privilege that other groups do not. Failure to recognize this, and failure to defend the minorities you believe are getting "racial entitlements" could lead to you losing your current privileges. Those black people in Alabama aren't leeches sucking to lifeblood out of the Republic, they're canaries keeling over- ignore them at your peril!

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Brain in Jar? A Bodiless Star!

Wiley posted part of an article about the preservation of brains after death:

I have been read­ing about the Brain Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion (BPF), which hopes that chem­i­cal and other meth­ods, includ­ing a refined ver­sion of plas­ti­na­tion, will enable brains to be pre­served with such fidelity that mem­o­ries, per­son­al­ity, and even iden­tity can be preserved.

This may well seem rem­i­nis­cent of the older cryo­genic preser­va­tion projects which have not always had a good press over recent years, though they still con­tinue to oper­ate and indeed have refined their processes some­what. But although the BPF also has a vision of bring­ing peo­ple back to life after their nat­ural death, it is in many ways a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish. It does not itself offer any kind of ser­vice but merely seeks to pro­mote research, and it does not expect to see a prac­ti­cal sys­tem for many years

Traditionally, attempts to preserve brains have been portrayed as sinister plots to prolong the depredations of evil dictators both terrestrial:

and intergalactic:

Sure, if you put an evil brain in a jar, you have an evil brain in a jar. Not a lot of good guys seem to get the treatment, with a memorable exception, and even then, he was just used as a glorified building superintendent:

Why wouldn't having your brain preserved outside of your body actually be a good thing? If the aliens want to put your brain in a jar and take it around to have interplanetary adventures, why fight it? Sure, it would suck to have your brain stuck in some facility on a remote planet running the sewer system, but it wouldn't be bad to have your brain taken along on jaunts to thirty-seven different celestial bodies—planets, dark stars, and less definable objects—including eight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved cosmos of space and time. Even better, maybe the Brain Preservation Foundation can preserve Taylor Swift's brain, so she can keep breaking up with dudes for millennia and writing songs about said breakups. Even better, Taylor Swift's preserved brain can be placed in a space probe so she could break up with every dude in the universe.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ingress? Ingress! Hit the Egress!

Mystery solved... My co-worker **REDACTED** managed to intercept one of the visitors who have been showing up at our workplace at odd hours and had this individual explain in detail what she was doing. It turns out I was wrong about these folks engaging in a "geocaching" or "waymarking". Our visitors are actually playing a massively multiplayer computer game that actually takes place in the real world, an "Augmented Reality" game (I tend to augment my reality with booze, myself) called Ingress. The game seems to be analogous to a "capture the flag", or maybe "king of the hill", game with two teams of players taking position of a particular area called a "portal" in the game. Well, one of these "portals" happens to be in our goddamn parking lot. Oddly, the game participants that my co-workers have met have seemed to assume that my co-workers were familiar with the game terminology, and confused the hell out of them with their talk of portals. Generally speaking, it's good to eschew jargon when talking to the mundanes, people.

At any rate, the participants don't seem to be aware that our parking lot is private property. Speaking for myself, I generally consider nightfall to be the time when I tell people they need to vamoose. The site is open to the public for a certain time of the year, for a certain number of hours a day. During the daylight hours, I usually approach people on the premises and give them a quick introduction to the site, and to our operations. At night, I'm usually less indulgent- people get a curt, but not rude, "Can I help you?" People who need assistance get it, others get the hint. Suffice it to say, people pulling into the lot late at night are not exactly greeted with open arms. It's usually a "get a hotel room" or "don't even think of trying to cop here". Last Saturday, at about quarter to midnight, when I arrived for the graveyard shift, there was an "Ingress" guy in the lot. Quarter to midnight? Beat it, man! Shouldn't you be out drinking, or meeting a nice girl? Wouldn't that be better than having a large, fierce looking man bark at you in a cold, dark parking lot on a Saturday night?

Here's a trailer for the game:

Here's an example of the gameplay:

This thing being a worldwide, massively multiplayer competitive game, I can envision this situation potentially turning into a weird nerd "turf war", with various team members lying in wait to retake the "portal" in our parking lot from their adversaries. Needless to say, I wrote the oddest memo of my entire worklife to the head of my department, complete with links to show him that I'm not delusional. I think the next step is to contact the moderators and request that they move the "portal" off our property. We have a really cool, really distinctive, destined-to-be-iconic landmark across the street from us, on public property. This landmark would be a perfect "portal", and there's plenty of street parking to boot. My co-worker already sent a complaint to the "Ingress" website, shouting to the ether that participants were on private property at odd hours. He's been the poor fellow who's had the most contact with the players.

I'm a fairly nerdy guy, as any regular reader could ascertain, but, like Dr Kenneth Noisewater, I find certain aspects of "Nerd Culture" to be exasperating- among them an occasional obtuseness towards societal norms which, among other things, can lead one to set foot on private property at a quarter to midnight. I don't need my reality augmented, I'm really just here trying to earn a modest paycheck. The last time my reality was augmented, things weren't pretty. Don't take it personally, Ingress players, like Rebecca Watson explaining to d00dz that they shouldn't make passes at women in enclosed spaces at 4AM, I'm trying to help you avoid getting arrested, or maced, or both.

When you play Ingress, don't transgress.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

At Last, Comes the Spring

I've had it with winter- last Friday morning, working during the wee hours, I was wearing five layers of clothes to cover my "core" during my outdoor forays, due to the cold and the fierce wind. Thankfully, the wind has died down and the cold has somewhat abated. More significantly, I heard the distinctive trill of the red-winged blackbird this morning. Forget the woodchuck, the boid is the true harbinger of spring throughout much of North America.

Also on the bird front, the geese are very vocal, with large migratory flocks honking overhead. We always have a resident population of geese around here, taking advantage of the stretches of open water, but the migratory population has eclipsed the stay-at-home bunch. Oddly enough, the wiki indicates that Canada geese have been introduced to New Zealand... can I get a confirmation from a reputable Antipodean, preferably a science talking guy (or gal)? We also have some visiting Ring Necked Ducks and mergansers both hooded and common, but they tend to leave us as the weather gets warmer. While the juncos are with us year-round, they tend to be the most common small birds to stay the winter. You can recognize them by the flash of white seen at the edges of their tails as they fly off, the shy little things.

I'm looking forward to spring, though I'd be lying if I said that winter doesn't have its pleasures. I have the privilege of spending a lot of time outdoors, so I can observe the seasonal changes. The avian "changing of the guard" is one of my favorite ways to gauge the succession of seasons. Of course, I'll now have to check out the part of the property where the snowdrops come in... so many old friends to welcome back!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Still Got the Chops With the Old Axe

I'm really digging the new single by Johnny Marr, nee John Maher (Monsieur Marr changed the spelling of his surname, in part, to avoid being confused with fellow Manchester musician John Maher, the drummer for The Buzzcocks). Johnny Marr, whose jangly guitar sound was one of the defining characteristics of the music of legendary 80's britpop purveyors The Smiths becames a sought-after session musician and music producer. The new single, from a soon-to-be-released album The Messenger, is pure power pop... to put it in terms of "Manchester" bands, the music is more akin sonically to the music of The Buzzcocks than that of his old band, The Smiths, a band which, sadly, was never fronted by Foghorn Leghorn. Marr's voice is not as distinctive as the warblings of his former bandmate Stephen Patrick Morrissey, but it's a credible voice for a power pop anthem:

I wonder why Monsieur Marr didn't decide to become a frontman in his own right before now, but this move is better late than never, I suppose.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Seems Like a Charming Fellow

One of today's top local stories is the arrest of a local jackass who threatened various individuals on Facebook, including all of the "traitor scum" who voted for the Kenyan Usurper. Besides his "using Facebook to threaten millions of fellow citizens" hobby, he also indulged in the hobbies of driving while intoxicated, collecting weapons, and threatening his landlord. Like I said, a charming chap, a truly charming chap. For his bloviations, he's been charged with three felony counts of making terroristic threats, one count of felony weapons possession, two counts of misdemeanor weapons possession, and one count of harassment, a violation.

The "money quote" in the story is his landlady's characterization of the Facebook felon: In the end, she called Mulqueen “ineffectual, sort of the legend in his own mind. This was all the Internet, you know.”

Poking around the t00bz, it seems that this dumbass at least tried to get involved in a Tea Party group and considered himself a member of the "Sovereign Citizen" movement. Further poking reveals that he joined a local Tea Party group on January 26, 2012... how soon before the local teahadis claim he was a "liberal plant" who joined up in order to discredit the movement?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unexpected Guests

My workplace parking lot is adjacent to a main county road, and people occasionally pull into it after hours for various purposes. Usually, they are checking maps or GPS systems, or answering phone calls or text messages, in the decent weather, we sometimes get "visitors" who are too cheap to get a hotel room for their amatory endeavors. Once in a while, someone with car trouble will pull into the lot. In the wee hours of the morning, the local constabulary often parks in the lot, which gives them a good vantage on the main road.

Typically, I will approach a "strange" car in order to ascertain the intents and purposes of the occupants- I always preface a conversation with, "May I help you?" I like to let people know that I am not immediately hostile to their presence, but I won't brook any nonsense. Should the occupant(s) actually need assistance, directions given, help with a flat tire, I can typically get them on their way in a few minutes. If I can't be arsed approaching a car, I will bust out a two million candlepower spotlight we have on hand, and will shine it across the parking lot into the car. This technique, which one of my co-workers is inordinately fond of, invariably convinces people to leave the premises. Typically, though, I like to know who is on the premises at any given time and, more importantly, get them off the premises in timely fashion. I cut some slack during the blizzard for a local guy who parked his car in our lot overnight because the side streets were a mess, and I generally get contact information for anyone who cannot move their car due to mechanical problems.

In the past two weeks, we've had a strange trend. I haven't personally experienced it (I've been working the graveyard shift lately), but two of my co-workers related a half-dozen incidents in which people have stopped in our parking lot after hours, sometimes as late as 11PM, and have wandered around the parking lot, checking out their smartphones. All of these individuals have been similar demographically... all well-spoken males of similar age and ethnic background. As it turns out, all of these gentlemen belong to a geocaching or waymarking (I'm not sure which) club which has chosen coordinates in our parking lot for their "scavenger hunt". They're a nice bunch of harmless eccentrics, but it would have been good of them to let us know to expect a slow but steady stream of visitors at odd hours. At the very least, it would relieve them of having a gruff, no-nonsense employee growling "We're closed!" at them.

For details on geocaching, this is the go-to site, for waymarking, go here. If you get involved in the hobby, I'll probably see you within a few months, just don't take it personally if I growl at you if you arrive after dark.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Victory Imminent for Regulatory Neighsayers

I'm going to preface this post by stating emphatically that I like bistecca di cavallo as much as the next guy. That being said, knowing what I'm eating is important to me, so I've been following the European horse meat scandal pretty closely. It seems that one of the problems leading to the meat mixup is sourcing ground meat from multiple points of origin, as part of a Byzantine supply chain:

Some of the beef products sold in Britain went through five different suppliers in four countries before landing on supermarket shelves. The beef ingredient in just one frozen meal made by food giant Findus travelled through a processor in France, which bought it from a trader in Cyprus, who used a trader in the Netherlands who received it from two butchers in Romania.

In other cases meat from two slaughterhouses in Poland, where cattle and horses were slaughtered, followed a similar winding path through factories in France and Luxembourg and then on to grocery stores in Britain and Ireland. While the EU has strict rules about food labelling, enforcement is weak and penalties for mislabelling are considered light.

In many cases the food companies involved said they had no idea where the meat originated and most are now suing their suppliers who are suing their subcontractors.

This multi-mile meat meandering is a great argument for the locavore movement... it's always good to get to know the person who is handling your meat. At a minimum, I'd settle for accurate labeling of meat and meat by-products.

At any rate, the admixture of horsemeat with ground meat which was sold as beef was caught by Irish food inspectors who tested random samples of ground beef for the presence of equine adulterants. Here in the States, the budget sequestration could cause government meat inspectors to be furloughed. Basically, the "watchdogs" will be removed from the meat-packing plants, but there's no need to worry about the adulteration of meat products because the meat industry in the U.S. is on the level.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Here Be Monsters

In an ominous note, The Kenyan Usurper wishes to earmark three billion dollars to map brain activity. Besides the fact that this Brain Activity Mapping project, or BAM, has been narcissistically named after the president, a map of brain activity would pose a dire threat to conservatives. Conservatives tend to have larger, more active amygdalae than liberals- the amygdala is that portion of the brain which regulates emotions, such as fear. Because of their overly developed amygdalae and smaller anterior cingulate cortices, conservative thought tends to be limited to emotional outbursts, specifically rage, fear, and self-righteous indignation (and conservative "thinkers" are best characterized as idtellectuals- all lizard brain, baby). If the brain mapping project is successful, and results in therapies which help counteract overly honed fear responses, it could spell the end of the conservative movement. A nation of happy, well-adjusted individuals is anathema to movement conservatism- happy, well adjusted people tend to have a "live and let live" mentality, and are less susceptible to divide and conquer techniques.

The conservatives fare better when people are left in the dark, especially when it comes to self-awareness. For them, it's far better to keep the brain a terra incognita, the purlieus of the monsters of the id.

As a postscript, here's a link for the podcast Here Be Monsters. Check out any old episodes which feature Dusty, who has a sultry radio voice. If you're thorough, you might find an episode in which a distinguished, erudite man from the not-so-drouthy Antipodes makes an appearance.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lesser Known Presidential Facts

Here in the United States, Presidents' Day falls on the third Monday in February. The holiday falls around George Washington's birthday (February 22), and Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (February 12), which was a holiday in New York State, but not countrywide (the South doesn't have a high regard for Lincoln).

In honor of the two presidents originally honored on Presidents' Day, here are a couple of short documentaries which cover some little known facts about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively. Here's the Washington doc:

Here's the short documentary about Abraham Lincoln:

Learning is fun, so have a fun Presidents' Day.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Missing Out on a CD Release Party

I'm stuck at work, so I will be missing out on the record release party for Secret Science Club Goddess and Friend of the Bastard Dorian Devins' new CD, The Procrastinator. The party will be in the re-opened, relocated Tagine Moroccan restaurant (now located at 221 West 38th St, between 7th & 8th Aves). If you are in the NY metro area, please go and show some adulation and adoration for the brilliant, smashing Ms Devins. Here and here are reviews of Dorian's album. More importantly, here is the title track of the album for your musical enjoyment:

Again, if you're in the NYC metro area and you're not stuck at work, head down to Tagine and enjoy some delectable Moroccan cuisine and be entertained by someone I consider to be a colossus in both the musical and intellectual circles of the city.

If you wish to hear Dorian as critic as well as Dorian as artist, here's Dorian discussing John Coltrane's career with NY Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hits and Near Misses

Yesterday was quite the day for cosmic encounters, and I'm not talking about green alien babes. Yesterday, a meteor believed to be the size of a bus caused injuries to approximately 1,000 people in Russia and an asteroid about 45 meters in diameter passed close to the Earth. Alarming chunks of space rock certainly dominated the news yesterday.

Of course, asteroid monitoring is crucial if we wish to avoid the (probable) fate of the dinosaurs, although one of the most ambitious asteroid monitoring proposals is coming from a private non-profit organization. It's especially crucial that an agressive monitoring plan is put into place, as it's possible that an asteroid will hit the planet in a few decades. It's not like a near-Earth object monitoring project is a new thing.

If an asteroid is found to be on a collision course with the Earth, there are several proposals for altering the course of the rock, perhaps the best proposal I've heard, in person from (you're going to be jealous) Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is sending a small spacecraft to rendevous with said asteroid in order to use gravity to "steer" it. No need for massive nuclear bombs, which could compound the problem.

Of course, I can't finish this post without getting in a political dig. I'm willing to pay extra taxes for a government project which could save the human species from potential extinction, and most people would agree with me unless they're Austrian school libertarians.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Post One Thousand!

Holy crap, this is my one thousandth post. One... thousand... posts! It's funny, when I started blogging back in December of 2009, I never really thought ahead to a time when I would have posted one thousand blog entries. Once again, I want to thank everybody who reads my blog- you are the reason I keep doing this, the reason why it's so much fun. I especially want to thank the regular commentariat, you are the nicest, funniest people on the internet, and you have brought me much entertainment and camaraderie over the years. Words are not exactly adequate to express my gratitude, folks.

One thing that I seriously have to contemplate as I continue this blogging endeavor is labeling my posts. I haven't labeled a single post in all the years that I have been writing this blog. One benefit of labeling my posts would be going back over old blog entries, seeing what I was concerned with at a particular moment in time, and editing any typos or grammatical lapses (I would not change the substance of any posts in any way).

The internet is an amazing thing... it's basically a cognitive map, the various links and browser entries form a pathway that can be followed to determine one's mental state at a particular moment in history, and to assemble a more cohesive map of one's personality. I'm seriously thinking about going back and tracing out this pathway, but the task seems a bit daunting.

Anyway, thanks for reading this blog and sharing your comments. Your time is precious, and I'm flattered that you're spending some of it perusing my little essays and scribblings.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do You Remember When Blue Was a Feeling?

Since this is the solemn feast of St Valentine, I figure I'd quickly post a couple of romantic songs before scarpering off to have some fun on my day off. It's a gorgeous day, sunny and about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (about 7 Celsius), so I'm going to take advantage of the weather.

The post title is cribbed from the song Love is for Lovers by stalwart purveyors of smart indie pop The dB's, a band of nice boys from Winston-Salem who started their careers in NYC:

Nice, eh? It's a far cry from their tale of woe Amplifier, which narrates a despondent young man's breakup with his girlfriend, who left him with nothing but his beat-up old, you got it, amplifier.

Now, how about another earnest love song by an earnest young man? Here's Love You More by one of my all-time favorite bands, The Buzzcocks

Wow, does lead singer Pete Shelley wear his bleeding heart on his sleeve, or what? He's also great at expressing bewilderment at an attraction he's having a hard time coping with and wisely coming to terms with an unrequited love, with absolutely no rancor. I think "MRA" types should be locked in a room with the latter song blasting at full volume, so they could learn a thing or two about consent and coping with rejection.

Anyway, I put the sweet songs in the post, and the sad or wistful ones in the links. Blast 'em full volume!

Here's wishing my beloved readers a lovely Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Post Lecture Recap: The World in Your Guts

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for this month's Secret Science Club lecture by Dr. Martin Blaser, director of NYU’s Human Microbiome Program. Dr Blaser's title for the lecture was: "While Babies Sleep and Dream, their Microbiome Never Rests"- a very sweet, poetic title.

After a brief overview of the topics he would cover, Dr Blaser opened his lecture with a slide of the changes in the Greenland ice sheets due to global warming. Just as global warming is a change in the macroenvironment, there are changes occurring in the microenvironment inside our bodies.

The lecture then proceeded to the topic of the three "Kingdoms" of life, the Bacteria, the Archaea, and the Eukarya. To put our place in the scheme of things into perspective, Dr Blaser showed a slide of the "Tree of Life" and informed us that, in comparison to the distantly related bacteria Escherichia coli and Clostridium sp., humans can count as close relatives corn and fungi.

The microbiome is ancient, niche-specific, persistent, conserved, and host specific. Ever since animals evolved, they have had microbial symbionts. In a typical human body, there are 23,000 "human" genes present, and 8 million microbial genes. Put bluntly, 99% of the genes present in your body are bacterial. Different sites around the human body have different microbial populations. The diversity of an individual's microbiomes levels out with age, with the "adult" microbiome typically being established by the age of three. The host and the symbiotic microbes co-evolve- host and symbiont send "signals" to each other.

The next topic in Dr Blaser's lecture was the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori us the dominant microorganism in the human stomach, and has been around for at least 100,000 years and has a worldwide distribution. Approximately half of the world's population plays host to H. pylori. The bacteria adhere to the stomach epithelia and form "pedestals". The bacteria produce a protein called CagA which they inject into the epithelial cells by means of molecular "syringes". As an aside, I wish to note that molecular syringes may have formed a precursor to the bacterial flagellum, a finding which torpedoed the foolish "irreducible complexity" argument posited by "Intelligent Design" creationists.

Recently, H. pylori has been rapidly disappearing in many regions of the world- this graph shows the precipitous decline in the U.S. over eighty years. Currently, only about 6% of children in the U.S. possess H. pylori symbionts.

H. pylori has been implicated in gastric cancer as well as stomach and duodenal ulcers. Men with H. pylori are more likely to develop stomach cancer than men without H. pylori. As H. pylori disappears, the incidence of gastric cancer has decreased. There's a downside, though- as H. pylori disappears, the incidence of gastric "reflux" and esophageal adenocarcinoma has increased. Reflux, which makes esophageal cancer more prevalent, was rare in the 1930s, but the incidence has been increasing with the wane of H. pylori. H. pylori is bad for the stomach, but good for the esophagus. As Dr Blaser bluntly put it, you can't win.

The next topic of the lecture involved other health effects of H. pylori. The stomach produces the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. H. pylori affects ghrelin levels. Ghrelin levels are typically high in the morning, which triggers hunger, and decrease as one is satiated. If H. pylori is eradicated, ghrelin levels tend to remain high. The elimination of H. pylori has also been implicated in increased asthma rates and may play a role in the increased incidence of food allergies. In children under fifteen, there is an inverse association between asthma and the presence of H. pylori, but there is no such association in children over the age of fifteen. Asthma rates tend to rise with courses of antibiotics administered to infants- early H. pylori infection could possibly prevent asthma. Wheezing is caused by metacholine. H. pylori makes wheezing less prevalent in infants. the bacteria in the stomach protect the lungs. H. pylori can also cause increased skin sensitization. The disappearance of H. pylori may be related to T-cell depletion and increased gastric acidity. H. pylori is good for the upper regions of the gastrointestinal tract and bad for the lower reaches of the GI tract. It's good for us early in life, but bad for us later in life. Once again, you can't win.

The next topic of the lecture was an overview of the disappearing microbiota hypothesis. A changing human ecology since the 19th century has affected the transmission and maintenance of the indigenous microbiota, and the microorganismal composition changes have an effect on health. Since the 19th century, each generation of mothers has passed fewer microbes to its children. In a cross-cultural study, the diversity of microbiota in the U.S. has been found to be lower than that in the Malawian and South American indigenous populations.

One major factor in the transmission of microbiota is the method of birth. Mothers pass their microbiota to their children through the birthing process (vaginal birth transfers a more diverse microbiota than birth by Caesarian section), through the mastication of food for their infants, through nursing, and through skin contact.

Dr Blaser then went on a slight tangent about the overuse of antimicrobials, and injected a moment of bizarre hilarity by showing an ad for an antimicrobial stapler (as an aside, I wonder if that's why Milton was so upset at losing his red Swingline). He emphatically stated that less bacteria do not equal better health.

The "antimicrobials" discussion turned to the use of antibiotics. Out of the top eight prescriptions given to children, five are for antibiotics. 41 million courses of antibiotics are administered to children yearly. This may be a factor in the rise of obesity throughout the developing world for the last thirty years. The administration of low doses of antibiotics (STAT: sub-therapeutic antibiotic treatment) promotes growth in farm animals. The earlier the antibiotics are applied, the greater the increase in growth. Studies involving mice showed no difference in weight between mice given "STAT", but the mice given antibiotics had a greater fat mass. Not only does STAT create a greater fat mass, but it also changes the host's microbiota. The microbiota change precedes the development of obesity. Liver adiposity also increases with STAT. STAT also affects lipid metabolic processes and fatty acid metabolism. The antibiotics change the composition of microbiota through Natural Selection (microbes not killed by the antibiotics proliferate when "weaker" microbes die off) The application of antibiotics also decreases the activation of the immune system's T-cells, and changes genes which regulate obesity in early life.

Besides STAT, sub-therapeutic antibiotic treatment, studies were made of PAT, pulse antibiotic therapy, the administration of antibiotics as if an infection were being treated. In these studies, it was found that three "pulses" of antibiotics were sufficient to accelerate weight gain and resulted in bigger bones with a higher mineral content. It's possible that PAT could be resulting in increases in average height.

The administration of antibiotics reduces the diversity of microbiota- with each "pulse" there is a permanent reduction in microbiota species. If an ecosystem is perturbed once, it can recover, additional perturbations cause permanent change. Perturbed equilibrium changes all "pathways" in an ecosystem. This has an implication in the development of stem cells because microbiota create a context for development. By perturbing microbiota, we could be changing metabolic, cognitive, and developmental processes. A changing microbiota also has allergic and autimmune implications- a rise in allergies and autoimmune disorders could be "collateral damage" resulting from changing microbiota.

In the Q&A session, some bastard in the audience asked Dr Blaser if the various "probiotics" on the market were of any value. He indicated that most of the probiotics on the shelf were more triumphs of marketing rather than paragons of therapeutic value. He also asserted that more narrow spectrum antibiotics were needed to prevent large scale disruptions of microbiota. In a response to a question about Fecal Transplant Therapy, he indicated that the clinical trial showed that fecal transplants are useful in treating persistent Clostridium difficile infections. As an aside, I think I could become a regular POOP donor... I'm full of the stuff! Diet can change the microbiome somewhat, but the fundamental (heh heh) "fingerprint" of the microbiome doesn't change much.

Once again, this was a top-notch lecture in a top-flight series. It was also an appropriate lecture for the Valentine's Day season, because it was a celebration of the fact that no-one is alone, ever. So... love the little buddies who travel with you wherever you go. Special thanks to Dr Blaser, Secret Science Goddesses Dorian Devins and Margaret Mittelbach, and the staff of the beautiful Bell House. They are even better than my beloved gut-buddies, and I never have to worry about them giving me ulcers.

POSTSCRIPT: Me being me, I couldn't finish this post without putting up the video for Germfree Adolescents by the late great Poly Styrene and the X-Ray Spex:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jock A Mo Fee No Nay

Today being Mardi Gras, I figured I'd write a post on the well-nigh ubiquitous song Iko Iko, originally recorded as Jock-A-Mo by James Crawford, as "Sugar Boy" and his band The Cane Cutters. The song tells of an encounter between two groups of Indians, predominantly African-American krewes who developed a parallel Mardi Gras parade in response to the legacy of racism that pervaded the more established parade (one of the more prominent krewes, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club first paraded on major streets in 1968). The Mardi Gras Indians honor the traditions of the Native Americans who harbored runaway slaves, and the shared African and Native American ancestry of the members. The Mardi Gras Indians parade in elaborate costumes that are extraordinarily weighty. The Big Chief of an Indian krewe determines the route of the parade, which necessitates reconnaisance, which is accomplished by a Spy Boy, who gives warning of any sign of trouble, or the approach of another krewe- this is crucial, because a Big Chief often needs time to adjust his costume for the upcoming displays between two krewes. Another important figure in the krewe is the Flag Boy, who carries the guidon of the krewe and coordinates signals between the Spy Boy and the Big Chief.

Because of the "masking" tradition, and the general confusion that characterizes Mardi Gras, scores were often settled at this time, though violence has been eschewed in favor of displays of virtuosity and taunting, the Humba, which has a long history in the Francophone world. As noted Big Chief Tootie Montana, quoted in the Wikipedia article, put it, "I was going to make them stop fighting with the gun and the knife and start fighting with the needle and thread." It is this tradition that the song Jock-a-Mo or Iko Iko celebrates, the meeting of two krewes and the subsequent one-upsmanship. And the chorus? Even the song's composer doesn't know for sure, though there are all sorts of theories that give it an origin in Choctaw/Chickasaw trade language, or the languages of the West African Akan and Ewe peoples, or a Yoruba/Creole dialect used in Vodun rituals. At any rate, the language definitely serves as a cryptolect. Funny that a song which has become ubiquitous can be so recondite.

Anyway, enough of my yapping, how about some music? Here's the original Jock-a-Mo by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford and his Cane Cutters:

Here's the famed version by the Dixie Cups, an extemporaneous version of a song they'd heard their grandmother singing, fortuitously recorded by hit makers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Here's Uncle Jerry's version:

Here's a version by Davell Crawford, grandson of "Sugar Boy", and famed New Orleans musician Dr John:

Finally, here's the now-inescapable version by the Belle Stars. I'm tickled pink by the idea that the lead singer, a nice English girl, is celebrating her African roots by singing a Creole song from New Orleans:

Alright, here's wishing tout le monde a happy Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler! I made a big pot of red beans and rice yesterday, but I'm going to be headed down to Brooklyn for the monthly lecture rather than whoopin' it up Nawlins style.

Here's a short documentary, albeit one from an outsider's perspective, about the Mardi Gras Indians:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bye Bye Bennie!

Wow! This just in, Pope Benedict will be stepping down at the end of the month. It's somewhat appropriate the Pope choose the day before Mardi Gras to step down, because he is, as I wrote two years ago, one of those insufferable "All Ash Wednesday, No Fat Tuesday" Catholics, much like professional scolds Ross Douthat and Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Tragically, my first choice for the Papacy, a beloved figure from a country with a population that is 80% Roman Catholic died this weekend. My second choice for the Papacy, the Monsignor of The Church of the Holy Spook would only get confused by the smoke emanating from the Vatican and wander off looking to score some hash.

So, who to elect pope? Personally, I think the Roman Catholic Church should elevate one of the cardinals of Brazil to the Papacy. Brazil is the world's most populous Roman Catholic country, and has a diverse and forward-thinking population. The past thirty years has seen the Roman Catholic Church take a hard rightward lurch as a mini "Counter Reformation" in response to the changes ushered in by the Second Vatican Council. As Thunder put it in the comments on that long-ago post, the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America has maintained a tradition of actually helping the poor. Tellingly, Benedict, while still Cardinal Ratzinger, condemned Liberation Theology. Perhaps a Brazilian pope would bring a more progressive vision to the Holy See. Mainly, I think nominating a Brazilian pope would be a great idea so we could have a pope who appears on the Vatican balcony in a Speedo. Isn't about time we had a sexy pope again?

Cross posted at Rumproast

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why Wasn't I Informed?

Live and learn, I always say, live and learn... today, I learned that beloved comedic actor Fred Gwynne (I think his best role was the judge in My Cousin Vinny, although, being a horndog, I think Marisa Tomei walked away with the movie- hubba hubba!) was a painter of hilarious, surreal artworks and the author/illustrator of what appear to be funny, slightly snarky children's books. Why did nobody tell me that the guy was a Renaissance man? At his best, Gwynne rivals B. Kliban (a personal fave of mine) in terms of smart, funny surrealism. I think this is brilliant. I think I might have to track down copies of his books now, my initial impression is that they're clever.

Also, I never knew the guy could sing:

Now, if only he had been a good stalwart lefty, my admiration of the man would be even higher.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Big Deal

I'm almost embarassed at how easy my day has been, especially in light of conditions not far from here. In the City of Y______, snow totals were around six inches or so (approx. 15 centimeters), which is not unmanageable. I made a point of parking near a sewer grate, and spent a bit of time around 3AM shoveling snow around my car into the sewer (you'll drive no more, my lickle snowflakes!), and cleaning off my car. I was near an intersection, so I could back out of my parking spot onto the secondary road along which I dwell, just in case the plows didn't make it to the tertiary roadway on which I habitually park. I set the alarm for 7:30 AM, so I could check in on my co-worker who would be nearing the end of his sixteen-hour blizzard ordeal.

Having awoken, and discovering that the snow had ceased to fall, I threw on some sweats and commenced the shoveling out process. I shoveled the sidewalk in front of the house, and cleaned off the entranceway to the upstairs tenants' apartments. Then I proceeded to shovel the sidewalk in front of the neighbors' house (these neighbors are a woman who retired last year and her mother, can't leave them in the lurch when there's a blizzard), and the tenants who live directly above me, immigrants from Monaghan came out and shoveled the neighbor's front stoop. The neighbor across the street, a really nice guy from the Philippines, came out to fire up the old snowblower at about the same time, and we joked about how we always seem to end up removing snow at the same time. Funny, every winter I feel a year older...

I then took some more time to clean up the street around my car (it was still snowing when I was out around 3AM, and the streets hadn't been plowed), then called it a wrap so I could nap for a few hours before getting ready for work. Just listening to the weather reports, I was dreading the drive to work, so I gave myself twice the ordinary time for the commute. By the time I left the house, the sun was shining brightly on a winter postcard scene, a lot of the snow on the plowed secondary roads had melted, and the main roads were perfectly clean and clear.

The roads were so beautiful, and the traffic so light, that I actually got to work in less time than it usually takes. I was one lucky bastard today.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The big story here in the Northeast is the monster snowstorm that is expected to hit a good portion of the northeastern United States. The New York metro area could very well receive about two feet of snow (approximately 60 centimeters), and the wind gusts are projected to hit 60 mph (about 96 kph), and the Boston metro area is supposed to receive about a third more snow.

The weather pattern is supposed to involve the meeting of a low-pressure system moving up the Atlantic Coast and an eastward moving winter storm commonly known as an Alberta clipper. This sort of combination sounds eerily familiar. Basically, instead of "Sandy", we seem to have a "Snowy" on our hands. Of course, storm surge is also a problem.

I'm currently at work, and I was scheduled to come back at midnight, but my co-worker and agreed to swap shifts so he'll be working a sixteen hour overnight ordeal during the blizzard, and I'll be working a sixteen hour endurance tour in the aftermath (if the car is totally buried with no possibility of extraction, I'll plan on taking public transportation- I'm keeping my fingers crossed here). I'm going to run around now that the sun is up and "batten down the hatches" as much as I can.

Before my current shift, I stopped at the supermarket to buy some yogurt and a box of cereal for "lunch". EVERY SINGLE CONTAINER OF MILK IN THE STORE HAD BEEN SOLD. EVERY... SINGLE... ONE... Luckily, I still had milk in the fridge at work, but I have to asky, why milk? Why, of all things, does milk sell out? I'm not much of a milk drinker- I just use it in my coffee, and occasionally put it on cereal (I'm a weirdo, I eat a lot of oats, but I almost never make oatmeal, and I mix commercial cereal with rolled oats and eat it with yogurt... I guess it's the Swiss part of my heritage, I'm a dedicated Müesli man). I made it a point to fill the gas tank of my car. It'll probably be a rough weekend, but my poor co-worker will be the one taking on the chin while I lounge around the house with a Dutch oven full of some simmering slumgullion keeps the place warm (I'm thinking navy beans simmered with a hambone, perhaps). We divide the lumps pretty equitably, so I'm not having pangs of guilt. We all get our asses kicked some time or other.

Post title explained.

UPDATE: Flurries began around 7AM, and now, at 8AM, there is a pretty heavy snowfall. Yikes!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

From the "Goofy Religious Stories" File

Meh, it's another day of writer's block, so I'll just post to a couple of strange domestic religious stories that Yahoo horked up like a couple of hairballs.

First off, we have a Tennessee man who quit his job after he found the number "666" on his W-2. Oddly enough, the guy had another weird "666" run-in when his access card featured the number. Maybe God is sending him a message that he's really batting for SATAN! SATAN! SATAN! Maybe it's not so bad, and God is merely telling him that he should download some Iron Maiden tunes:

In Ohio, we have sentencing in beard-and-hair cutting attacks in an Ohio Amish community. In a plate of shrimp style bit of bizarrity, the ringleader of the cutting crew is named Mullet. It's a pity that these fanatics are besmirching the good name of the Amish, who are primarily known for their covers of Lady Gaga songs:

Looks like the hair-cutters got to him.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Public Utilities

This article about taxpayer-funded public wifi networks touches upon a topic I've been discussing with yawning acquaintances for years. Namely, the fact that certain industries should made public, because they form the underpinnings of the economy. Power, water, and transportation industries allow other industries to function- without them, the economy goes belly up. I think that these utilities are too important to be for-profit, there are plenty of profits to be made in other endeavors which are made possible by the regular, regulated delivery of services. In my tirades and exhortations, I'd often refer to these factors as "metaeconomic", but that term has a previously accepted meaning.

By making cheap public wifi available, small businesses would be able to compete more readily, schools and libraries would be able to reduce the expenses associated with textbooks and class materials. Even though the telecom corporations that are currently providing internet service would suffer a loss of profits (though they could be forced by competition to innovate to increase data transmission speeds and to otherwise improve services), other sectors of the economy would benefit. Similarly, public health coverage would remove a significant barrier to the creation small businesses and entrepeneurs, namely the prohibitive cost of health insurance (my workplace had their yearly enrollment meeting today).

Of course, I don't think that the introduction of public wifi will be implemented. As I opined above, cheap, taxpayer funded wifi would force the current telecom providers to improve their services, and it's a lot easier to pay lobbyists to crush competition. Here in the U.S., we just can't have nice things, it seems.

Just a quick, slightly goofy post hastily put up because I'm in a lazy mood...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

William Shakespeare, Character Assassin

I have long toyed with writing this post, which (now I'm going to make my readers jealous) encapsulates a snippet of conversation I had in person with Canadian uberhunk Substance McGravitas and nerdlicious brainiac N__B. The deciding factor in the timing of this post was the discovery of the probable remains of Richard the Third, a man depicted in historical and dramatic accounts as an evil usurper, guilty of simultaneous infanticide and regicide, though this depiction may very well be a gross exaggeration. This post is not going to be a defense of Richard 3-D, but a defense of another man whose character was destroyed by Slick Willy Shakespeare... a man whose wife was also defamed by Stratford-on-Avon's greatest monster.

Yeah, you got it, I'm talking about MacBeth MacFindláech, heroic king of Caledonia. Contrary to the libelous account by the poison-penned playwright, MacBeth, the Mormaer of Moray (eel jokes in the comments will be considered out of plaice) ascended to the throne in 1040 after defeating his awful predecessor, Duncan in a pitched battle. Duncan was an incompetent expansionist who ruled as a tyrant and became embroiled in a two front war. As an aside, what is it about competent successors to foolish imperialists that gets them labeled illegitimate usurpers? Really, WTF? MacBeth had a peaceful relationship with Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, with whom Duncan had fought. MacBeth's rule lasted for seventeen years, and the fact that he was able to make a joint pilgrimmage to Rome with Jarl Thorfinn suggests that his rule was a peaceful one. MacBeth was defeated at the battle of Lumphanan by Malcolm the Third, Duncan's son in 1057. To demonstrate Malcolm's quality of character, he sheltered Tostig Godwinson for a while before Tostig fell in with some guy named Harry, and all hell broke loose. 'Nuff said.

So, why would shady Shakespeare go out of his way to destroy the character of MacBeth, who ruled wisely over a prosperous land? It would seem that Bill was trying to gain the favor of King James the First, whose Stuart dynasty traced its roots to a shadowy figure named Fleance. As an aside, if I ever form a Belle and Sebastian-y dreampop band, I will name it Fly Fleance Fly. So... Shakespeare was trying to suck up to a bad king by maligning a good one. Real jerk move there, Shakespeare!

And Lady Macbeth? She was no red-handed murdress, merely a- heh heh- grouch.

Monday, February 4, 2013

La Música Romantica

As any of my regular readers know, I'm the sort of smartass who regularly posts links to the song S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T. by Barcelona-based electronic musicians The Pinker Tones to various blogs. Yesterday, I found a lovely, lounge-y version of the song, featuring vocals by the brain-bustingly beautiful Virginia "Maestro" Diaz:

I really dig that version, because it reminds me of the hilarious lounge-y cover of Iron Man by The Cardigans, who were fronted by the brain-burstingly beautiful Nina Persson:

What my readers my not know is that I am a big Henry Mancini fan (A Shot in the Dark is a personal favorite). Imagine my delight when I found a video of the pulchritudinous Srta Maestro singing Moon River:

Que mujer hermosa, que música romantica... estoy totalmente enamorado.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grand Centennial Terminal

Wow, Grand Central Terminal (which is also Grand Central Station- it's a terminal for the Metro North commuter trains and a station for various subway lines, just celebrated its 100th "birthday". I have to confess that I don't stop in Grand Central that often (even though I live north of NYC, I'm close enough to walk to the last stop on the 4 Train, so I don't take Metro North very often, and I don't spend a lot of time in Midtown, so I typically don't get off the subway at 42nd St/Grand Central). That being said, Grand Central is a gorgeous edifice. It's home to one of NYC's most celebrated restaurants, and it has a lot of fascinating features to commend it to visitors. Also, the building has one of the greatest ceilings in the world.

Oddly enough, in the 1970's, Grand Central was in danger of being demolished, a fate which befell the storied Penn Station. One would have thought that the destruction of Penn Station and its replacement by the soulless Madison Square Garden and a grotty subterranean railroad hub(Vincent Scully lamented, "One entered the city like a God. Now one scuttles in like a rat.") would have forestalled any talk of demolishing such a beautiful building, but one cannot underestimate the venality of developers. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and the, uh, grand railroad terminal still stands, as glorious as it ever was.

If you haven't visited Grand Central Terminal, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Even though the majority of the people passing through are in a hurry, there's still a romantic (in the classic definition of the term) feel to the place. These people may be hurrying off to grinding days on the job, but they are dashing sophisticates while in this glorious, shining setting. Also, the central clock of the terminal is one of New York City's best places to arrange to meet someone- that's where I met my awesome cousin Val before we headed down to Brooklyn. Come to think of it, I spent quite a bit of time in GCT in December of last year- that's also where I bid adieu to Major Kong. Of course, you should check out the Major's fascinating DKos diaries, you'll learn about things you didn't even know you didn't know about. Now, I know that Ned is on hiatus, but I imagine he'll put up a post about Grand Central, it being a spectacular old building of the sort he adores (whether or not he adores GCT itself...).

Now, because Robyn Hitchcock's new material is so damn good, I will post a couple of songs appropriate to the subject of the post. Here's I Often Dream of Trains:

In describing the Metro North line, substitute "Tuckahoe" for "Basingstoke" and "Yonkers" for "Redding"... While you're at it, substitute felt for grass and asparagus for hedges.

The second song appropriate to the subject matter is My Favorite Buildings:

Think I gotta head down to Midtown to bid the old "pile" happy birthday.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I am Reminded: It's Blogroll Amnesty Day

ZRM's latest post reminds me that it is "Blogroll Amnesty Day", which I spaced out on last year, though I did celebrate it back in 2011 and I did put up a "blogroll update" post last March. ZRM gives a shoutout to Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors, who is extraordinarily kind to the proprietors of small blogs- Tengrain linked to this post at Crooks and Liars. When I saw that I had over 500 hits, I immediately thought, "Tengrain was here." Thanks, old chum! I also have to thank the good folks at Rumproast who added me to their masthead.

Anyway, I know it's against the rules to claim that your own blog is small, so I'll keep my mouth shut about that. Now, I have to link to five other blogs that I have been digging:

I recently added Musings from Squirrel Cage to the blogroll so I could still get my regular hilarious "Canadian Domestic Comedy" fix- Squirrel E. Girl's post about the bedroom closet door being open was PURE COMEDY GOLD.

Biodiversity Revolution is headed by the Sadly No semi-regular "Just Alison", who also used the anagram "Snail Joust". I love the topic of Alison's blog and, importantly, it's the first Australian blog on my blogroll. Someday, I'd love to hang out in Ozzystoryalelyya with Ms. Alison, drinking lime spiders while listening to the Lime Spiders.

Vixen Strangely, who also blogs at Rumproast, is proprietress of Vixen Strangely Makes Uncommon Sense. Her byline used to be "A Small and Slackerish Political Blog" until some bastard called her on the "slackerish" part of the byline, which is now "A Small but Otherwise on Fire Political Blog". Now, it's time to work on the "small" part of her byline- seriously, check her blog out, her Climate Sunday posts make for some fine reading.

For No Odd Reason, bbkf's place, is also a sweet blog- a nice mix of domestic tales and political musings. I'd love to hear more takedowns of the editor of the local right-wing rag, as well- she does some hilarious trips to the "woodshed" with that dumbass in Sadly No comment threads.

The fifth entry is actually our old friend Vacuumslayer/Dr Kenneth Noisewater who decided to discontinue her long-form blog while starting the tumblr blogs General Armchair and 60 Percent Success Rate- first, she became a nut, now she became a hip young go-getter with her hot new social media platform. I'll update the blogroll to get her up-to-date material on the front page, I promise.

So... that's my blogroll update. I enjoy all of the blogs I've linked to, and exhort you to visit them regularly. In addition, I also exhort anybody reading this who isn't blogging to start a blog. It's a lot of fun, and the camaraderie is awesome. There's plenty of additional room on the blogroll, folks.

Friday, February 1, 2013

R.I.P. Alter Kocher

Former NYC mayor Ed Koch has shuffled off this mortal coil. Koch was an interesting, often exasperating, figure. Serving as mayor from 1978 to 1989, a time period in which I was just beginning to become aware of politics, Ed Koch was synonymous with "NYC Mayor", even though he served as a U.S. Congressman before his mayoral term. While Koch was sometimes perceived as being insensitive on racial matters, his record on issues pertaining to the gay community is inconclusive, and he was no stranger to controversy there seems to have been a genuine affection for the man. Myself? I thought he was a prickly fellow, but a decent guy deep down. Also, his taste in Chinese restaurants was impeccable.

Here is a nice bit about Mayor Koch finding Fiorello LaGuardia's desk unused in City Hall, and moving it into his office:

Who knows? Maybe Koch will be the subject of a musical someday.

Even though he pissed me off last year, I couldn't stay mad at him- he made a really good show of support for the president's re-election campaign:

Rest in peace, your honor. You'll always be the quintessential New York City mayor to this bastard. That being said, I still won't call "your bridge" by its new name:

It messes up the meter of the best poem I've ever written.