Monday, December 31, 2007

Pope Big Oilers Fan is big Pope B. I'm not at the Vatican right now because I'm out at the Drake. Just finished watching the Oilers lose. If this is a Cardinal or a Bishop come on out. If this is a member of the one true faith come on out. If this is Matty, Barby, Willy, Judy, Jenny or Sven, I know you're not Catholics, but come on out. If this is Mel Gibson, come on out but you have to shut up. If this is Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Philip Pullman come on out but you guys have to wear skirts. Please recommend this post

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Vortex of Hypocrisy and Shame

I was really saddened this week when I read about the death of 16 year old Aqsa Parvez, allegedly murdered by her father. I was having a bad week to begin with and events like this don't help any of us. To me it is purely a case of domestic abuse and not an issue of immigration, race or religion. Nonetheless, the blogospere swarmed on the story, and honestly I found a lot of the commentary quite disgusting.

Unfortunately this tragedy is being used as a wedge in the ongoing Islamophobia that our society has steadily descended into since September 11, 2001.

I grew up with a friend whom I'll call B. When we were children our fathers were good friends so we saw each other a lot. I don't know how our fathers met. B's father was a WWII Pow in Hong Kong and had life long health problems because of the starvation and torture he endured. After my father passed away I didn't see B nearly as much. B and myself and our families were remarkably alike. Born in the 60's, white protestants, United Church, Boy Scouts of Canda, parents who moved into the new suburbs of Edmonton to raise their new families, etc.

B's mom and my mom occasionally talked and I'd often hear about what he was up to. After high school he had a deep Christian experience and became active in a large Pentecostal church. Neither he nor his family were particularly religious as far as I can remember. Eventually he became a leader in the Church, married and started a family. As some point I lost track of him as he moved to BC.

Sometime in 2006 B was arrested and charged in suspicion of the murder of his 16 year old daughter. I couldn't have been more shocked and saddened by this news. Talk about the last thing you would expect to find out about someone you knew.

The murder did not make the national news. It made the news in the locality where it occurred and made the news in Edmonton, but only because they were from there. The story quickly fell off the media radar and is difficult to find references on the internet at all. I still don't know if B has been convicted and sentenced yet. Last bit of information was the judge sending him off for a Psych evaluation.

When this crime occurred there was not widespread swarming in the blogosphere. No one made broad sweeping hate filled comments about Pentecostals. No one demanded that B go back where he came from. No one blamed it on the fact that B refused to assimilate into our way of life. (An Orwellian term if there ever was one. ) No one cried moral outrage because Pentecostal leaders did not hold press conferences to denounce the crime.

I'm afraid I find this contrast slightly jarring and not particularly flattering to our attitudes. I grieve for an old friend and his family. And I grieve for another family that I do not know who in addition to all else, has to deal with media glare and tightly focused racism. Please recommend this post

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Cockroaches Need to Pick It Up a Bit

I enjoy reading science articles, especially about insects. It seems that there were a lot of cockroach stories this week. Basically, if you're keeping score the cockroaches got their asses kicked. They're scoring low on the intelligent design check list.

1. Israeli scientists studied the predatory relationship between a certain species of wasp and a certain species of cockroach. Read this and be sure to watch the video, it's pure Tarantino. The wasp attacks the roach and when it gains control it injects a venom in the roach's brain which eliminates what little intelligence and free will the roach might have had, and leaves only the ability to drool and be led around. (Insert joke about niece's boyfriend.) The wasp then grabs the roach by its antennae and walks it like a dog on a leash back to waspville, where it's led compliantly down into the nest, aka God's waiting room. The roach becomes a living buffet for wasp larvae while everyone hums Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin.

Wasps are predatory and they totally play dirty. I've read a number of articles about some of their tactics and they're just sick minded little goons. The scientists wanted to know how the wasps did this to the roach's brain. They reversed engineered the venom and figured out how it worked. It was a fine tuned chemical that blocked some signals to the brain but not others. To prove their theory they created an antidote which was able to restore the roach to full functionality. It was able to resume a fully productive live. Cockroach 911 rescue with William Shatner can't be far off. Since they have an antidote they now have a moral obligation to rescue the roaches.

2. Japanese scientists did basically the same thing to the Cockroach, except with a solid state backpack:

TOKYO - A big brown cockroach crawls across the table in the laboratory of Japan's most prestigious university. The researcher eyes it nervously, but he doesn't go for the bug spray. He grabs the remote. This is no ordinary under-the-refrigerator type bug. This roach has been surgically implanted with a micro-robotic backpack that allows researchers to control its movements. This is Robo-roach. "Insects can do many things that people can't, " said Assistant Professor Isao Shimoyama, head of the bio-robot research team at Tokyo University. "The potential applications of this work for mankind could be immense." Within a few years, Shimoyama says, electronically controlled insects carrying mini-cameras or other sensory devices could be used for a variety of sensitive missions - like crawling through earthquake rubble to search for victims, or slipping under doors on espionage surveillance.

Far-fetched as that might seem, the Japanese government has deemed the research credible enough to award $5 million to Shimoyama's micro-robotics team and biologists at Tsukuba University, a leading science center in central Japan. Money from the five-year grant started coming in this month, and young researchers are lining up for a slot on Shimoyama's team. (link)

Anytime a scientist talks about a great benifit to mankind run and hide. The Japanese scientists talk like they've forgotten the important lessons learned from their scrapes with Gojira and Mosura.

As if we don't have enough to worry about on this planet. I've seen enough Ridley Scott movies to know this has the potential to completely ruin our already doubtful future.

3. And then there's the Belgians. They studied the sociology of the Cockroach and built a robot cockroach that was able to emulate behaviours that made the real cockroachs accept them as part of the tribe. Kind of a big tent red tory blue tory thing going on there. No word on whether the scientists were German Belgians or French Belgians.

Researchers in Belgium infiltrated cockroach colonies with robots in order to study their group behavior. The robots didn’t look much like cockroaches, but the roaches didn’t mind as long as they smelled right. Not only were the robots accepted as fellow cockroaches, but they became leaders and influenced the groups’ behavior!

Once again you see the zombie like capitulation. Hey, lets put that guy in charge, the one that looks like a lego toy. is becoming one of my favourite sites.

All this leads to the usual speculations about evolution. The Cockroaches are going to have to pick it up a bit and evolve some defense mechanisms. They should be avoiding the wasps somehow, not to mention the Belgians and the Japanese. If scientists can develop an antidote to the wasp's stupidity shot then maybe the cockroach will evolve this. Since evolution is incurably slow this could take some time. There is evidence that some species grow bigger and stronger over time. A million years from now there could be some awfully big cockroaches running around. They will have some irrational hatred of wasps, Belgians and Japanese imprinted in their DNA. Humans will probably get smaller because we no longer have the need to fight or flee. H.G. Wells probably had it right in the last chapter of The Time Machine, except instead of really big crustaceans, they'll be really big cockroaches. And they'll be dumb and mad.

I hope I've scared some children. Please recommend this post