Sunday, March 27, 2005

Creationists and dogs in human clothing

Creationists are pretty funny. I found this on a big list of evidences against evolution:

"9. PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIA
Seeing the problem of gradual evolution with the fossil record, and the obvious abrupt appearances of species, Drs. Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge have formed the theory of punctuated equilibria. Punctuated equilibria, is, by example, a bird giving birth to a mammal, thus leaving no transitional fossils in the geological record.

Many top evolutionists disagree with this position. And punctuated equilibria has its problems, too. For instance, in the above case, of a bird bearing a mammal, another mammal of the same kind of the opposite sex must be born at the same approximate time in the same area in order for the new species to continue. The odds of just one organism appearing this way, let alone two fulfilling the circumstances above, are astronomical."

It's really just a terrible misunderstanding of punctuated equilibrium. While it's true that not every biologist agrees punctuated equilibrium is a good theory, it's not because punc eq claims that birds give birth to mammals. What punc eq posits is that significant morphological changes happens in fits and starts, punctuated by long periods of stasis..."stasis as data, stasis as data". However, life is happening quite normally during those periods of morphological change, i.e. birds are NOT giving birth to mammals. It's just that rapid morphological evolution is constrained during the times of stasis and/or accelerated during the time of change (during allopatric speciation events that have a lot to do, somehow, with isolate selection and species selection I think). The rapid bits of change are only rapid compared to the periods of stasis, for example thousands or tens of thousands of years as opposed to hundreds of thousands or millions of years, thus it is unlikely that we will find a good sequence of intermediate forms in the fossil record, eventhough they did in fact exist. And I imagine, there have been some good fossils found?


And now for something completely different: Sebastian in my rugby shirt.

the stink

the stink

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Burly-ton Vermont and NYC

My spring break was absolutely fabulous.

I went to Burlington VT to visit one Alecia Mitchell (read: Harrington) and Chris and Michelle Saunders made the journey as well. there was much guitar playing, eating, drinking and chatting. There was also a failed attempt at Trivial Pursuit. We gave up on the questions that came with the game and started to make up our own.

Here are some pictures:



This is not Vermont. This is a Brachiosaurus fossil in
Chicago O'Hare International Airport.



This is Alecia washing one of two chickens we ate for
dinner with mashed sweet potatoes and kale. It was good.



Here's Michelle with a snifter full of Lindeman's Peche.



Here is a picture I really like of Alecia and her roomate
and fellow Juniata College Alum Erin (?). It's actually
two pictures sewn together and hung inside a Lexus
license plate frame. The young lady below holding the VW
hubcap is responsible.



See above.



Sorry, but this one has to be big to get the full effect
in my humble opinion.



This is Alecia, Chris, and Michelle in an Alley.



A several beer lunch makes Chris very sleepy.



The nice view out the windshield in southern VT.



That's enough of Vermont. Here we are in Teterboro NJ.
This is my father with one of the airplanes he is
responsible for. This is a Gulfstream IV. Note the
Verizon colors.





My parents and I on the ferry to Midtown from Weehawken.
Note the tail of the Concorde next to the aircraft carrier
in my picture. Weird huh? They just have it hanging out
there on a barge next to the aircraft carrier and a
submarine.





Went to the American Museum of Natural History with my parents.
Great place. That first pic is of a T-Rex skeleton (as if you
didn't know that already). The second is of the Museum's
ignorance. For some reason they still adhere to the 5 kingdom
approach. They seemed to have missed the revolution in molecular
taxonomy. I didn't think Ernst Mayr had this much influence!
Maybe they're just too lazy to take an old (apparently very old)
display down?



Here I am with Ryan Mills-Knapp and some very good beer at NYC's
best beer bar: Spuyten Duyvil. It's actually in Brooklyn. Ryan
is apparently quite drunk.



This is Ryan on the train heading back to his place in East Harlem.
He is such a hip dude. Note the leather jacket under the suit
jacket. The white Asics with the dark suit. Only if he had his
iPOD on.

The World According to Garp

I tore through this book's 600 pages in about 12 hours. What a good book. Not sure if it has any serious literary merit, whatever that is, but it sure was freakin' addicting. I couldn't put the damn thing down even when I really really should have.

I wonder if Charlie Kaufman ever read Garp? If you've ever seen his film Adaptation, a great movie no doubt, you're familiar with the main character writing himeself into the script he is writing in the movie. It gets more confusing. The movie itself, Adaptation, not the one Charlie Kaufman's character is writing but the one Charlie Kaufman himself wrote, also takes the form of the screenplay the main character of Adaptation is writing. It is really cool although I'm sure I could have described it more clearly here.

Anyway, this is pretty much what happens in Garp. The book is about a writer who is struggling to write good books. He writes one book that is described as a x-rated soap opera. But what's so great is that John Irving's Garp is an x-rated soap opera too. Not only for the inclusion of the first chapter of the main character's x-rated soap opera (which is a neat literary 'device'?), but also because there was more sperm, blowjobs and limb-loss in this book than any other I've read.

It really is a wonderful book because it also contains some insightful cultural commentary...not just blood and sex. Which is pretty much one main point I think Irving is trying to make in Garp.

But I do need to be careful about looking too much into the 'points' the author of a novel is trying to make. I really do think that novels and other creative projects, be it art, film, short stories whatever, should be judged on their aesthetic power only, not on the points they make. Of course the subject matter of some work of art is a very important factor in eliciting some aesthetic response, but that's all it should be. A painting of Christ on the cross with the romans spearing him might elicit very strong emotions because we know its Christ, but I certainly don't think the picture should be seen as some sort of commentary on Christ's crucifixion.

I need to think more about this obviously...but from Garp for instance, one might be able to extract some coherent thesis about what family life is like in America. Or what some of the troubles families have are. But I think this is a bad way to gauge the merit of a novel. If you want to write about family life goddammit, do it in sociology journals. Novelists trying to locate some timeless placeless aspect of the human experience might be interesting aesthetically, but let's not judge the value of the book on how well they actually do locate it. SHIT...this is frustrating. I need to think more about this.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

More taxi stories

So I went down to New Albany IN last night. This is metro Louisville area, just over the river. Incredible time. Went to Rich O's public house for their Annual Gravity Head festival. Really great beers. The Fantome Saison blew my socks off. Wow! Anyway, took a cab from our hotel back to my car this morning.

The driver was hilarious.

He had a serious southern accent, wild shoulder length gray hair, big bloodshot bugged out eyes, 4 days worth of gray beard growth and he wouldn't shut the fuck up. He just rambled on and on about this and that. He wanted to drive us back to Bloomington for 300$. He said he was gonna stick a bunch of Snickers bars (I guess he didn't have any sugar??) in my gas tank so we had to take a cab back, then he was like: "Aww man I'm just messin' with ya'll!! HAHAHAHA!! Shit, I ain't gonna fuck with yer car!" Then he kept telling us that he had to get back to his "old lady" to get her cigarettes before she woke up because if she didn't have a smoke right when she woke she "was gon-be real pissed awf, she-gon throw me out!" Then he got a message on his little cabbie computer and he read the message and he said "there is a warrant out for the arrest of the two men you just picked up at blah blah; redirect to nearest police station". Then he said: "aww man I'm just-a-messin' with ya'll!! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Shit, one time I-a-had this here black fellow in the cab, we's good friends and all now, but I had this here guy in the cab and I pulled this joke on him and he started to open the door and was ready to jump out the damn cab!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I had to tell him I's just messin' with him! SHIT! HAHAHHAAH!"

But then Ryan paid the fare and gave him a 4$ tip.

Thus ended my stint of stiffing cabbies the tip. Oh well.

Friday, March 18, 2005

NYC mayhem

I'm going to post some pics from my trip to Burlington VT and NYC soon. But just wanted to throw down a couple lines here about NYC. What a great city. I had such a good time hanging out in that huge fucking place. I stayed with my good friend Henri Mills-Knapp in East Harlem again. That place is wild. I went to the CVS near his house and it was a complete cluster fuck. I stood in line for 20 minutes to buy some Tylenol and chapstick, witness to the young lady behind the register's utter incompatence. Not a word of English was spoken. Which was pretty cool. People stormed out. It was funny. A good experience. Henri said that there was almost a riot at the post office up there a couple weeks ago. There was a huge line and everybody was pissed off. Then a militant, well spoken black man started to get everybody riled up, as Ryan put it. Their main complaint was that "this shit doesn't happen in Midtown, we get shity service cause we're in Harlem!" Well, I got some news for you folks, the shitty service is indeed a sympton of living in Harlem, but I don't think it has anything to do with a systematic scheme by the USPS to screw you over.

Anyway, got some good mexican food while I was there.

Also went to Brooklyn to a very cool beer bar. One of the best I've ever been in, Spuyten Duyvil. Incredible beer selection. Read my review of it here. I was quite smitten with both bar tenders as well. Very cute and well spoken and friendly. And they knew about beer to boot.

Got really drunk there and by the time we made it back to the subway stop nearby it was closed up so we had to take a cab back to Manhattan. It was a pretty intense ride. The driver was nutballs. But we made it safely. I only gave the guy the change on the dollar for a tip. He didn't say anything. The next night we took a cab from the West Village to East Harlem and did the same thing, but this guy got all pissed off. "If you can't afford a better tip than this you should take the fucking train!" Well fuck you too very much. I just sat there and listened to him then said, "Ok. Thanks for the advice. Sorry about the small tip." But you know what: fuck him! I wish my students would tip me after class some day. That would be nice. "Great lecture today. I'm paying about 100$ per class day so here is $20. I'm feeling generous today." Tipping is weird and I plan to rant and rave about it some more one day.

Got to meet up with Senor Grant Goodrich, a fellow HPSer at IU. He was in the city and we hung out at the Blind Tiger for a couple hours. It was cool, but Henri and I had to cut the night short as we were quite tired.

I also ran into a woman affiliated with IU HPS in some way. That was weird. Read about it here.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Birth certificates

I'm here in Burlington Vermont at the public library. Very beautiful day. It's like spring. 40 degrees and sunny. It has been quite cold and snowy, but today is wonderful. Walked along the lake this morning to the library. About to go to Vermont Pub and Brewery to get some lunch and a few of their fine brews. Had some Long Trail Double Bag last night...wonderful stuff. It's been very nice hanging out with Alecia and Chris and Michelle. Alecia is a wonderful host.

Heading to Jersey tomorrow to hang with the family. Going to go to NYC on Tuesday. hopefully go to the aquarium and maybe muesam of Natural History? See the dinosaurs.

Unfortunately we didn't make it to Montreal for several reasons, not least of which was lack of passports or birth certificates.

Stupid international borders.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Raw jalapenos

I knew I'd start my own sooner or later. I had one for a while. A very lowtech blog that I just did in Frontpage. I really enjoyed doing it eventhough I have no idea why. I know nobody reads the damn things. It's just something to do I suppose. A weird way to express yourself. But after getting the HPS blog going yesterday I realized I need one of my own.

I just ate a bit of cold chicken, burnt toast, and a raw jalapeno. Reminded me of this past summer. Nazario, Conejo and David would always eat raw jalapenos with their sandwiches. Kind of like pickles I suppose. They would share them with me sometimes. But I fucked it up once by cutting the jalapeno in half the wrong way. Instead of down the middle, I cut it widthwise and took the pointy end. Nazario didn't like that much because eating the fat end is harder because you have to eat around the seeds.

That seems like a long time ago. Chris is dead so I suppose it would.