Tuesday, April 23, 2013

No, really, it's noisy in my office.

I know it's bad form to whinge about noise disrupting my concentration, but it's getting so ridiculous that I'm beginning to feel that I'm stuck in some sort of reality show. And so, I made this video just today, in order to show my readers exactly what I'm dealing with:

After some hours being annoyed by the compressor, I had an opportunity to make a video featuring the sound of a circular saw, and so on, but I won't bore you with that. Instead, I'll bore you with what's been going on:
` If you've read my last post, you'll remember the "hilariously" over-the-top BS that Dr. Hypno has been deflecting at his second job as a van driver. On the next payday, he grabbed his check and walked out the door without saying a word -- tempted though he was to show the same amount of professionalism back to his co-workers and boss.
` He ignored their calls during his long bus trip home -- they were probably afraid he would report their shenanigans to their higher-up boss. (Mua ha ha ha!!)

Aside from me struggling to get a lot done in the face of loud yard-work, and rocker Lou Ryan having much success in his non-musical business, there isn't much else to bore you with besides... KYOOTNESS! Lookee here -- our good old grumpy friend, Vada:

apr 106
I'll remind you not to disturb me while I am guarding the house
from that dratted Siamese!

And little does Dilly suspect, but someone is watching as she chews her way through the tall grass...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Tug-of-War on Drugs, Part 1

In celebration of Washington and Colorado's first quasi-legal 4-20, I spent days writing a series of heavily-referenced posts on why certain drugs are illegal -- which somehow disappeared from cyberspace. So, here's my best paraphrase...

Strolling through the suburbs on a gray November's day, I couldn't help but notice a blue spruce surrounded by red dinner plate-sized mushrooms. Immediately, I recognized these as the fruiting bodies of the European Amanita muscaria ("fly agaric") which form a mycorrhizal relationship with the tree's roots.

oct 451 - European amanitas

Hello there, stupid primates! Let us play with your brains!

These "edible" (or, alternately, "poisonous") Amanitas can cause quasi-psychedelic states of mind (and possibly gnomes), thanks to the active ingredient muscimol. These mushrooms are traditionally "deactivated" when eaten as food in some countries, and are technically legal to consume in the U.S..
` More interestingly, this same suburban neighborhood was likely home to thousands of small, drab fruiting bodies of Psilocybe cyanescens. This species is chock full of psilocybin and its breakdown product psilocin, which is a powerful, LSD-like drug.
` The mushrooms of active Psilocybe species are illegal to gather in most states, even from one's own flower bed.

So, why are some "magic" mushrooms legal and others not? One might naively suppose that the illegal species must be worse for people's health, but as Ben Goldacre might say, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that."

As I shall discuss further in this post, the so-called "psilocybin mushrooms" are seemingly impossible to overdose on, even on purpose. Long-term use also does not correlate with any negative physiological effects, or mental illnesses, aside from exacerbating symptoms in people already inclined to psychotic breaks.
` Compared to A. muscaria (and the more potent A. pantherina), the psilocybin mushrooms are generally much easier to dose according to one's preferences, and have little to no unpleasant physical effects.
` So, the concern with the psilocybin mushrooms is not for the health of the people who take them. Instead, I found that psilocybin was banned at least in part for its role in the 1960's social revolutions -- and I am saving that part for next time.

In this article I will discuss the science of psilocin and LSD as "boundary-dissolving" drugs, meaning that they shut down the ego process: With the ego gone, so goes the misleading and limiting effects that others have on us by appealing to and manipulating one's sense of self.
` This experience reveals that all of the power we think others have over us is only an illusion. Conflict and prejudice arise mainly because of the barriers that are "programmed" into the ego. When people use these drugs specifically for the purposes of erasing such damage, compassion and self-actualization can blossom far beyond what was previously possible.
` This can be extremely empowering and therapeutic to an individual, and is also why LSD completely backfired in the U.S. military's attempt to create 'super-soldiers': Once the subjects realized that authority and social pressure really are "all in your head", they laughed in the face of orders.

Psychedelics are also bad news for politicians who want to distract the populace from the real issues (such as the pointlessness of the Viet Nam war) by ensnaring people's identities in political propaganda that turns them against one another.
` Timothy Leary's experiment in releasing psychedelics to masses of young people resulted in revolutionary and often naive inspiration to rebel against the system.
` Not surprisingly, these drugs became identified with anti-war groups, hippies, feminists, socialists, communists, anarchists and other people with "funny ideas". (Also, Charles Manson, though he wasn't very funny.)

To Nixon, all this meant trouble, so it is no wonder that he banned psychedelics and spread massive amounts of misinformation to scare people away from them.
` Other governments followed suit, effectively shutting down all psychedelic research in the entire world for decades, thus delaying new and valuable discoveries until recent years.

If any of this surprises you, then you really should read on:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back at the homefront, and the waterfront

On April 9th, Vada was happy that I finished re-arranging my office, which I did while listening to rocker Lou Ryan and his friend McCagney rockering out in the living room. The main reason for this is so that I can have better access to my things, more room to move around, and a clear space on my wall so that I can hang my new white board.
` Since this involved moving my magazine shelf five inches to the right, I had to take down all my magazines and put them all back. Notice how they are stacked in offset chunks for ease of finding a specific issue -- just that that took me hours.
` Also, I laughed when I found my mom's nail file in my November 2006 Scientific American.

apr 044

Vada says, "That is so hilarious -- now shut up and let me sleep!"

The 9th was also a tough day for Dr. Hypno, whose second job driving a van with some canvassing retards is going disastrously as usual. Not only did his boss rudely comment on his having trouble hearing directions over the noise of the underling retards, but the underlings wouldn't roll down the van windows while they were passing the pipe around.
` Yes, really.
` Although the spoiled lawyer's kid hasn't dared to taunt Dr. Hypno again by farting in his face, the cretin still stinks up the van and is now flatulating on the female employees. ...Because chicks totally dig a guy who walks in front of them emitting ass-stench.

Dr. Hypno said that the next day, he would bring an air filter mask, and perhaps some even more drastic measures in case they still don't want to roll down the windows. Luckily, his hypno powers worked once again, and the underlings are even more hesitant to mess with him than ever before.
` As for me, I've been cleaning the house a lot, and have been annoyed that whenever I took a break in order to check my email or write, there was someone doing ridiculously loud yard work. That's the curse of spring for me, although I've also been having more outdoor fun...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Disclaimer: I am indeed a NASA shill

Conspiracy theorists can safely ignore anything I have ever written about such things as the moon landing being real because I had connections with NASA as a teenager. Here's proof -- a 1998 article from the Medina Gazette:

NASA tomato 1

I'm the scary-looking girl, of course, next to Phil Jones, who was one of a very few people my age that I had ever met. The creepy-looking younger kid was Daniel Marciniak, whose Boy Scout skills I admired. We were standing next to the garden in my driveway, in front of tomato plants... from outer space.

Yes, that's right. OUTER SPACE.

Hence, my involvement with NASA: In 1984, Space Shuttle Challenger brought some tomato seeds up into orbit in an experiment that was only supposed to last several weeks. Unfortunately, when Challenger was on its way to get the seeds back, it exploded, killing all the astronauts on board.
` This, by the way, is the event that inspired a very young Phil to become an aerospace engineer rather than an astronaut.
` These seeds, unexpectedly being exposed to years of radiation, eventually found their way into my garden. Therefore, I am a NASA shill. Es l√≥gico, ¿no?

Without further ado/pickles/paramecia, the actual newspaper article:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Much ado about little extinct people

Once again, it is time for a time warp post from the beginning of my bloggering days in 2005. This time, I go back to my enthusiasm about the discovery of Homo floresiensis, thinking them to be a good candidate for the legends of three foot tall human-like creatures called the Ebu Gogo. (Alas, hobbits are still fictional.)
` It is certainly true that H. floresiensis outlived the Neandertals, but were they alive recently enough to have been remembered in the Nage people's legends? Or, more likely, could the inhabitants of Flores living thousands of years ago have come across fresher remains than what has been found in modern times?
` At the time, I had been hit with the bug of thinking about such exciting possibilities -- probably because I had read such articles as this one from Nature News.

I apologize in advance for the 'white highlighter' effect on the text, which I didn't know about until I published the post, and have no idea what to do about it. I did, however, "deblathify" the first of these for your reading pleasure:

Richard Roberts and the Little People (deblathified)

Despite the title, it doesn't actually have much to do with the archaeologist Richard Roberts, although the second one was about him and a certain Teuku Jacob, who claimed that the H. floresiensis bones were merely a deformed modern human.
` Unfortunately, that post disappeared -- I don't recall how -- which leaves us with this one:

Richard Roberts, Little People, and Snits

At the time, television interview transcripts were one of very few sources of information I could find about the kerfuffle over Jacob hiding the H. floresiensis remains (apparently from people who didn't agree that they were  modern humans).
` Three months later, he returned the bones, with serious damage apparently caused by making casts. According to this BBC article:
The damage included long, deep cuts marking the lower edge of the Hobbit's jaw on both sides, said to be caused by a knife used to cut away the rubber mould. 
In addition, the chin of a second Hobbit jaw was snapped off and glued back together. Whoever was responsible misaligned the pieces and put them at an incorrect angle. 
The pelvis was smashed, destroying details that reveal body shape, gait and evolutionary history.
Way to go, Team Jacob! Then, presumably to further stop anyone from disproving Indonesia's "king of paleontology", the Indonesian government blocked scientists from the dig site until Jacob's death in 2007. Yes, really.

Originally, I was going to go on to say that there is no longer any doubt about H. floresiensis being a new species because more remains, including another skull, were found on a separate island. However, I was surprised to find absolutely no mention of this anywhere on the internet, not even as a hoax.
` I don't know how I could have gotten such a false impression, but it happens from time to time, and this is why I generally check my facts before spouting them to the whole world. So, what did I find?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My still-lost presentation about the history of quinine

Continuing on with the theme of college finals, going back to fall of 2007 I was taking biology, my favorite subject, partly to make college easy for a biology enthusiast living in a scary (and noisy) crackhouse.
` I didn't have to dissect any dead baby kittens, thankfully -- in fact, the most intense task of the entire class was extracting genetic material from a cheese puff in order to determine whether or not it was made with Bt corn. It even barely worked!

breaky genes
Yes, this is an actual photo of electrified genetic fragments, probably
from the cheese puff, which appear to be racing one another across the gel.

I was assigned to do part of a group presentation about malaria, but as the other members of my group took up our entire time slot, there wasn't enough time for my contribution. Since then, I seem to have lost the presentation itself, although recently I came across some notes I had made for it.
` They seem interesting enough, although I'm not sure what book(s) I had taken them from:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Strange sights so far this month

As far as number of posts go, I'll try to make this a record-breaking month... although I'll certainly avoid breaking this one!

apr 036
And that was the highlight of the Jones's vacation.

As you can see, I have a few pretty photos for this post, mixed with some ugly ones, like this one of Arcrylic Patintering #2 that I did at the Treehouse Lounge. This time, I tried black and white, with an indigo undertone for the crows, and a sepia tint for the background.
` Didn't come out the way I'd wanted -- brushes can be so unwieldy! -- but I still think it gets the job done:

apr 030
The baby crow says: "With death out of the picture, what are we going to do for food?"

As far as pretty photos go, I noticed some kind of pink, fluffy life form that's slowly creeping over the fence:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Delicious huckleberry drawings

Another step I'm taking in order to increase blog productivity is to post as-yet-unpublished pieces of my artwork (and I use the term loosely). There certainly is enough of it -- in fact, my main blog at the time was packed so solid with "drawrings" that I had to start another blog called I Can Draw, Too! so as to give my writing some breathing space!
` I shall eventually come to transfering those posts over here along with the others -- in chronological order -- as well as continue this trend with yet more drawrings, and sometimes even "painterings" for my fans to enjoy. For this post, I have some tasty-looking close-up drawrings of huckleberry plants, and a story to go with them:

Huckleberry 2
Mature pink and white flowers of the Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)

During my time in college, I made a point of taking a botany class so that I could look at any plant around me and have some understanding of what I was seeing. To a great extent, I did manage to achieve this goal, and there are many important things that I still remember, particularly about plant classification and anatomy.
` The unfortunate part is, this happened back when I lived in a 300-square-foot room with five other people -- my talented and rockin' boyfriend, Lou Ryan, along with four also-talented degenerates. (They purportedly wanted to help us rake in the dough with their impressive music and movie-making skills, although wound up preferring to take meth and heroin.)

I made a lot of drawrings for this class, although my roommates managed to destroy many of them before I could even show my teacher. This included a stack of tree identification flashcards that I painstakingly drew from real twigs of various species, using a magnifying glass, and which I found one day scattered outside the window in the rain.
` Great job, scumbags. And they did even worse than that:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fooled by Bigfootery

As a kid, I was always fascinated with animals, particularly the more intelligent ones. I read lots of books about natural history and watched thousands of wildlife documentaries on the Discovery Channel. These were generally accurate programs, as far as I could tell, and so I thought nothing of taking their Bigfoot documentaries just as seriously.
` Since those programs don't usually give "the skeptics" much air time, nor portray them as as knowledgeable on the subject, I had the distinct impression that they were a bunch of puffed-up idiots who were given just enough time to embarrass themselves on shows about a scientifically verified animal.
` For years I thought I knew almost everything about the subject, including all of the skeptics' 'nonsensical' arguments, until I actually read some skeptical material for myself. As it was mostly unfamiliar to me, probably years went by before I had heard enough to think it had much merit.

One of my main misconceptions was that these "skeptics" on TV were so ignorant of the mountains of evidence for Bigfoot, and yet so sure that Bigfoot didn't exist, that they must be too arrogant to be worth listening to. Instead, I found that I was the ignorant and arrogant one, not bothering to question sensationalistic TV programs Just Because The Discovery Channel Said So.
` Why hadn't I heard about the "other side" of the debate before? Because on programs whose point seems to be arguing that Bigfoot exists, the "token skeptic's" strongest arguments are often omitted or edited down to a weakened form. (The same can be said for shows on Nessie, ghosts, alien spaceships, etc.)

The first thing I learned was that people who doubt the existence of Bigfoot are not necessarily saying that they "know" that it doesn't exist, but that the evidence for Bigfoot is only slightly better than the evidence for unicorns.
` After all, no 100% clear trace of Bigfoot is actually known to science, although there have been plenty of confirmed hoaxes, suspected hoaxes, and mistaken observations. But if Bigfoot isn't real, then how could so many people believe it anyway?
` To answer that question, think of the masses of people who passionately defend their view or ideology on some subject, while other masses of people disagree -- at least one side or the other has to be wrong! So yes, millions of people can be wrong, even if they cite scientific-sounding evidence in support of their stance.
` Based on all of the evidence I'd collected by that point, I decided that justifying a belief in Bigfoot's existence was much more problematic than doubting this belief. However, if an undeniably real Bigfoot is discovered, then 'belief' would no longer be necessary and 'acceptance' would be inevitable.

When I started my first blog in 2005, I thought it would be fun and educational to write an article on some of the things I had learned about this subject over the years. This effort quickly turned into three posts -- numbers six, eight and nine.
` Before transplanting those posts over here, I did a fair bit of fact-checking, edited out excessive wordiness (which I call "deblathification"), and used the extra space to help me cram in more details. In the first of these (creatively titled) articles, I discuss how the "ape" version of Sasquatch, as well as Bigfoot were "invented" via stunts in the late 1950's:

Bigfoot Critique Part 1 (deblathified)

Curiously, I have encountered people who accept this recent origin of the whole Bigfoot concept, and yet also believe that later on, Bigfoot coincidentally turned out to be real anyway.
` In the next post, I go on about some of the supposed evidence of Bigfoot's existence. Except I'm not done editing it, so for now, please enjoy this blank and linkless title:

Bigfoot Critique, Part 2 (deblathified)

And finally, well, this is coming next. Check back to this post soon!

Bigfoot Critique, Part 3 (deblathified)

To hold you over, I'll link to another post on this blog, about Matt Crowley's investigation (and recreation) of Bigfoot dermal ridges.

Although this is a massive amount of work, I would have finished these by now if I hadn't spent a few days away from home. Even so, I'll still probably not be really finished, as I expect to see critiques of my Bigfoot Critiques, especially by people who are more convinced of Bigfoot's existence than me.
` This thought unnerves me because I know a few people who say that they live among Bigfoot. Some take photos that they claim are of Bigfoot in their backyard, or Bigfoot tracks on their patio. Even one of my long-time friends shocked me by saying, "Of course Bigfoot is real -- he's my neighbor!"
` So, a post like this one could be interpreted as an insult by some, as though I think that I can change their mind about something they take for granted in their daily lives. I don't really, although I have told people about such things just to see what would happen.

In one such instance, I was standing at a college bus stop with a fellow student, describing what an Australopithecus looked like. (Wouldn't anybody?)
` He said, "Oh, you mean like Sasquatch?" and proceeded to tell me (if I remember correctly) that although he hadn't seen one himself, he had heard some scary animal calls and felt as though something was watching him from the woods.
` He also said that while he was on a Sasquatch-hunting expedition, someone had gotten a video of a small, black-furred figure stealing pancakes from their camp, of which I expressed much interest. He hadn't seen the video, although he was confident that it existed, that there was no mistake about the figure's identity, and that these Sasquatch expeditioners were not out to fool each other.
` During our time on the bus together, we had a friendly debate during which I gave him an abbreviated version of my Bigfoot Critique, curious as to his response. As I recall, he mainly seemed somewhat dismayed that I kept telling him to watch for trickery.
` I never saw him again, so don't know whatever became of him, nor this alleged video. I still would like to watch it for myself, however. Do you hear that? I think that's... YouTube calling...