Sunny with a chance of squirrels

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What is going on in that furry little head of yours? I was standing on the porch one day last fall watching Bella, our terrier-cross dog, and latest addition to the Chadwick pack. She was watching Diego, our ginger tom cat who was watching something in the trees. Bella stared, then turned to look where Diego was looking. Together they stared at something I couldn’t see, but which captivated them to the point of obsession. Heads moved in unison as they stared, fixated. Tails twitched … click below for more ↓

Thinking about a new ukulele

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I’ve been thinking seriously of adding another ukulele to the herd. A tenor resonator, or resophonic, like the Kala shown above. That’s the re-designed 2014 model. I’ve played earlier models, including the 2013 version with the strings attached to a tailpiece (see photo below, left). The 2014 design (shown above) anchors the strings back into the cover plate, which I expect will be a better design; it looks cleaner, too. But I believe the biggest change is that the through-the-plate model has more tension on … click below for more ↓

Litter, litter, everywhere

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Pop cans. Coffee cups. Candy bar wrappers. Fast food wrappers. Cigarette packages. Cigarette butts. Dog feces. Bags of dog feces. Flyers. Cellophane package wrap. Water bottles. Juice bottles. Chip bags. Beer cans and bottles. Disposable lighters and pens. Cardboard beer boxes. Discarded newspapers and junk mail. Plastic grocery bags. I just don’t get littering. I’ve never gotten littering. These are just some of the items I’ve seen stuck into snow banks and hedges in my neighbourhood, or dropped on the road the past few weeks. … click below for more ↓

Feb. 12: Happy Darwin Day

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February 12 is international Darwin Day, the day when we collectively celebrate science and reason. And, of course, we recognize Charles Darwin’s birthday: February 12, 1809 (the same birthdate as Abraham Lincoln, by the way). If Collingwood made such declarations, I would propose we recognize the day in our municipality. Other Canadian municipalities have done so. Maybe we could raise a flag with Darwin’s face on it outside town hall. Darwin Day was first celebrated in 1995 and has been growing in recognition and popularity … click below for more ↓

Psychics 2013: the silly, the scams, the failed predictions

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Action News, an ABC affiliate, ran a late-year story with the headline “Psychics interpret pets’ thoughts.” No, it’s not April Fools’ Day: this was December 26. Yet the reporter treated it seriously; just like it was a real story; actual news, rather than a steaming heap of superstitious dung. That reporters for any media outlet treat would such codswallop as “news” calls into question their ability, their competence and their education. Lorrie The Pet Psychic has been tuning into the thoughts of animals for 18 … click below for more ↓

American belief in evolution is growing: poll

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A new Harris poll released this month shows that Americans apparently are losing their belief in miracles and gaining it in science. The recent poll showed that American belief in evolution had risen to 47% from its previous poll level of 42%, in 2005. True, it’s not an overwhelming increase, and it’s still less than half the population, but it is an improvement. Belief in creationism dropped 3% during that time, to 36%. Good news, of course, but don’t break out the champagne yet. There’s other … click below for more ↓

We have heading up for your net

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I have to admit that I frequently read the spam comments WordPress traps for my moderation, and I often do so with a smile. The clumsy, crazy constructs, the awkward English, butchered punctuation and the twisted word use just make me laugh. Yes, like everyone else, I detest spam, and I quickly delete the comments into whatever digital wastebin they descend to. But I often chuckle to read them first. They make me wonder: are they deliberately written poorly, are they the sincere efforts of … click below for more ↓

Anti-Intellectualism: The New Elitism

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There’s a growing – and disturbing – trend in modern culture: anti-intellectual elitism. The dismissal of art, science, culture, philosophy, of rhetoric and debate, of literature and poetry, and their replacement by entertainment, spectacle, self-righteous self ignorance, and deliberate gullibility. These are usually followed by vituperative ridicule and angry caterwauling when anyone challenges the populist ideals or ideologies. As if having a brain, as if having any aspirations to culture, to art, to learning – or worse, to science – was an evil, malicious thing … click below for more ↓

Survival of the Fittest

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Charles Darwin has long been associated with the phrase, “survival of the fittest.” For a century and a half people have used it to refer to their understanding of his explanation of how species evolved. But it wasn’t his. And it has obscured the understanding of Darwin’s own theory. It came from a contemporary, Herbert Spencer. Spencer was a contemporary of Darwin – an English polymath:  philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, economist liberal political theorist, utilitarian – and, by some accounts, an early libertarian. His ideas came from people … click below for more ↓

Infestations, Microbes & Parasites

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Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Actinobacteria, Clostridiales, and Bacilli. They’re the most common, but they’re not the only ones. Bacteria. Microbes. Yes, even parasites.  Living in your belly button. And on your skin. Your hair. But the belly button flora and fauna fascinate me the most.* We’ve known ever since the microscope was invented that we had a population of hitchhikers living on our skin, scalp – and even inside us. The great Antony van Leeuwenhoek is known as the “father of microbiology” for his explorations through his fledgling, primitive … click below for more ↓

From 7 to 29. Should I be worried? Or just keep monitoring?

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Seven cents per hour. That’s what the energy monitor was showing me a moment before I plugged in the kettle. Then it jumped to 29 cents. Wow! And this is mid-peak time, too, my new energy monitor warns. Should I be worried? Better cut back on the tea if I want to conserve energy. It did the same last night when we turned on the microwave at dinner time, but that was off-peak. Still, that’s pretty high, compared to seven cents. Those two devices seem … click below for more ↓

We are Stardust… and Viral Genes

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In her classic song, Woodstock, Joni Mitchell ended with the chorus: We are stardust Billion-year-old carbon We are golden Caught in the devil’s bargain And we’ve got to get ourselves Back to the garden Which most people assume is merely poetic licence. Well, Joni wasn’t wrong: we – and every living thing on our planet – are made of stardust. As we learn at Physics Central: If we know how many hydrogen atoms are in our body, then we can say that the rest is … click below for more ↓

Why Creationists Don’t Win the Nobel Prize

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Looking at the list of Nobel prizes awarded in 2013 for science, we see three prestigious entries: The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 François Englert and Peter W. Higgs “For the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.” The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh … click below for more ↓

Hijack the Starship

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Nineteen seventy. A great year for music, and a sad year, too. The death of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin.* Many of the great acts were kicked off their record labels and would struggle to find new publishers.** The great psychedelic band, Jefferson Airplane was breaking up, but before it did, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick put together a new band, named Paul Kantner and the Jefferson Starship (which would change its lineup before finalizing as the Jefferson Starship a few years later). They released … click below for more ↓

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