Where I’ve been and where I’m going

Almost two weeks ago, I accepted a big project from Wiley Publishing. I’m co-authoring a book on digital cameras and photography. The schedule is crazy — crazier than my Vista book, in fact. (If such things can be measure, it’s 4 times crazier.) I’ll report more about the project in a few weeks — when it’s over.

Immediately upon accepting a killer schedule, I left town to go camping. (Wiley knew.) Six of us went camping just north of Chama in a favorite spot. It rained several times every day and every hike ended in the rain — one ended in hail. It was green, cool, and wet, none of which New Mexico is right now, as the monsoon pauses.

The high point of the trip was having hummingbirds sit on my finger for up to a minute at a time as I held my hand over my head, next to a feeder. Pure delight — one of those top ten joys, though, I suspect, anyone could get the hummers to do the same with enough hummers, food and patience.

The second great thrill of the trip was sighting a magnificent hummingbird, both a description and the species name. The magnificent is two to three times larger than its cousins. Our trip ornithologist (we know how to travel) says the farthest north the Mexican magnificents have been reported is the Gila, in New Mexico. This female was way off-course.

There are pictures and more commentary, all of which have to wait a few weeks.

I’ll just take one moment to give the finger to Jason Daskalos, who thinks the world is out to get the poor-little-rich-boy. I’ll roll my eyes at Tim Cummins, who uses more water in a year than we do in ten. I grin at John McCain sacking groceries while Obama addressed 200,000 Germans — er is doch Berliner.

bis spaeter,

[cross-posted to all my blogs]

Our New US Poet Laureate

Even dim Duhbya supports poetry, when the chimps are at the vet. A hearty welcome to Kay Ryan! peace, mjh

Dana Gioia Online – Kay Ryan

Here is “Paired Things” from Flamingo Watching in which image and abstraction dance so consummate a pas de deux that one wonders why modern poetics ever considered the two imaginative impulses at odds:

Paired Things

    Who, who had only seen wings,
    could extrapolate the
    skinny sticks of things
    birds use for land,
    the backward way they bend,
    the silly way they stand?
    And who, only studying
    birdtracks in the sand,
    could think those little forks
    had decamped on the wind?
    So many paired things seem odd.
    Who ever would have dreamed
    the broad winged raven of despair
    would quit the air and go
    bandylegged upon the ground,
    a common crow?

“Paired Things” displays Ryans characteristic style: dense figurative language, varied diction, internal rhyme, the interrogative mode, and playful vers libre, which elusively alternates between iambic and unmetered lines. One of Ryans signature devices is the counterpoint of sight and sound in the placement of her poetic language. Her hidden rhymes and metrical passages only became fully apparent when the poem is spoken aloud. “Paired Things” also hovers, as so many Ryan poems do, on the edge of allegory.

Dana Gioia Online – Kay Ryan

PS: In farewell, thanks to her predecessor, Ted Kooser.

After Years

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer’s retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

I’m an atheist neo-Darwinist

The Radical and Religious Right may appear as weak and laughable as Duhbya, but they will be around longer and they are relentless in their mission to dominate this nation. peace, mjh

New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US – opinion – 09 July 2008 – New Scientist by Amanda Gefter [7/9/08]

The [Louisiana Science Education Act] is designed to slip ID in “through the back door”, says [Barbara] Forrest, who is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and an expert in the history of creationism. She adds that the bill’s language, which names evolution along with global warming, the origins of life and human cloning as worthy of “open and objective discussion”, is an attempt to misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial. Forrest’s testimony notwithstanding, the bill was passed by the state’s legislature – by a majority of 94 to 3 in the House and by unanimous vote in the Senate. On 28 June, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain’s shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.

Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar – hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes “presenting biblical principles” in “centers of influence”. It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.

“We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue,” says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation’s religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: “Certainly it’s an extension of it. …

The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID – including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute – is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of “academic freedom”.

“Academic freedom is a great thing,” says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. … “To apply ‘academic freedom’ to high school is a misuse of the term.”

“It’s very slick,” says Forrest. “The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left… They know that phrase appeals to people.” …

So far, representatives from six states have taken up the idea. In Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Alabama, bills were introduced but failed. An academic freedom bill now in committee in Michigan is expected to stall there.

Louisiana is another story. A hub of creationist activism since the early 1980s, it was Louisiana that enacted the Balanced Treatment Act, which required that creationism be taught alongside evolution in schools. In a landmark 1987 case known as Edwards vs Aguillard, the US Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, effectively closing the door on teaching “creation science” in public schools. ID was invented soon afterwards as a way of proffering creationist concepts without specific reference to God. …

When Jindal was elected governor last year, the stage was set. The LFF approached Ben Nevers, a state senator, who agreed to introduce the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act on their behalf. “They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin’s theory,” Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star in April. The bill was later amended and renamed the Louisiana Science Education Act. Its final version includes a statement that the law should not be taken as promoting religion.

That way, those who wish to challenge Darwinian evolution have “plausible deniability” that this is intended to teach something unconstitutional, says Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, which represented the parents at the Dover trial. “They are better camouflaged now.”

The Louisiana Science Education Act


The state… shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment… that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied, including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. (Section 1B)


Any Louisiana school official is now free to present evolution and other targeted topics as matters of debate rather than broadly accepted science. Books and other materials that support this view can be used in class alongside standard science texts. The onus will be on parents to spot violations of the rules on separation of church and state.

New legal threat to teaching evolution in the US – opinion – 09 July 2008 – New Scientist

PS- The notion that Jindal will be VP is crazy. He’s less experienced than Obama and he’d cost McCain the racist vote.

The Evil Dead

I’m ready to fly to North Carolina to piss on the grave of Jesse Helms. I’ll have my dancing shoes on.

Jesse Helms was evil, vile and hateful. Full of hate and ugly rage. You won’t have to search far for endless examples of what an ugly man he was. What’s more amazing are the paeans and elegies you’ll find for him. As if, there was something redeeming in the unredeemable beast. At least, George Wallace showed some regret. Helms was wicked to the end.

Helms wasn’t “just another southern bigot” — a dismissal that rightly chafes decent Southerners while ignoring bigots everywhere else. Senator No was a fucking HERO to the Republican Party. (He saved Raygun’s career.) Helms represented those angry white males who fled the Democratic Party rather than accept that all people are equal before the law. Good riddance to them and to him. See you in Hell, you monster. I just hope I have a particularly rusty pitchfork in hand. mjh

The Turd in Our Fishbowl

Jason Daskalos — Daskaloser — is on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal again. Ooh, I hate seeing his smug mug. (Curiously, at 11am, that article is not anywhere on the website. I’ll link if it ever turns up.)

This time, Daskaloser was stopped by a cop while weaving down the road in a black humvee. (Of course, he’s practically a caricature of the rich-as-leeches.) Drunk? Drugs? Blow-job? Daskalos admits he was driving while talking on his cell phone (oh! was it the new iPhone?!!). This is a crime in Albuquerque, though the Journal doesn’t mention that. Instead of that crime, he was written up for “failure to maintain a lane.” You might think: BFD, but Daskalos is hell-on-wheels and destined to kill someone. (Only himself, one can hope.)

This ticket should be enough to get Daskalos thrown in jail based on a judge’s ruling earlier. JD’s not worried. The cop who wrote this up dated the ticket “11/7/08.” Daskalos attorney says the wrong date invalidates the ticket. Perhaps the cop is recently from Europe or, more likely, the cop knows that same bit of law. (“Don’t worry, Mr Daskalos, here’s how were going to get you off this time.”)

Daskalos fancies himself a race car driver and a big fish in our little pond. He’s really a spoiled punk with way too much money and — is there a connection here? — many friends in high places. It must be his money, because Daskalos shouldn’t have a friend in the world; he should be shunned until he grows up and apologizes to the entire planet for his astonishing self-centeredness. peace, mjh

See also: Criminally Stupid (Sat 06/16/07) and
Idiot on Board (Sun 01/14/07)