Thought of the day

I hate finals week. Hate it.

On the plus side, my degrees are done bar a single course (which is ever-so-conveniently offered two semesters from now).

Fun fact of the day

I think most people know where this is:

For those who don’t know where it is, I bet most have still at least seen this image. It’s of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park in California. Notice the square shape of the valley. This is unusual because valleys tend to be formed by two things: rivers and/or glaciers. Rivers result in a V-shape due to their cutting action and glaciers result in a U-shape due to weight and grinding. So why is Yosemite Valley square?

The answer actually does lie in the geological activity of glaciers. When a glacier moves, it has a lot of mass and power behind it. That means it can easily bring tons and tons of rocks and debris along for the ride. Go on a hike anywhere reasonably far from the equator and glacial erratics will not be uncommon.

In the case of Yosemite Valley, a glacier moving through it brought more than a few erratics. In fact, it was more than just one glacier. Over millions of years many glaciers have run through the park, creating a massive lake where we see sheer cliffs in the first picture. On one end of this lake was a moraine, a collection of rocks pushed forward by the weight of all that ice. They built up on each other and formed what was essentially a damn. This allowed the lake to also form, filling in what was then a U-shape. Of course, that shape was still underneath all that water.

So the question that may be popping up from all this is, What is it that lakes do that is important here? The answer is that they create sediment. And with enough time, all that sediment adds up. In the case of Yosemite Valley, it added up to the point where it filled in that U-shape, creating the square we know today.

Nationalism and stupidity

Here is the epitome of nationalism:

Here is what I just read on Facebook:

Why don’t you go tell every veteran that they are racist then.

Agreeing to die for you nation is pretty nationalistic. But then again, you apparently wouldn’t understand that. Nationalism can also be inclusive; not inherently divisive and racist. But then again, maybe you don’t understand that either

Go ask a soldier and get back to me. If you don’t like our nation then move out.

These were all responses to another person’s posts contending and explaining why nationalism is categorically racist. (He was using “racist” with some liberty, but that was never really even the issue.) It may be the least fruitful discussion I have ever seen on Facebook. It’s like the person conflating patriotism with nationalism has never even considered these arguments. I…I’m speechless. I have to let George Orwell take over:

A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist — that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating — but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations. He sees history, especially contemporary history, as the endless rise and decline of great power units, and every event that happens seems to him a demonstration that his own side is on the upgrade and some hated rival is on the downgrade. But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him.

Update: I usually make it a point to not publish names that come from non-public discussions, but whereas this person defriended the status maker over my comments, I don’t feel bad to say that I think Allyson McCreery is a twit who deserves zero respect.

Welcome to the Anthropocene has put together a great video of the impact humanity has had on the world over the past several hundred years. I think the worst part has to be the fact that CO2 levels in the atmosphere today are higher than they’ve been in the past million years or so. But hey. Maybe it’s just coincidence, amirite?

Thought of the day

I just saw an article about a new employee cafeteria Apple is building. A “news” article.

Someone needs to tell all the Apple fanboys out there where their obsession ends and real news begins.


This is from one of the people running Real Hope for Haiti, the group that runs the major health facility for the village I visited:


Milienne went home this past weekend to her grandmothers house. They have never been able to locate her mother for 3 years now. Her grandmother will have to decide what she is wanting to do. There is talk of adoption but she has not made a final decision yet. She was well and healthy when she returned home.

I hope things work out for the best for her.

High school student dresses up as Jesus for “Fictional Character Day”

I don’t know as I would have done this in high school, but I certainly would seize such an opportunity now:

A couple of months ago, Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee held a “Fictional Character Day” in which students could come to school dressed as their favorite fictional character. Like the Mad Hatter. Or Darth Vader. Or SpongeBob SquarePants.

Jeff Shott came dressed as Jesus.

Before class even started that day, Shott was asked by the principal and other staffers to remove his costume. It was inappropriate, they said.

That’s sort of the default excuse the courts have given to schools, isn’t it? You want to do something remotely controversial? Nah. Sit down and shut up so you don’t disrupt anything. Or, in other words:

Here is part of what Jeff had to say about this in his own words:

I’d arrived at school this Monday before 8:15 a.m. and waited in the cafeteria until classes started, eating breakfast with friends and adding finishing touches to my Jesus costume.

The head principal, Dr. Farmer, soon came up and asked me to come to his office. The assistant principal, Ms. Lamb, and Officer Pewit, school resource officer, were waiting outside the cafeteria. Dr. Farmer asked me whom I was portraying. I told him that I was Jesus Christ. He said he had been hoping my answer would have been Zeus (or some other variation of a mythological deity).

Even though I’m typically very openly atheistic and have no problem discussing my views, I was a little distraught that all three school authority figures were addressing me at once. Dr. Farmer claimed I couldn’t have things both ways — I couldn’t complain about teachers talking about Jesus and also dress up as Jesus on Fictional Character Day.

Apparently one of Jeff’s “science teachers” is a creationist and had expressed as much, undermining the theory and fact of evolution with typical creationist tripe. Now it looks like the administration at Jeff’s school understands the constitution about as well as its teachers understand science. The fact is, whether or not dressing as Jesus is allowed on school grounds, Jeff’s teacher was promoting Christian creationism in the classroom, something which has long been established as illegal. It doesn’t matter if Jeff has a problem with that and he wants to wear a funny costume. Indeed, what a teacher tells her students and what a student wears as a costume are independent situations.

Anyway, Jeff has been given a $1,000 scholarship from the Freedom From Religion Foundation because of all this, so the end result isn’t so awful. And even better? I guarantee more students have been talking about him at school than ever would have if he wore his costume for the whole day.

The peace of New England

My top three states have always been Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. (Number four is Colorado because of its ample sun without 500 degree southwest temperatures.) Now my list has been solidified even more:

The rural New England states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are the most peaceful U.S. states, a distinction that gives them an economic advantage over the most violent, including Louisiana, Tennessee and Nevada.

Violence and its aftermath cost the entire U.S. economy some $460 billion last year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s second annual United States Peace Index, which was released on Tuesday.

News of a homicide in these areas is treated like the national media treats news of a pretty white girl who has gone missing. It’s a really big deal and it gets a lot of attention. (The difference, of course, is that it gets attention because someone has been murdered, not because the victim is white and relatively affluent.)

The study found that the United States has become a less violent place over the past two decades, based on an analysis of historic data on homicides and other violent crime, the number of people incarcerated, police employment and the prevalence of small arms.

Now, if I was to argue like I see Christians argue about atheists, I would say that our high rate of incarcerating Christians – they make up an overwhelming majority of our prison population – is what has contributed to this drop. Of course, correlation does not equal causation.

Thought of the day

When I become Supreme Ruler of the world, my first order of business will be to outlaw sandwich makers who put my vegetables in the middle of my sub. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FOLD IT? You aren’t. Damn it. You aren’t.