Archive for September, 2010

OPEN SESAME

September 30, 2010

“Pick up a sesame seed but lose sight of a watermelon.”
-Chinese Proverb

Everyone has heard of sesame seeds. We see them on breads and with Chinese food. They taste pretty good, and if you roast them, and some people cook with highly aromatic sesame oil. Some of us older folks sang along with a jingle for McDonald’s as kids about sesame seed buns for the Big Mac.

But, to paraphrase the late Mitch Hedberg, what the heck is a sesame?

Sesames are flowering plants that grow up to six feet tall. They produce yellow, tubular flowers somewhat like a foxglove although some are blue or purple. Sesame seems to originate along the south of Asia, Middle East, and into Africa, and often feature in cooking in those areas. When the sesame flower dries up it forms a pod which bursts when ready, spraying seeds about its local area (this is thought to be the origin of the “open sesame” line in 1001 Arabian Nights).

The bulk of sesame seed production is in Asia and Africa, with India, China, Myanmar, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria the primary growing nations. Although America has a small sesame crop in Texas, it is not a significant producer of the seeds.

The earliest mention of sesame seeds in cooking is from Assyria over 3,000 years ago. According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. In Hindu legends and beliefs, tales are told in which sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality and the God Maha Vishnu’s consort Maha Sri Devi herself representing the properties of the sesame seed, as such it is considered as the most auspicious oil next to Ghee used in Hindu rituals and prayers.

One of my favorite treats used to be those honey and sesame seed bars you can buy most anywhere. Crunchy, sweet, and roasted flavor all at once. The local Winco had them for dirt cheap in the bulk section.

So next time you see the humble sesame seed you have some idea what they come from. Look, I was curious ok?

MORE WOMEN IN SCIENCE OR ELSE!

September 30, 2010

“a woman’s choice of less time at the office and more time at home with family is not considered an opportunity but a societal problem calling for a government solution”

George Will has a recent column up on gender politics. He has a few stats in it that might be interesting to readers:
  • Women live five years longer than men.
  • Female unemployment rate is significantly lower than men.
  • Women receive more high-school diplomas, B.A. and M.A. degrees, and now Ph.D.s.
  • Women were 49.7 percent of the workforce in August.
  • Young, unmarried, and childless urban women earn 8 percent more than similarly situated males.
The Democrat’s response to this information? A bill that allows people to sue for being paid less than others in their job. 29 new offices to help women do better in America. A promise by the Obama administration “to litigate, regulate, and legislate the nation’s universities until women obtain half of all academic degrees in science and technology and hold half the faculty positions in those areas,” according to National Journal.

George Will explains their push:

Although women receive more B.A.s, M.A.s, and Ph.D.s than men in biology and biomedical sciences, not enough women want what the administration wants them to want. There are fewer women choosing to enter many science and engineering programs than the administration wishes, and it assumes that the reason is discrimination against women. To which Furchtgott-Roth replies: Anti-women discrimination even at women’s colleges?

At Bryn Mawr, 4 percent of 2010 graduates majored in chemistry, 2 percent in computer science. At Smith, half of 1 percent were physics majors; 1.4 percent majored in computer science. In 2009 at Barnard, one third of 1 percent majored in physics and astronomy.

Who is this Diane Furchtgott-Roth Will quotes? He describes her as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former chief economist at the Department of Labor and author of How Obama’s Gender Policies Undermine America. She points out that the Obama administration thinks that the only reason women could possibly not be taking careers in certain areas as much as men is that someone is stopping them from doing so.

Mind you there’s no actual evidence of this, but you have to remember leftist Lawrence Summers who was thrown out of his position as President of Harvard for suggesting mildly that in addition to other factors people consider the possibility that women just might not be as interested in some fields as men. That cannot be considered, women are not just equal to men under law but equivalent to men, that they are differently shaped but identical if not superior.

Anything men can do, women can do better and the only reason this doesn’t play out in life is the brutal, oppressive phallocracy which discriminates against women and forces them to wear uncomfortable clothing designed by gay men.

Even NASA is getting into the act. Having already stated that the space exploration agency’s goal is now to make Muslims feel better about themselves when it comes to science, they are looking into how to make women get into sciences more. George Will writes:

it is not surprising that it has big ideas about how every university should have gender-parity apparatchiks to meet “weekly with the university president, provost, vice president, and deans,” the agency says, and fan out through the institution’s departments, labs, and other learning centers to determine whether “environments” are conducive to women.

What happens to the quality of science and education when you do this? The same thing that’s happened to every other field in which social engineering and gender quotas have driven policy rather than the task at hand. Lower quality, poorer outcomes, and weakened standards.

Never fear though. When that happens, another government program will be put in place to fix the damage the previous one caused. And on and on. Unless we put a stop to it now.

THE CHAIN OF ACTIVISM

September 30, 2010

“ecologically sound, economically feasible and socially just.”

Not too long ago I wrote about how science is being presented less as an objective observation of facts and phenomena and more as an authority on behavior and action. In the place of scientists making statements about what they’ve learned, we’re getting statements from scientists about how we must behave based on what they’ve learned.

The American did an interesting study of how science is referred to in the the news media and they produced this graph:

graph

This is based on a Lexis/Nexis search of news stories mentioning science, showing how authoritative statements of command from science are becoming increasingly more common. Just twenty years ago such statements were virtually nonexistent. Today, they are more and more common each year.

Part of this is sloppy, ignorant reporting, but that’s not exactly new. Reporters were sloppy and lazy and ignorant of science in 1990 too, but they didn’t use phrases like “science commands” and “science tells us we must” so often. Something changed, and that change has resulted in science going from telling what is to what ought.

Mark Tapscott at the Examiner provides a clue to what is happening:

In 2002, for example, the Pew Charitable Trust flew a group of elite scientists and reporters from the New York Times, the Economist, Time, U.S. News & World Report, and other prestigious publications to the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean for five days of fun in the sun.

Once there, they could “loll on the island’s fine beaches, sip cocktails at the Tipsy Seagull and perhaps marvel at the flamingoes for which Bonaire is famous,” Grimes wrote.

But there was an agenda for the gathering, too. Among the attending scientists was Daniel Pauly, author of “Aquacalypse Now: The End of Fish,” and head of a fisheries center at the University of British Columbia that received $15 million from Pew.

Following the Bonaire junket, Tom Hayden (no relation to the radical activist formerly married to Jane Fonda) of U.S. News & World Report, wrote a cover story in the magazine, “Fished Out,” that strongly supported the idea that commercial fishing is destroying the oceans’ fish populations.

Nancy Gaines at the Glouchester Times has been digging into how this triangle works. Activists work with journalists to hone and direct their thoughts on a topic, and train them to work with scientists to get the statements and results they’re looking for.

Tom Hayden was the main force behind Hollywood’s clueless lefty activist surge starting in the 70s. He had actors and actresses over for parties and lectured them on leftist causes, giving the celebs a sense of meaning and purpose beyond making money and being pretty. This spread through Hollywood until you can’t swing a cat without scratching five leftist mouthpieces.

They don’t really know what they’re talking about and they certainly don’t live the lifestyle they demand others do, but that was never the point. The point was to cultivate a group of celebrities to promote leftist causes and sway others to follow them, not to create real and effective change.

This chain of green activists through culture goes higher than you’d think. Jane Lubchenko is President Obama’s Ocean Czar for lack of a better term. She’s one of the advisers for President Obama on oceanic matters, and she’s one of the scientists Hayden cited in his article.

Scientists have a responsibility to stand up and say “look, our work is observational and experimental, we cannot tell anyone what they ought to do based on that. All we do is find things out, what you do with that is up to others.”

The problem is, like most people its seductive and flattering to have journalists buttering up to you, making you famous, and using your words in mass publication. It leads to awards, better jobs, and grants for your work. Congress might call on you for testimony, CNN might interview you, some starlet might notice you and want to spend passionate nights on a beach in Aruba with you.

For the environmentalist left, having a study suggesting that something bad might happen isn’t enough. That doesn’t convince people, it doesn’t win hearts and minds. As Dr Schneider said in Discover magazine in the 90s:

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Simple, bare statements of fact may be scientific and ethical, but they don’t accomplish the goal, so they have to be jazzed up, sexed up to get the public’s attention. And science moves from observation to command.

There’s an activist machine out there which is step by step working through the popular culture and media to influence minds and shift politics in America toward the left. It works through the media and entertainment, and people are frankly getting tired of reading leftist press releases as news and having clumsy, preachy leftist cant delivered as movies and television shows.

So it isn’t surprising that apparently fewer and fewer people actually trust the news. Confidence in legacy media sources is dropping across the board according to poll after poll, as people find their information from other places not so heavily corrupted by activists.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

September 30, 2010

Yes, that’s a girl at a party wearing a dress which appears to be made up of Magic The Gathering cards. It’s a geek’s dream girl.

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