All posts by Animal

Animal’s Daily News

Yum BearIt seems life finds a way.  Excerpt:

Everywhere scientists have looked on Earth, they have found signs of life. They’ve looked in the deepest oceans and the driest deserts, and in every case, life—in some form or another—was flourishing. But Kelly Wrighton and Mike Wilkins aren’t satisfied that the search is over, so they’re looking for life in a place more extreme than ever before.

Which is why the married couple, both assistant professors of microbiology at Ohio State University, are at a new fracking well being drilled just outside Morgantown, West Virginia. Before Northeast Natural Energy can send down fluid to fracture the Marcellus Shales, buried more than 1.5 miles below the surface for 400 million years, Wrighton, Wilkins, and a team of scientists will be collecting rock samples hauled up from the deep.

Unlike previous samples, which were collected after the well had been fracked first and thus contaminated, these samples will be pristine. It will give the microbiologists their best shot to find signs of microbial life.

Wrighton and Wilkins have spent their burgeoning careers studying the microbes dozens, even thousands of feet beneath the surface of the Earth. Such deep subsurface microbes have to contend with high temperatures, in some areas well above the boiling point of water. They also have to manage extremely high pressures and high concentrations of salt. Perhaps the most difficult task is finding energy. Cut off from solar energy, subsurface bacteria had to rely on chemical reactions or sinks of oil and natural gas to make their living.

The implications of extremophile life are fascinating.  If life can exist beneath thousands of feet of rock, around boiling-hot ocean vents, and in water pockets sealed in salt crystals for millions of years, then life can exist almost anywhere.

Like, say, under the ice in Europa, or in the organics geysers of Titan – or maybe in the clouds of Venus, or the whirling ice fogs of Jupiter or, yes, in the underground brines of Mars.

Thoughtful-BearMind you, there is still no evidence for life in any of these places.  But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; there may be some kind of extremophile life hanging on in one or more of these places.  If there is, I hope they find it in my lifetime; I’m very anxious to see what effect that will have on people’s understanding of our own little wet blue ball in space.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

As always, thanks to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

This bright Monday morning finds yr. obdt. in Guadalajara!

It’s always interesting – and a neat perquisite of The Traveling Life – to see places like this.  I went from 26 degrees in Denver this morning to 80 degrees and some impressive humidity here in Jalisco State this afternoon.  Being the curious sort who likes to get out and about, I went on a brief (two cigar) walkabout this afternoon, and had a mushroom/sausage pizza and a couple of cervezas at a local place, both of which were pretty tasty.

Since yesterday was a long and tiring day and today is shaping up to be another long and tiring day, I’ll let some pictures do the talking of a few thousand words.

Friday 100 Word FlashFic

Something new!  I’m going to try to match The Other McCain’s Friday 100 Word challenge, because it looks like fun.  Enjoy!

That-Moment-When-You-Get-To-The-Buffet Katie was on her ninth trip to the Great Wall’s buffet line. She loaded her plate with shrimp, fried fish, Kung Pao chicken and lo mein noodles.

Katie waddled back to her table. She sat and ate like she was stoking a boiler, ignoring the increasing protests from her stomach.

Someone approached her table. “Miss,” the man said, “you must stop eating. You need to stop eating now.”

“No!” Katie protested. “It’s all you can eat! The sign says so!”

She looked up and saw a police officer. “The food is spoiled! The restaurant has been closed for three weeks.”

Rule Five Friday

2015_11_06_Rule Five Friday (1)Have a good careful read through this piece by Samuel Hux, from the New English Review;  Once More (and Patience Please), Why No American Socialism? Excerpt:

Irving Kristol wrote in his Reflections of a Neoconservative the most elegant tribute a conservative ever paid socialism, even as he announced its demise, “Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea.”  “The most important political event of the twentieth century is not the crisis of capitalism but the death of socialism.  .  .  .  It is nothing short of a tragedy that anticapitalist dissent should now be liberated from a socialist tradition which—one sees it cle2015_11_06_Rule Five Friday (2)arly in perspective—had the function of civilizing dissent, a function it was able to perform because it implicitly shared so many crucial values with the liberal capitalism it opposed.” It should be clear immediately that Kristol was not referring to intellectual and moral savageries like Stalinism, but to what we might call respectable socialisms. While one might argue that reports of the idea’s death are vastly exaggerated, I would like to wonder out loud why there has not been much of a socialist movement in the United States “alive enough,” as Thomas Hardy said of a lady’s smile, “to have strength to die.”

I am fully aware that as I write a self-proclaimed “socialist” is running a serious campaign to be the Democratic Party’s 2016 candidate for president. I am also aware that Bernie Sanders’ relative success, at this point, has nothing to do with a socialist movement, and does not even mean a serious hunger in the electorate for a socialist polity. He may draw fantastic crowds on college campuses, turning on both students and faculty 2015_11_06_Rule Five Friday (3)“Marxists” who couldn’t to save their lives define surplus value, having forgotten their Cliff Notes Das Kapital—but try to imagine him exciting a group of Teamsters. I can’t imagine it either. Sanders—or “Bernie!”—endears himself to Democrats because there is nothing endearing or even respect-worthy about the ethically debased Hilary Clinton whose possible success is probably depressing even to her supporters.

I am also aware that the twice-elected Barack Obama is thought by conservatives to be a socialist (and we are right), but his kind treatment by the American electorate has to do principally with his being “historic” (I refer of course to his race, not to his being the first anti-Israeli in the White House), and further has to do with the fact that few people really believedthat he wanted to change the fundamental nature of the United States, most assuming that was mere campaign sloganizing as meaningful as “Change you can believe in.” In any case Obama ran, as Sanders runs, on the Democratic Party line. If one wishes to argue that the Democratic Party’s loyalty to Obama’s agenda proves it is a socialist party, I would counsel one to consider the following.

It’s a lengthy article.  I recommend reading through it at least once.  This line in particular caught my eye:

It is an historical oddity that it has become conservatism’s task to defend and recommend the most “revolutionary” of economic faiths, capitalism. History is the most ironic of disciplines. Of course the conservative has little choice, given the alternatives; and given the fact that capitalism does after all deliver the economic goods, as a fully socialized economy never has.

2015_11_06_Rule Five Friday (5)Capitalism is, of course, the default condition of a truly free people, with free minds and free markets; it is nothing more than the sum of millions of individual choices by free people as to how they prefer to allocate their own resources, talents, skills and abilities.  No other system is compatible with free minds and free markets; no other system is compatible with liberty.

And neither of the major political parties are, today, advocating for truly free minds and free markets.  The Imperial Federal government continually meddles with prices, with markets, with new products, services and materials.  The levy taxes and subsidies, taking with one hand while giving with the other, and in so doing second-guess Adam Smith’s invisible moving hand.

 2015_11_06_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily News

Messin' with Sasquatch.
Messin’ with Sasquatch.

Why don’t people see the Yeti any more?  Probably because they don’t exist.  Excerpt:

The last person in Chendebji to have seen possible evidence of the yeti is a younger famer called Norbu.

The first time was 20 years ago, he says, when he was 18. He was in the mountains with his cattle when he saw a large footprint and the body marks of a yeti in the snow. The mere sight of them made his hair stand on end.

Then, five years later, Norbu says he discovered something very unusual – a lair made out of intricately woven sticks of bamboo.

“The yeti had broken the bamboo trees, folded them into a semi-circular shape, with the two edges of the bamboo in the ground. He had then slept inside the den. I could see the marks left by the yeti inside the nest,” he says.

News of the lair travelled beyond the village and two months later, two men arrived as Norbu was making wood shingles for his house. They asked to see the lair, so he agreed to stop work and show them. Because it was so far away, the three of them had to spend the night in the yeti’s nest. The trip passed off peacefully.

That was the last time anyone in Chendebji saw traces of the yeti.

They should come to the U.S., where the yeti’s cousin is regularly featured on television:

 It’s possible to forgive these villagers, who presumably lack an education in biology and population dynamics, for believing in an ancient legend.  But Americans, who have access to all the information in the world – come on, folks.

Here’s the reason I’m well past skeptical as far as the existence of these creatures:  You can’t have just one or two large animals like this wandering around.  You have to have a population, and that means not dozens but thousands of animals – even when you’re talking about large, reclusive critters.

And in the case of the American Pacific Northwest, you’re also talking about an area with a pretty decent population of humans – many of whom hike, and camp, and generally spend a lot of time in the woods.

triple-facepalmFinally, in this day and age, everyone has a camera and video recorder easily and instantly to hand, in the form of their cell phone.  And still – Jack Links commercials aside – nobody has produced a convincing photo.

What will it take to get me to believe in these animals?  A live capture or a carcass – nothing less. In all the years that the Bigfoot/Sasquatch/whatever legend has been bandied about, it’s inconceivable that one has never been shot, or hit by a car, or died somewhere of natural causes and been found by a hiker.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  In this case, there is just no such proof.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

How can you tell when Hillary Clinton is lying?  Her lips are moving.  Excerpt:

Guess which presidential candidate, while campaigning in New Hampshire last week, said this?

“I want to be the small business president. (Small businesses) represent American ingenuity and hard work. But we’re slipping. A recent global study showed that where we used to be one or two in the world in creating small businesses, we’re now 46. It should not take longer to start a business in the United States than it takes to start one in France!”

The candidate continued, “I want to do everything I can to help make it easier for people to start businesses, cut that red tape … and really take a hard look at licensing requirements from state to state. There ought to be a sensible way to harmonize those, so that it’s not so difficult in some states to start a businesses and much easier in the state next door to start the very same business.”

After calling for less regulation of business formation and licensing, this presidential candidate went on to call for tax simplification. “You know, the businesses with one to five employees spend an average of 150 hours and $1,100 per employee to do their federal taxes. There’s got to be a way to simplify all of that,” this presidential candidate said.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Yes-YOU-bearNow I’ll grant you this; everything Her Royal Highness said in this speech was accurate – at least, the portion quoted.  But the American electorate is effing nuts if they think she means a word of it.  This clueless old harridan has never seen a tax increase or a new regulation that she wasn’t in favor of.  A Queen Hillary I administration would likely be even less friendly to small business than her predecessor, and that ain’t easy.

How can anyone not see right through the line of horseshit she’s serving up?

Animal’s Daily News

Old BearApparently there are some benefits to growing old.  Who knew?  Excerpt:

“Growing old is great – when you consider the alternative,” as the saying goes.

Welcome to the age of ageing. With more than 800 million people over 60 and more centenarians than the population of Iceland (that’s about 329,000), the world is having to brace itself for the economic – and social – consequences. From a deluge of diseases to sagging skin and  the dulling of the senses, old age is beset with creeping failures, medical interventions, and low expectations. But can there be a silver lining for those joining the grey brigade?

Growing old has been synonymous with bodily decay since ancient times. The Greeks had a particularly dire view – many saw ageing itself as a disease. Yet the latest scientific research suggests ageing isn’t a straightforward decline after all. As BBC Future has reported before, life peaks later than you might think.

Well, I certainly hope so.

Human life expediencies have increased dramatically in the last hundred years or so.  Thank Western civilization for that; almost all of the major medical and technological innovations that have increased human lifespans have been developed in the free-market (relatively so, anyway) Western world.

But there’s more to it than just longevity.  The younger generations benefit so greatly from having their grandparents and great-grandparents around.  The Old Man (born 1923) never knew any of his grandparents; the last of them died when he was three.  As for yr. obdt. (born 1961) I knew three of my four grandparents, and they Smiling Bearwere a vital and lively part of my young life.  My grandchildren, on the other hand, not only have all of their grandparents but also their great-grandparents.  Their lives are immeasurably enriched by knowing these children of the Depression and WW2, knowing what the country was like just a few short generations ago.

That’s probably the best part about getting older.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Just in case you were wondering whether or not we really are a nation addicted to Free Shit:  “Social Expenditures” In the US Are Higher Than All Other OECD Countries, Except France.

Get that?  Except France.

France.  Excerpt:

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “social expenditures” are expenditures that occur with the purpose of redistributing resources from one group to another, in order to benefit a lower-income or presumably disadvantaged population.

Social Security in the US is one example, and would be considered a “public expenditure” because it involves direct spending by a government agency.

However, governmental bodies in the US and elsewhere also employ a wide array of mandates and tax-based benefits and incentives to carry out social policy. This distinguishes the US in particular from most European countries that rely more on cash benefits or non-cash benefits administered directly by governments.

But governments are not limited to direct benefits. Governments may also employ “tax breaks for social purposes” (TBSPs) including tax credits for child care, and tax breaks for health-care related spending. 

Furthermore, in the United States —  more so than in other countries — governments create tax incentives and mandates that lead to high levels of “private social expenditure.” The OECD defines these private expenditures as expenditures that are designed to redistribute wealth, but are not administered directly by government agencies.

Facepalm-bearSo, in other words, we’re #2 in the world at taking stuff away from people who earned it and giving it to people who didn’t.

I’m not sure that’s really a bragging point.

An interesting alternative to taking away people’s property so some others can have Free Shit, might be to encourage economic growth, so more people could start earning their own shit.  We could start by dropping our corporate tax rate, the highest in the world.  We could continue by stopping the taxation of repatriated capital, which keeps billions of dollars overseas.  We could wrap it up with a big bang by reforming our Brobdingnagian tax code, replacing it with something simpler and easily navigated by the normal taxpayer.

But instead, we’re evidently planning to keep the train of Free Shit rolling.