The Maker Shed Science Room launch is now only 28 days away, and I'm
still hacking away at the to-do list. There's no way we'll get
everything complete in time, but we'll get enough of it done to have an
impressive launch. We have about 160 SKUs of chemicals on order, and
another 160 or so SKUs of lab equipment on order. I've finished writing
the descriptions for each chemical SKU, and am currently writing
descriptions and finding or shooting images for the lab equipment SKUs,
which I hope to have complete in the next couple of days. After that,
it's back to doing content, lots and lots of content. Initially,
that'll be repurposed material from the chemistry and forensics books,
along with new materials about general lab procedures, lab safety, and
so on. That, and a lot of videos. As time passes, we'll have articles
and videos as well as additional Science Room SKUs to cover biology,
physics, earth science, and so on. Enough to keep me very busy
indefinitely, which is the way I like it.
Paul had a professional meeting last night, so Barbara and I took Mary
out to dinner. As usual, the conversation was wide-ranging, from
science and religion to what we'd rented recently from Netflix. It was
a nice break from work, which I'd better get back to now.
I'm still cranking away on lab equipment descriptions, and I also need
to take some time in the next day or two to write a rough script for
the first video we're going to shoot. That's about lead testing, and
will actually be two videos: one for folks who just want to test paint
and other household materials for the presence of lead, and a second
for people who want to get into the science involved in those tests.
So, I'm keeping busy, which is just as well, as the Maker Shed Science
Room launch is now only 26 days away.
- I really don't understand why courts waste
their time considering some suits. Here's a perfect
A woman claims to have been raped by Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger. That's a deadly serious accusation, no matter how
you look at it.
So, did the woman immediately report this
alleged rape to the police? No. The rape supposedly occurred a year
ago, and the woman didn't bother to report it to the police.
Instead, she waited a year and then filed a civil lawsuit asking for
lots and lots of money. How is Roethlisberger supposed to defend
himself? It's been a year. There's obviously no forensic evidence. It's
simply a matter of his word against hers. In any sane judicial system,
that would constitute reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, and the
charges would be dismissed. It's different for rape, of course. A man
is presumed guilty unless he can prove himself innocent. But of course
this isn't going to be a criminal trial. She's filed a civil lawsuit,
for which the standard of proof is much lower, "preponderance of the
evidence" rather than "reasonable doubt".
If I were the judge, I'd instantly dismiss this lawsuit with prejudice
and toss this woman in jail for contempt of court.
- The fundamentalist Christian nutters are at it again,
this time in Tampa, where they're
putting up quotes on billboards.
These quotes are from Washington, Franklin, and other Founding Fathers,
intended to prove that the United States was founded on Christian
principles. The problem is, they couldn't find enough suitable quotes
for all those billboards--a whole ten of them--so they had to make some
If they're wondering why they had such problems quote-mining
the Founding Fathers, I'll tell them. The United States was not founded
on Christian principles. Far from it. It was founded on humanist (or
atheist) principles. Most of the Founding Fathers were not even
slightly religious and were certainly not Christian. They were what
today would be called atheists or secular humanists. At the time, they
were called deists, which was essentially another word for
In fact, by a strict definition, I am a deist. So are
Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, and all of the
other vocal atheists who've been writing best-selling books and
maintaining high-traffic web sites for the last decade or more. A deist
is someone who does not deny the possibility (not probability or
certainty) of a non-interventionist god who created the universe. In
fact, all scientists are at least deists by this definition, because no
scientist would deny that it is possible that a god of some sort
started the universe running and then stepped back. We might doubt it,
and we do. We might think the chances of that being the correct
explanation are vanishingly small, and we do. But one can't prove a
If you doubt the absence of religious fervor among the
Founding Fathers, just ask yourself why these nutters had such a hard
time coming up with only ten good quotes. When most of the Founding
Fathers spoke of a "Creator", they were doing so in a deist
not a theist sense. To the extent that they said anything that could
later be interpreted as supporting theism, you can write it off to the
tenor of the times, which was even more anti-atheist than today, and
that's saying something.
For example, I believe that in North
Carolina a law is still on the books that forbids me from holding
public office because I do not believe in god. As far as I know, no
professed or at least vocal atheist has ever been elected to
any public office anywhere in these United States. In surveys,
most people rank atheists below used-car salesmen, politicians, and
sometimes even child molesters, which only proves that most people are
morons. I say that because most people, even now, rank scientists among
the most trusted groups in society, and yet scientists are
overwhelmingly non-believers. IIRC, in a survey of the
Academy of Sciences, something like 95% of the respondents
characterized themselves as non-believers, and the percentage of real
scientists who self-identify as fundamentalist Christians isn't large
enough to rate even an asterisk.
I wish I were wealthy enough to put up billboards of my
own in Tampa. I'd put up 100 or 1,000 atheist/humanist quotes from the
Founding Fathers for every one quote, real or bogus, that these
Christian fundamentalists are polluting the landscape with.
Hmmm. Another bogus accusation of racism, this time in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. Let's see. The cops get a call telling them there's a
burglary in progress. They show up and find a man with a crowbar trying
the pry open the door of the residence. They confront him and
him what he thinks he's doing. He claims to be the owner of the
residence. The cops ask him to show identification. He refuses and
becomes verbally abusive. They arrest him. He finally shows an
identification card from Harvard University. Presumably, it doesn't
include his address, so the cops call the Harvard cops to check the guy
out. It turns out he's who he claims to be, a professor at Harvard, and
he's clearly entitled to break into his own house. But the
keep him in custody and take him down to the station because they'd
already arrested him for creating a public nuisance, or whatever they
charged him with for his initial verbal abuse. He's released quickly
and charges are dropped. The cops followed proper procedures.
it happens, the professor is a middle-age black man. He's now loudly
proclaiming that the cops who busted him are racists, and Obama has
weighed in to support that claim. Now, I'm sure it's true that blacks
and Hispanics are disproportionately detained and arrested by the cops,
including black and Hispanic cops. That's because, for whatever reason,
blacks and Hispanics disproportionately commit crimes. Everyone knows
this to be true, but no one is allowed to say it. But this isn't a case
of racial profiling. This is the case of the cops responding to a
reported crime and finding what appeared to be a crime in progress. As
far as I can see, the cops did everything right. If I were found
breaking into my own house with a crowbar, I'd expect the cops to
demand identification. That's simply reasonable. If I refused to show
identification and began verbally abusing the cops, I'd expect to be
arrested, and rightly so.
These were just cops doing their job.
They did what they were supposed to do, and they did it by the book.
Assuming that the facts are accurately reported, to accuse these cops
of racism is simply irresponsible hate-mongering. And there's a subtler
danger here. If we abuse cops for doing their jobs, how much longer
will it be before they simply decide to look the other way? I'll answer
my own question. It's not a matter of how much longer. It's happening
now, and it's getting worse, and I don't blame the cops a bit. It's
very short-sighted to hamper the ability of the Thin Blue Line to do
their jobs. If this keeps up, there may really never be a cop around
when you need one.
- I'm in love again. Fortunately, Barbara is very
understanding. She recognizes that I love all women--well, most of
them, anyway--without feeling any compulsion to do anything about it.
Here's the latest object of my adoration. She's a young Romanian woman
who is fluent in both English and science. Watch her devastate a
There's hope for the world as long as we continue to produce young
people like this. I actually created a YouTube account just because I
wanted to subscribe to her channel.
And, speaking of YouTube, why had I never heard of this guy until
yesterday? Be careful with the part that starts around 4:45. I nearly
sprayed a mouth full of Coke all over my keyboard and monitor.
And, as long as I'm linking to YouTube favorites, here's another guy I
don't mention often enough, Pat Condell. He's a bit soft on Islam for
my taste, but I still enjoy watching him.
Barbara's out on a day trip with her parents, returning sometime this
afternoon. I'm doing laundry and working on the Maker Shed Science Room
launch to-dos. I finished the descriptions of the pre-packaged kits
yesterday: Lead Testing; Forensic Fingerprint Processing; and the Basic
Laboratory Equipment Kit.
Today, I'm running on about
half-charge. Duncan wakened me this morning at 0600 and I couldn't get
back to sleep. Barbara got him calmed down, and she was able to sleep
until about 0815, Duncan and Malcolm with her. I was awake, and
couldn't get back to sleep. I'd also been up with Duncan two or three
times during the night, as had Barbara. Fortunately, we appear to be
switching off pretty well. When I wake up to help Duncan, she usually
remains asleep and vice versa. Otherwise, we'd both be like the walking
I'm writing scripts for videos today. Nothing really
formal. In fact, it's sometimes just a list of bullet points. But, in
my experience, shooting videos goes a lot faster and with fewer takes
if there's at least a script outline available. I just print them out
in landscape in about 28 point. For a talking head shot, I tape the
sheet of paper to the camera so that it hangs down below it. For stuff
I'm doing at a bench or at the kitchen table, I just put the script on
the work surface, just out of camera range. Kind of a poor man's
Over the last couple of days, I've been watching Kristina's videos
when I take a break. This young woman has a superb mind. Oh, she has a
few blind spots. For example, she says she won't use products that are
tested on animals, but of course she's too sensible to believe that,
really. What I'm sure she means, and what I'm sure she'll realize
eventually on her own, is that she refuses to use trivial products such
as cosmetics that are tested on animals, a position with which I agree.
But I'm sure she would be the first to admit that there is nothing
wrong and everything right with animal testing of important products,
such as antibiotics and other critical medications.
figure that out for herself. She's extraordinarily intelligent and
intellectually driven. She spent the first eight years of her life
under a communist dictatorship, and she remembers what it was like.
Things we take for granted are a lot harder for her. For example, if
any of us wanted to read Darwin's Origin, we'd go to the library
and check it out or to the bookstore and buy a copy. She decided as a
teenager, on her own, that she should read Origin, but there was no
copy to be had. She had to order a copy from another country and have
it shipped to her.
At Kristina's age and with her mind, she
should be a newly-minted physician or engineer or doing a postdoc in a
hard science. Instead, she's working in an insurance brokerage. She
mentioned in one of her videos that there's nothing good about Romania,
but she mentioned in another video, responding to viewer invitations,
that she didn't want to move to the United States, at least right now.
I emailed her to say that it must seem presumptuous to her when
Americans invite her to relocate to the US, but it's not really us
saying "come to live here because life is better." Instead, we're
saying, "come to live here because we need more people like you." If
she and her new husband ever do decide they want to relocate to the US,
they'll have a lot of people here willing to do what they can to help.