[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Saturday, 2012-09-29

The wild, wild life

Filed under: Home,Nature — bblackmoor @ 16:53
The Hole

The wildlife around here is pretty amazing. Other than the usual birds and squirrels, in the last 24 hours I have seen a bunny, a deer, a huge possum, a tiny frog, and some kind of tiny, ground dwelling yellow-jackets.

The Hole

The possum led us to the yellow-jackets. Last night we were watching Cabin In The Woods (which isn’t bad, if a little slow and predictable). Suddenly, the motion-sensing light on the balcony came on, startling us. Looking out, we saw a huge grey skull-faced animal walking along the railing: a possum! It wandered around, but had meandered away by the time I got the camera.

The Nest

This morning I was out back, spreading grass seed and generally looking around, and I found a huge hole. Could this be why the possum was on our deck? Had it taken up residence? Crawling closer, a bug flew out. I backed off, and it flew back in the hole. Huh? I crept closer again… and a bug came out again and flew toward me. I backed off again.

The Hole

I retrieved the camera and took some zoomed-in photos. Examining the photos, it’s clear that these are yellow-jackets. Did they take over the possum’s hole and drive it away? If so, where has it gone? In any case, tonight I’ll need to do something about the yellow-jackets.

P.S. Here is a photo of that tiny frog.

Friday, 2012-03-09

The TSA is corrupt and incompetent

Filed under: Civil Rights,Science,Travel — bblackmoor @ 21:54

I write to my Congress people every so often asking them to abolish the TSA (not reform, not privatize — abolish). If more people did so, at least the corruption would be more obvious.

Thursday, 2012-01-12

One fish, two fish, dead fish, blue fish

Filed under: Ecology,Society — bblackmoor @ 20:06
neon tetras

I have been so busy with the house fiasco and work, I haven’t been feeding my fish as often as I should. Two of my larger fish are missing, and there are suspicious remains in the back of the aquarium. Apparently, even a normally placid fish will eat its brethren when it gets hungry enough.

They are the 99%.

Wednesday, 2011-09-14

Ich Bin Ein Auslander

Filed under: Music,Science — bblackmoor @ 18:27

Went to the dentist today and found out two interesting things. First, my left lower wisdom tooth is chipped. I have a rather less pleasant dentist visit scheduled for next week.

Second, I learned that one’s fillings can act as anodes and electrodes, and generate an electric current using one’s saliva as the electrolyte. The hygienist poked my gums up near one of my back teeth, using her pointy tool of dental stabbityness, and it shocked me. Then she did it again! The dentist explained that what I was experiencing was an unusual but not unknown phenomenon caused by the difference in electrical potential between the stainless steel dental pick and my silver filling.


“Well, once again, my friend, we find that science is a two-headed beast. One head is nice, it gives us aspirin and other modern conveniences… But the other head of science is bad. Oh, beware the other head of science, Arthur! It bites!”
— The Tick

Today’s “My favourite song” is “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” by Pop Will Eat Itself.

Monday, 2011-08-22

The Mugs of August – Travel mug made from corn plastic

Filed under: Art,Ecology,Food,Work — bblackmoor @ 23:06
Travel mug made from corn plastic

I am going to post a photo of a coffee mug every day in August, and talk a little bit about where we got it and why I like it.

You might think this is just an ordinary plastic travel mug. Au contraire! This mug is special. This mug is made from corn.

Susan works in the environmental field. From lead and asbestos, to recycling and greenhouse gas emissions, to domestic and international carbon trading programs, she’s done it all. She was given this mug while doing her environmental thing at Philip Morris a few years ago. It’s made entirely from corn plastic.

You see, when we run out of oil in a few decades, we’ll run out of plastic, too. The USA uses something like 200,000 barrels of oil a day on plastic packaging alone. That’s right: 200,000 barrels of oil a day, on stuff we throw away after we unwrap it. In theory, corn plastic will be the substance that replaces all that petroleum-based plastic when the petroleum is gone. Of course, corn plastic isn’t perfect. We still throw away an enormous amount of, well, everything. But you have to start somewhere.

P.S. “Degesch America, Inc. is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley town of Weyers Cave, Virginia, USA. Degesch is a worldwide leader in the specialized field of stored product pest control.” In case you wondered.

Sunday, 2011-08-21

No more balloons

Filed under: Fine Living,Science — bblackmoor @ 12:25

I’m not sure people are aware of these numbers. Global warming? Maybe I’ll see it; maybe not. Running out of oil? Running out of helium? Unless I die much sooner than I intend, these things will happen in my lifetime. You think maybe we should be doing something about that?

Saturday, 2011-02-26

Cheap costuming, and Brinke Stevens

Filed under: Ecology,Movies,Technology — bblackmoor @ 17:04
Dead Clowns

The last few panels have been really interesting. One was “Costuming on a budget”, which was fun and interesting. The other was not really a panel, but rather a Q&A with the guest of honor, Brinke Stevens. She was really interesting. She had a perspective on the changes in the film industry wrought by technology in the past several decades, and some insightful observations about how the business of selling movies has shifted in response to changes in technology. That was an unexpectedly interesting discussion, and I rather wish I had recorded it. Then she went on to talk about her current work, books she is writing, her interest in the environment (she has a masters in marine biology, was on track to study dolphin communication as she was working on her doctorate before she got into films). The whole science-environment part of her talk was fascinating.

I am really glad that we got to meet her: she is genuinely interesting. I bought one of her DVDs in the dealer room, Dead Clowns. She autographed it for me. 🙂

Monday, 2010-03-29

Judge declares gene patents invalid

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Science — bblackmoor @ 22:01

In a huge ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet has said that gene patents are invalid. As you may recall, last May, the ACLU was the first to finally challenge whether or not genes could be patented. There was a lot of back and forth over the case, with many saying that a ruling against gene patents would throw a wrench into the business plans of many companies, because so many biotech/medical companies have been relying on the idea that gene patents must be valid for so long. But just because many companies relied on a mistaken understanding of patent law, doesn’t mean that it should be allowed to continue. The judge made the point clear when it came to gene patents, saying that they:

“are directed to a law of nature and were therefore improperly granted.”

The case was brought against Myriad Genetics, who will surely appeal, so this is nowhere close to over. But it involved a test for breast cancer, that Myriad basically had a monopoly over — and the claim was that this not only made it more difficult for women to get tested, but it also greatly discouraged other research in the field. In part, this was because the patents that Myriad held were incredibly broad.

Patents, of course, are not supposed to be granted on things found in in nature — and it’s hard to argue against the idea that genes are found in nature. Supporters of gene patents often claim that they’re not really gene patents, but a patent on identifying the gene, which is a nice semantic game that the judge clearly saw through. This is a huge step forward for encouraging more real research into genetic testing, rather than locking up important information.

(from Judge: Gene Patents Are Invalid, TechDirt)


Saturday, 2010-03-27

New human relative identified

Filed under: History,Science — bblackmoor @ 14:37

skull fossil

At a press conference yesterday, researchers announced the completely unexpected: a Siberian cave has yielded evidence of an entirely unknown human relative that appears to have shared Asia with both modern humans and Neanderthals less than 50,000 years ago. The find comes courtesy of a single bone from individual’s hand. Lest you think that paleontologists are overinterpreting a tiny fragment, it wasn’t the shape of the bone that indicates the presence of a new species—it was the DNA that it contained.

(from Neither Neanderthal nor sapiens: new human relative IDed, Ars Technica)

Saturday, 2009-02-07

Causes of death in the USA

Filed under: Science,Society — bblackmoor @ 17:47

According to the CDC, roughly 440,000 deaths each year are associated with smoking.

Also according to the CDC, roughly 400,000 deaths each year are associated with obesity.

Many more people die each year in the USA from motor vehicle accidents (roughly 40,000) than in airplane crashes (fewer than 1,000). But people spend a lot more time in cars than in airplanes. The per-hour death rate of driving versus flying is about equal.

And according to the NIH, roughly 12,000 deaths (excluding suicides) each year are associated with firearms.

The leading causes of death in 2000 were tobacco (435 000 deaths; 18.1% of total US deaths), poor diet and physical inactivity (400 000 deaths; 16.6%), and alcohol consumption (85 000 deaths; 3.5%). Other actual causes of death were microbial agents (75 000), toxic agents (55 000), motor vehicle crashes (43 000), incidents involving firearms (29 000), sexual behaviors (20 000), and illicit use of drugs (17 000).

(from CDC: Obesity approaching tobacco as top preventable cause of death, DoctorsLounge)

So “sexual behavior” is just behind “firearms” in terms of the raw number of people killed — and is far ahead of firearms when the roughly 17,000 suicides who used firearms are excluded (as they should be, for obvious reasons).


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