Friday, December 14, 2007

A History of the S

A fun history of the ever changing nature of Superman's "S".


Science: Finally Doing Something Useful

It seems science has now given us glow-in-the-dark cats.


Honestly, as often as I trip over Jeff at night on my way to bed, which is, like, twice a week... I think this is exactly the sort of things science needs to be working on.

Thanks to Jamie for the link

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Sign I'm Getting Older

In Arizona there was a bar called Four Peaks that also served food. It was a very popular hangout, but I'd only been there once or twice. Anyhow, I was mistaken when a new place opened up in the now defunct seafood place off I-35 and Stassney.

The place was called Twin Peaks, but, you know, it'd been a while and I got the places mixed up. So we headed there, just to check it out to see if it was the same chain.

It was not.

The first thing I noticed when we walked in was that the hostess was in a trampy Mrs. Claus outfit. And then I heard Jamie mention, as we were getting seated "I'm the only woman in this place..."

And, aside from the waitresses, also dressed in trampy Mrs. Claus outfits, she was the only female I saw in a very packed restaurant.

The interior hadn't changed at all since it was the defunct seafood place, so you kind of had to wonder how much the new owner was even trying. And the menu wasn't terribly impressive, either.

Honestly, the place wasn't goofy and sort of intentionally low-brow as Hooters (which, yes, I have been to). Instead, it was just... weird. And kind of gross.

I looked at all the lower-back tattoos on all the waitresses, and all the kind of guys there having a drink with their pals, and for some reason tonight, I just couldn't put up with it. Plus, the menu was kind of lame.

I really couldn't see asking Jamie to stay, although she sort of shrugged the whole thing off. But I couldn't do it. The whole thing was so... dumb. And I knew maybe six years ago I would have giggled my way through the whole meal, but instead I just kind of found the whole operation depressing.

We looked at the menu, and I looked around for a few minutes, and then I realized, I just couldn't keep sitting there. I had to go. I just wasn't going to have patience for the whole thing tonight. So, Jamie and Jason being good sports, we left and went across the street.

I feel so old.

Wonder Woman article

There's a brief article in the NY Sun that more or less cuts through the hype and is surprisingly accurate regarding Wonder Woman's struggles with keeping up with her two peers at DC, Superman and Batman.

I agree with almost everything in this article, especially the words shared by Greg Rucka. And, like the author of the article, I think Gail Simone has a genuine chance to turn things around.

Read the article here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jason C. at has an excellent post on digital comics. Looks to be the first of a series.

Link for a new movie called Machine Girl. Looks completely awesome, but has some incredibly violent stuff in the trailer. Wacky violent, but... anyway. Mom, don't click.

When I see a trailer that is truly awful and shameless in its pandering, for some odd reason, it brings a smile to my face. And that's how I feel about Alvin and the Chipmunks. I am tempted to actually go see this one, much in the same way I was tempted to see Underdog. That said, I never actually saw Underdog. Draw your own conclusions.

Dear Jason Lee,

I only wish I could have a tiny scraping of the big pile of money you get for doing completely stupid @#$%.


The League

But today, thanks to THIS, I feel some hope.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Man to Ape

In the wee hours of Saturday's festivities, I made a passing remark that my high school hadn't done much to teach evolution and that my knowledge of the process came from college. What was intended to be a remark upon the value of higher education was, unfortunately, taken as an indictment of public education, especially an education from a school with local political considerations which may have played more than a small part in the discussion.

a school where I might have actually paid attention. Or paid for it with my life.

It's worth noting that I had only a passing interest in the sciences until my senior year of high school. It may be worth noting that I had mostly only a passing interest in high school. I was far more interested in skating through courses like biology than killing myself for an A+. I was too busy reading comics, worrying about art class and English, playing basketball, trying out for plays, trying to start a lacrosse team and trying to go to shows to care much one way or another about what sort of education I was getting in high school biology. At the time, I assumed most public high schools taught basically the same things, and didn't really know what I didn't know... so it didn't seem at all like a big deal.

A fairly normal track at Westwood, the first high-school I'd attended, was to take a basic intro to science course as a Freshman, biology as a sophomore, chemistry as a junior and physics as a senior. Tucked in there were other science offerings such as anatomy, bio 2 (which KOHS also offered), and a few other options.

So it was that when I moved from Austin to Spring between my Freshman and Sophomore years I was lumped into the honors science track and took biology with a herd of freshmen. That year Jeff Wilser and I dissected worms, frogs, squid, a fetal pig and I spent most of the year wondering how what I learned from The Swamp Thing and X-Men applied to what I was learning in class. And I frequently asked questions about the Swamp Thing and the likelihood of humanity ever shooting beams from their eyes.

Apparently, not going to happen.

I received few answers which I found satisfactory as to how a plant could take on the consciousness of a biologist as he lay dying in a swamp, but my instructor was patient and I felt like I had a pretty good feeling as to the difference between the innards of a pig and a worm by the end of the year. That, really, had been our focus, after all. Anatomy, eco-systems, and how far we could push our teacher without getting bounced out of class seemed to be more than enough to fill a year.

We had, in the spring, covered Mendel Squares and there had been mention of evolution as a part of our year. I believe terms like "natural selection" had been bandied about, and looking at if you could curl your tongue or which direction a hair swirl would go as an inherited trait. But, really, that was about it as far as I can recall.

I had a subscription to National Geographic, read comics about mutants (which had about the exact grasp on science as one would expect of a comic where a man can cover himself in ice and not die of hypothermia), owned a set of Encyclopedias, watched Nova on occasion and National Geographic Explorer, so I knew of Darwin. I had heard of the Beagle, knew that mutations occurred between generations, and that was the basic mechanism for the present state of the world's biodiversity, in the snap-shot view of the modern human (with an historical record).

What was not covered, as I can recall, was much about Darwin himself, nor was Darwinism heavily emphasized in our lessons. The focus, in retrospect, was more upon genetic traits and inheritance than on the advantage of a larger beak to eat a different sort of nut. Whether Darwinism was deemed beyond the scope of a basic biology class, I don't know. Or whether a political decision had been made by our creaky school board and Superintendent (who was, I think, 147 at the time), I have no clue.

But I have my suspicions.

In college I was more interested in geology than I was biology, but as these things tend to do, some of my courses began to intersect. Age of the Dinosaurs was, for some odd reason, placed under geology. I was hoping for a course that would teach me about gigantic pre-historic eating machines, and that was absolutely part of the curriculum. These teachers were no fools. But it was also about the progression of life and the minute changes of anatomy that work as an advantage in a dino-eat-dino world. Further, with a fairly clear way to read the fossil record through radioactive decay and soil layering, the picture was logical and clear.

I also took UT's Bio-for-Dummies, or biology for those of us not planning a career in a lab coat or herding lab rats. Here, the angle of biology was inverted from the broad-based/ Marlin Perkins world of Biology I'd poured over in high school. It was DNA and RNA sequences, bio-diversity on a microcosmic scale, spreading outward through non-random splitting and re-splitting, and the cause of mutation becoming abundantly, pointedly clear. Moreover, our instructor was a retired UT prof who had grown bored and returned as an adjunct. He was passionate about the topics he taught in a way I think must have come out of having that year or two of retirement to live in his own head, with no pressing publishing dates to worry about, and deciding that he'd spend the years that were supposed to be for him making sure 18-22 year olds knew how the hell a cell replicated itself and what that meant for each and every one of us.

Also, he intoned, beware of pseudo-science. Beware of the folks coming at you with an agenda that goes beyond mitochondria and gene sequencing. Heed the tenets of the scientific method, and understand the difference between hypothesis, theory and fact.

For a student, who wasn't much of a student, but who was looking for tools with which to observe and understand the world around him, the course had a tremendous impact.

In my final semesters at UT, I was able to take Physical Anthroplogy, and, again, as these courses tend to do when you've landed in your fifth year of undergraduate education, just as one sees patterns in history course after history course, and learns to make those connections that come with a more detailed approach to education than the "drink from the firehose" of the first year or so, there it was again. My own body was being detailed in its change from large-mandibled anthromorphs to protein hungry tool users. DNA and RNA sequences slowly, gradually changing.

And the knowledge that it wasn't so much that one species was some high-evolutionary (after all, leave you alone with a hungry puma and see who wins in that scenario), but that its been an advantage to be able to build wheels and spears. And the slow, gradual change over millenia was a beautiful thing, in its way.

I don't take what I learned in college for granted. Or I try not to. I was not a great student, and I doubt most of my instructors would remember me (while I suspect my high school biology instructor would probably remember me for reasons other than my raw genius).

Like a lot of folks, I don't see evolution as a matter of belief, unless you want to reduce trust in academia to some form of faith. Instead, it is a matter of observation and understanding. Part of that understanding is that, while the data is massive, should reliable data begin to move science in another direction, understanding why and how observations have produced a new hypothesis or theory.

Biologists, anatomists and scientists do not have answers to every question or unexplained phenomena in the pattern of evolution, nor do they claim to. When new and contrary evidence shows up, it's not a challenge to destroy the whole image, but an opportunity to re-evaluate what the scientific community believes it knows.

For me, while I've never been a lab-coat kind of guy, it's been a method I understand and can appreciate. It's given way to understanding how science can move forward, and in its simplicity, its something us non-scientists can embrace as a method for our own observations.

I'm not sure what the point was to this post, other than a nostalgic trip down academic memory lane. I've often regretted my own lack of more rigid academic pursuits in the sciences, though I suspect my near inability to deal with any math beyond trigonometry would have probably been a bit of an issue.

The world is a lovely place, and viewing it through the lens of what few scraps of information I was able to pick up in school only makes it all the more of an amazing universe in which we dwell.

Why we do this only once per year

4:20 am - blogged
4:30 am - went to bed
9:00 am - alarm goes off by accident. Go feed dogs.
9:15 am - return to bed
12:30 pm - wake up. Tidy a bit.
1:15 pm - go get food at Casa Garcia's
2:30 pm - return home. Watch part of Cowboys' game. Talk to Mom.
3:00 pm - Matt wakes up and comes downstairs
4:00 pm - clean up a bit.
4:15 pm - hangover decides to become more than mild acheyness and head-ache. Moves into pounding headache.
5:00 pm - go back to bed.
7:00 pm - wake up.
7:40 pm - Papa Johns guy shows up, mercifully delivers Canadian bacon and pineapple to my door
8:30 pm - The League decides to blog

Ugh. I feel 100x better right now than I did when I went to go lay down again at 5:00. Too much Holiday Cheer, I suppose.

Jamie and I never take photos. Which is weird, since they now put cameras into every device known to man.

But, anyway, we were lucky enough that Jason took a few photos. You can see me in all my Holiday Splendor here.

The picture of me with Andy and the bear is... uhm.... One of the things we've done at the Holiday Heckstravaganza is that we have a drawing to win Amazing Door Prizes. Andy won the Grand Prize. Which was a bear wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of yours truly.

Which now YOU TOO can own.

Party is now over

Well... that went longer than expected. It's now 4:22 am.

I am going to bed.

Thanks to all who could make it.

Until next year!