Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leaving Mike, Returning Christine

After 23 years in the LA Times sports department, journalist Mike Penner has decided to make some changes. He'll return after a short vacation as Christine Daniels.

In the overtly public world of journalism, where our thoughts and words are thrown daily into the homes and streets of America, this story, that of transsexualism, doesn't surface often -- especially when it is the reporter making the news.

But Penner's peers seem to support him, perhaps even if they don't quite understand him.

"When I told my boss Randy Harvey, he leaned back in his chair, looked through his office window to scan the newsroom and mused, 'Well, no one can ever say we don't have diversity on this staff,'" he writes today in the Times.

As a sports fan, I don't recognize his name. But I believe now I'll recognize hers...

Penner's justification for the switch? "As extensive therapy and testing have confirmed, my brain was wired female. A transgender friend provided the best and simplest explanation I have heard: We are born with this, we fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins," he writes.

Good for him for giving in. I know the pressure of being a journalist. I can't imagine facing the world as a transsexual journalist, much less hiding behind a misidentified form for decades.

To read the full announcement in print, see,0,588768,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cheney vs. Kucinich

An MSNBC article reveals plans for Democratic Representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich to impeach Dick Cheney for his hawkish, belligerent attitude against any country that starts with the syllable 'I'.

Kucinich demands Congress check the administration's abuse of power, but I can't determine which tidbit is most surprising to me -- that Kucinich, in his vision to impeach, is largely unsupported by his fellow democrats, that Kucinich strategically targets to oust Cheney before Bush, or that, according to the article, Kucinich, the diminutive man who will never scare anyone into voting for him, stands one-tenth of one percent to win the democratic nomination.
(By the way, I think the above picture is well scripted by his handlers -- It's the only possible way to make him seem a normal size, if not that of a beastly mammoth.)

Yeah, it's got to be that last one that's most bizarre. .1% sounds a little inflated to me. Show me that one man out of the thousand, and I'll show you a man who must be Kucinich's father... (Though I must admit, I'm quite the Kucinich fan. His universal love for humanity and willingness to promote veganism and the tranquility of peace and connectedness are quite novel and noble for a presidential candidate... but as President Bush has shown, that personal philosophy does not win you anything. In fact, it gets you about a .1% chance to become leader of the free world...)

You must admit, though, he has a knack for priority. Asked why he first flagged Cheney instead of Bush for the impeachment, he said, “You would have to go through the constitutional agony of impeaching two presidents consecutively."

A president he won't be, but the man perhaps has a point... (Perhaps his retort was simply stylish here, but it's also realistic. The attempted Republican impeachment of President Clinton stifled resources during an election year. Not to mention, Cheney running the country? I think some might call that scary.)

Other cool-sounding movie names (like the title above) that no one would watch...
Cheney vs. a heart attack
Cheney vs. a blood clot
Cheney vs. overall health and...
Cheney vs. quacking duckman

Cheney vs. quacking duckman could be a redeeming installment in American cinema, actually....

For the article on 'the Kuciniched Crusader,' see

Monday, April 23, 2007

Stephanie Colburtle out in front!

A group of 11 leatherback turtles began a journey a few days ago, a scientific trip that has wedged the 100-million-year-old endangered species into the conscience of America and much of the world.

Led by none other than Stephanie Colburtle, an artistically named leatherback with a score to settle in the cold Pacific waters, this group is racing to the Galapagos Islands and trying to outrace extinction by engaging the nation with the race -- and what sadly might turn out to be a final chapter in their storied history. (Anything that outlives after the dinosaurs and still exists is storied, as far as I'm concerned. I guess that means we as humans are but an insignificant footnote amid a library of texts.)

If Stephanie Colburtle wins (she's currently in the lead by a shell), it might be enough to stave off eternal death from fame garnered on The Colbert Show alone, which no doubt has been on pins and needles pulling for their new mascot.

Stephanie Colburtle could go down as an icon, as far as turtles go. I'm not sure what that means, but she'll probably have some kickin' parties with Stephen Jr.

An interactive, updated map of the race can be found here.

Ms. Colburtle (the one in reddish-brown on the map) is racing for the finish, as determined a turtle as I've ever seen! Look at her direct trajectory to the Islands. Her ability to pinpoint the zone, as I see it, is uncanny. It's so precise it could be rigged.

Stay tuned... Stephen Colbert might have a scandal on his hands. Sounds contentious, President Bush could only hope! We could see the Justice Department dropped for a turtle...

We also could see me overreacting.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Piercing Argument

Justice Kennedy from the New York Times on the Supreme Court's ruling on the partial-birth abortion ban:

“It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form.”

Does anyone, conservative or liberal, other than Kennedy buy this??

Accept the unexcepted

More from the New York Times:

"Justice Kennedy, in addressing the need for the health exception, said on Wednesday that it was acceptable for Congress not to include one because there was “medical uncertainty” over whether the banned procedure was ever necessary for the sake of a woman’s health. He said that pregnant women or their doctors could assert an individual need for a health exception by going to court to challenge the law as it applied to them."

So Kennedy says the mother goes unprotected because of 'uncertainty.' Justice Ginsburg says the approach is 'gravely mistaken.'

An individual need for a health exception? Who are we trying to protect here? Or not protect, as the case might be?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Life or lack thereof

The Senate voted Wednesday to reject restrictions President Bush has placed on embryonic stem-cell research. To which, anti-ESCeller Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) asked the question on everyone's minds: When does life begin?

(It's unclear whose life he was talking about, specifically. He couldn't have been talking about his. He's a cellar dwellar presidential candidate - It doesn't get much more lively... )

But he followed it with a more pressing question. "Will we sanction the destruction of nascent human life with taxpayer dollars?"

Of course not, Mr. Senator, isn't that what the War in Iraq is for?

Give me celebrity or give me scientific death!

Yes. Nation, We are dumb. You probably didn't hear it here first...
Although Mike Lafferty of the Columbus Dispatch has a rather dry interview with George Fitzgerald Smoot, the Nobel Prize winner in physics who measured the oldest light in the universe, he eventually hits on an interesting point. Interesting because it's indicative of where we're heading as a nation, which seems to care more about Britney Spears' hair than our origins and our fate. Or math. Or biology. Or probably even spelling, for that matter...

Of course, thinking about Britney's hair is probably easier than grappling with gravitational lensing and quantum mechanics, but I doubt it's more rewarding...

"Q: You have five grad students in your lab and three are foreign nationals. What's that say about American interest in science?

A: That's why I have more of my retirement money in overseas funds. In general, quality is declining. ... The foreign kids come prepared."

Yes, the slow death of physics in America could be seen as a philosophical debate. If the foreign kids come prepared, do we not come at all? And why not? Is it celebritydom that's beginning to dominate our world, ripping away any substantive matter?

But I can see why some don't care about string theory, the cosmos or even God. We do seem to have lots of atheists and agnostics running around (not that I regularly tote or recite the Bible). It might be a shortsighted theory, but who cares to answer deep, unfathomable questions if you'll be confined in a small box for eternity?

One day -- and this will represent a true sea change in America, far surpassing the death of science -- we're going to have an atheist president.

Bill Maher would be so proud, provided we have already stopped intoxicating ourselves with death food, of course.

Obama on Imus

From the New York Times: “He didn’t just cross the line. He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America.”

Hmmmm? his two young daughters, eh? And the other millions of young, black americans get no mention? Interesting. I suppose the others have no representation because they don't stand a chance to be in the White House...

Anyway Barack has, what, $26 million in fundraising to make him and his family feel a little more secure, right?
From the New York Times today regarding Kurt Vonnegut's death...

"Mr. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, the youngest of three children... Mr. Vonnegut’s brother, Bernard, who died in 1997, was a physicist and an expert on thunderstorms."

This is fine and good except--an expert on thunderstorms is kinda' like someone who thoroughly understands Vonnegut's writing. (Or Vonnegut himself for that matter)

These types of people don't exist. As prevalent as thunder and lightning is, no one knows much about it... I once was talking to an atmospheric scientist and unknowingly called him a dirty name. (this after a tiring search to locate one)

I said, "There aren't too many fulminologists around, are there?"

He said," Well no, not if that's what you're looking for. I've been doing this stuff 25 years and have only heard the word fulminologist (lightning expert) about twice." (I think, for reasons I still don't understand, they prefer to be called atmospheric scientists... Me, I prefer the other. But, then again, who cares about me? And don't all answer at once... please. It's tough listening to nobody.

I tucked my tail between my legs, admitted that I was but a lowly intern and said I didn't know any better... Then I left quietly.

I suppose they're only called atmospheric scientists these days; I must have been searching for days past.

But the point remains, an expert in clouds and lightning is as informed as the average weather enthusiast when it comes to charge separation. No one understands, and people have begun to understand they should look for other things to study.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Death to the ocean's top predator

The overharvesting of the world's great sharks has sent a shockwave down the marine food web, even effecting our shellfish consumption.

The oceans are a delicate thing, and they're unhappy when they lose a ferocious hunter. It rearranges an already delicate pecking order, one that's not accustomed to evolving on the go...

Bull sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, they've all been almost eradicated from the waters, according to this study, because of both intentional and accidental reasons. It's led to a sudden rise in their prey, such as the cownose ray (shown above).

Test the fragility of the web here:

Mars - now This is global warming.

Mars is one big dustball, and lately it's been swirling in the wind.

Mother Nature keeps sweeping the floor there to kick up dust, and the global temperature, as a result, keeps rising. (It doesn't get any cleaner for her nonstop tidying efforts, either, which doesn't alleviate the temperature rise on the Red Planet.)

Incidentally, because its dry, desert landscape is unlike Earth's, the two planet's are undergoing warming but for drastically different reasons.

For more on Mars, including global dust storms and dust devils:

When it comes to climate change, not all trees are created equal.

If you must plant a tree, take a hike to the equator. Don't bring them to the polar regions. They aren't wanted. At least that will be the theory drawn from a recent deforestation simulation...

A new study shows how sensitive the world's regions are to catastrophic forest loss, and in doing so, it gives you a rough guidemap of where to pot next.

Scandinavia - bad. Brazil - good. For more: