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The Devil's Advocate
...it never pays to give all sides less than their due consideration...
I adored you when I was a kid... I even thought you were the bee's knees when I was a teen-ager.

I sure would have liked to have known you as an adult.

I miss you.
Spin the Cylinder?
In setting up the web presence for DarkCon, I've discovered that twitter.com/darkcon is already registered.

From just the three tweets made, and one link, we have both a tiny mystery, and a theory of the crime.

About a year and a half ago, a Virginia man named Brian was on his way to Las Vegas for his bachelor party. He decided to immortalize this once in a life time event by creating a Twitter account and tweeting the events that transpired.

Left behind in Virginia was his young fiancée, Jackielyn. Feeling a little stressed at being separated from her beloved for what she imagined would be a weekend of debauchery, she created a Twitter account of her own.

At 4:13 am, August 5th, Brian tweeted that he was through airport security and waiting for his plane. At 10:21 am, he'd landed safely in Las Vegas. At 11:02 am he was waiting in line for his rental car. As far as we know, Brian was never heard from again.

Forensic Interwebologists (me) learned from their investigation that Jackielyn made her first and only Twitter post at 12:05pm on August 5th, barely an hour after Brian arrived at the rental car place.

The heart-rending agony of her single tweet comes through clearly, as she struggles with the strange feeling that something has happened to her fiancée: "Missing Brian like crazy...cuz I'm that pathetic and don't have a life."

Investigators (me again) theorize that Brian was travelling with one or more companions, one of whom was a man known on Twitter - a rough and lawless online community for SMS enthusiasts - as "Nicodaemos".

Once the rental car was secured, the group headed to their hotel, but a disagreement broke out. Brian's best man, who was secretly infatuated with Jackielyn, tried to dissuade Brian from marrying her, but Brian would not be swayed. In the ensuing physical altercation, the driver lost control of the vehicle and a fatal accident occurred. "Nicodaemos" was the only survivor.

When released by paramedics and LVPD CSI, "Nicodaemos" returned to Virginia to break the news to Jackielyn. He was surprised and angered when she didn't share his releif and embrace him as her true soul mate. This enraged him, and he struck her in the head with a 2008 technology 'smart phone' approximately the size and weight of a clay fire brick.

This is, of course, the only theory that explains why "Brian" and "Jackieyn" made only one day's posts to Twitter, and "Nicodaemos" - who remains at large, and innocent until proven guilty - continues to use Twitter to this day.

If he had thought to un-follow Brian, investigators may have never known the real story of this tragic event.

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1 Scary Click --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
Some time ago, I posited a theory among friends that there were key consistencies in purely superficial traits between basically all other subgroups of humans that were notably different in the European subgroup...

Humans, from subgroups all over the planet, for the most part, have black hair, brown eyes, and medium to dark brown skin. Humans from the European sub-group have hair ranging from almost white through browns and reds to black, eyes ranging from very pale blue through greens that tint to gold or grey, to brown, and much lighter skin, ranging to almost porcelain white.

There are small but notable differences in bone shape and thickness, such that they can be used in the forensic identification of skeletal remains... And the skeletons of members of the European subgroup are arguably the easiest to identify... They're a bit more different.

There are differences in nasal structure, hair patterns (European males, particularly, tend to have a much more dense coat of hair on their bodies and faces), and so on.

Now, many people maintained that these differences were due to this subgroup living for a long period of time in the specialized conditions of Northern Europe, but to me, my understanding of how evolution worked implied a necessity to cross-breed with another stock that had had much longer to adapt to those conditions...

First, evolution just doesn't usually work that fast (at that time, we all pretty much thought it never worked that fast). Second, as a further problem to the theory that we evolved that way on our own, due to conditions, consider that we have other subgroups that have lived in more extreme conditions - such as the Inuit - for quite a long time, and they are still much closer to normal.

If cold and snow and a high fat diet and so on made us this way, why'd they get a pass?

H.Neanderthalensis may have gotten to Europe as early as 650,000 years ago, and may have already been walking a slightly different evolutionary path before they got there. H.Sapiens may not have arrived until 50,000 years ago. So, it seemed very likely to me, whether H.Neanderthalensis was a sub-species of H.Sapiens or a cousin from a common ancestor, that they seemed a likely source for our genetic differences.

One thing we've pretty much learned... If two animals in the same range can interbreed, they will interbreed. and we know H.Sapiens and H.Neanderthalensis inhabited Europe around the same time, at least for a few thousand years, so it seemed very obviously likely to me that H.Sapiens and H.Neanderthalensis also cohabited in Europe.

It also struck me as particularly amusing that for all the white racist claims that caucasians were "superior", it was quite likely that all the (purely cosmetic and insignificant) differences they actually had all came from, basically, dating out of species... But that was just the icing on the cake.

Well, eventually genetic science came along and said I'd gotten it wrong. Ok, actually genetic science came along and said something else was right, without ever hearing of the independently arrived at but far from original theories of a lay science enthusiast somewhere in the American west, but still.

At that point, while conceding that the current evidence was a blow to my theory, I still maintained that i suspected that, as we learned more about genetics, we'd eventually discover that I was right... Cross-breeding with the Geico Cave Man was still - to me, at least - the only solid available explanation as to how one particular subgroup of humans could be so cosmetically differenced after such a short period on their own.

So... I was a bit interested when, today, I saw this story saying "Early Humans Dug Neanderthals".

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3 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
As many of you know, I'm well pretty down with the skeletons. I love skeletons. I love the word 'Skeletons'. I love bones. I love art with bones, I love drawing bones, I keep interesting bones around... You get the idea.

I also run a fan page on Facebook for Skeletons. I discovered they didn't have one, so of course, I had to create it. It's not huge like the fan page for the poodle with the tinfoil hat, or the dung beetle who's smarter than Sarah Palin (sure, I know, they all are. But this one has a Facebook page), but it's got a few followers.

Well, today I'm adding a link there, so I figured I'd add it here, too. You can visit the Facebook Skeletons page here

Update: There is now a website to support the Facebook page, too... At the time of this writing, it's still a bit sparse, but we'll see what develops. You can visit it at http://skeletonweb.com

So... Today's skeletons:

This artist, Stephanie Metz creates some wonderful sculpture using felted wool. On this occasion, though, I'd like to direct your attention to the work she titles Teddy Bear Natural History which includes fetuses and skulls of teddy bears.

I find them completely delightful. Have a look around her gallery while you're there... It's well worth it.

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Spin the Cylinder?
A little while ago, a friend on Facebook started a list of things she knew, deep down, were real... But that she still doubted, on some level. Roadrunners, platypuses, & tater tots all made her list...

I assured her that, while in England Roadrunners might seem unlikely, here in Arizona, they're not so fantastical. We also talked about hash browns and tater tots, and I added some things that I find unlikely, even though I am assured they are quite real.

Today I thought of another one.

I've always been suspicious of allergies.

It's another one of those things some part of my conscious mind 'knows' are real - people have assured me on this time and time again, even though I've never really experienced a credible one myself(1) - but every logical function of my mind just screams 'Oh, bullshit!'.

The 'Bullshit!' alarm is tripped because we're all, what, 99.99875% chemically & genetically identical (full disclosure: gross approximation used in lieu of looking up the actual number) so why is it that certain chemicals react so insanely differently in a percentage of specimen?

That would be like if 1 in every 100 logs you tried to burn in the fireplace turned into strawberries instead.

Why is it, if there's no whiney hypochondria involved, that we have so many more allergies and so many more instances of allergies than other animals? You don't get 1 in every 37 dogs saying "Oh, sorry, no... I'm allergic to gnawing on bones." or "Oh, no... Eating meat gives me horrible hives."

Ever notice 1 in 84 horses eating only imported Swiss grasses because the regular domestic grasses they serve in restaurants make their hands swell up and give them headaches? No! Of course not! Horses don't have hands!

Maybe it's just because these other animals don't have language to the same degree we do. Sure, every once in a very great while there is a rather spectacular and visible effect, like with bee stings or peanuts, but I do notice that very much of the time, these "allergies" only manifest themselves in ways that are rather difficult for anyone outside the organism in question to notice... Headaches, dizziness, impending feelings of doom, leaching away of the immortal soul, shit like that.

Personally, I can't get away from the sneaking suspicion that perhaps 95% of self-reported "allergies" are just instances where someone has decided that "I'm allergic to peas." is going to get a lot more play than "I don't like peas... Even though I've never really tried them. They just don't look good, and I've heard others don't like them, so I don't like them. Also, if you take my chair again, I'll call you Mister Poopy Pants."

Ahhh, Bullshit! Just have the intestinal fortitude to stand on your own hind legs and say "I don't like peas, and I'm too closed minded and sessile to find out why, or even if that's true. Put the rock back and leave me to my closed, narrow existence."

1 - Well, two actually, I guess. As I understand it (read: I was told) I had an allergic reaction" to tetracycline when I was very young. I don't remember it, so obviously it doesn't count.

Another time, when I was old enough to remember, I had what was always called an "allergic reaction" to hot dogs. Hot dogs invoked involuntary reverse peristalsis. Every time. Period.

Well, I was hardly willing to be told by my body what I could and could not eat, and seeing as I'd seen people eat them all the time and suffer no harm, I felt my body was most likely trying to pull a fast one of some kind.

The moment I got my own place, I went to the warehouse store and bought the largest box of hot dogs they had, and I ate nothing but hot dogs until my body gave up on it's silly antics. Now, if this were the normal "I ate nothing but hot dogs for a month..." story, you'd expect it to end "...So I can't stand to eat them, to this day."

Not the case. I love a good dog. So much so that I've thought about making a post of a top ten list of the best commercially available dogs in the supermarkets.

So there, sketchy allergy stories. I ain't buyin'. ;-)

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9 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
I completely missed doing anything here for 1 April. So I'm pre-dating this as a monument to my failure.

April First pranks feed my soul... And as God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again!

Feeling:: sad sad

2 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
I got an email today about the container ship Emma Mærsk...

It gives us a whole bunch of photos of the ship - she's really quite an amazing feat of engineering - and then gives us a mess of statistics - almost all just slightly incorrect... I don't know why, but these kinds of emails almost always get the details just slightly to more than a little incorrect.

It makes a point to tell us that she's too big to fit through the Panama Canal, so she's strictly trans-Pacific... So, if we don't all start buying American (and Canadian - the email specifically mentions buying Canadian, too, oddly enough) we're all pretty well screwed.

See... We're Americans. So, of course she's strictly trans-Pacific. Why would a ship want to go anywhere but America? Most of us aren't even sure that there's any way to get to any other ocean from the Pacific without going through the Panama Canal... That's why Washington and Lincoln had to build it, right? After they each built their respective tunnels, of course.

Well... As it turns out, the Emma Mærsk runs China to Europe. Rotterdam & Bremmerhaven. Ever seen the Port of Rotterdam? Those people are serious about seaports.

At any rate, the main thrust of the poorly and inaccurately written email 'article' is, at least somewhat, on track... The email tells us that the Emma Mærsk typically carries empty containers back from California to China - ignoring, for the moment that the Emma Mærsk doesn't go to California, and that - very often - empty shipping containers are cheaper to sell for scrap at the destination and replace new at the source than to carry back empty - the problem the author tries to illustrate is valid...

The Message Of Fear And Doom TM is that all imports and no exports makes for a poor long term economic strategy.

Now, the theory of our "better education system" and "anyone can succeed free enterprise system" is that we're supposed to transition from exporting things to exporting intellectual property, intellectual capital, ideas, know-how, management, etc... Except that we Americans are typically a bit resistant to all that "Gub'mint Spending MY Money to 'Educate' Someone Else's Kids" stuff...

I need a photo of people in a life boat, one person is bailing, and another person is yelling at them... That's my illustration of American Politics. "Hey! You're using MY bucket to bail water out of YOUR part of the boat!!"

Anyway... Point being, we're kind of falling short on that. Not to mention, by letting the television and Internet raise our kids, we've let them drift into a position where a staggering percentage of them don't bother studying because they know - not think, not hope, not wish, or dream, or, for that matter, actually work toward the possibility of, but know, with an abiding religious faith - that they are going to be TV stars, music stars, or sports stars.1

So, the concept ends up being right, even if for the wrong reasons... The trade deficit is going to kick our ass. But, "Buy a Murr'can" is only a small part of the solution.

Our problem is we refuse to work for less than X but we refuse to pay more than Y... And if you pay Y for something, and the corporation that makes it demands the kind of returns our stock market has trained shareholders to demand, the employees making the goods aren't going to get paid anywhere near X.

It's the American "Capitalist" (rather an abuse of the word) alternative to socialism... "The People" demand a wealthy lifestyle and the purchasing power that goes with it, but the (actually) wealthy business owners who also - not coincidentally - own the government for all intents and purposes aren't going to give up their margins... The slack has to come from somewhere, so, in the short term at least, we extort it out of workers in other countries.

Anyone who even got a D in grade school math should be able to figure out the ending of that story, but somehow, we've managed to miss it, so far, as a culture.

So, again, "Buy American / Canadian" is only part of it... You also have to be able / willing to work for wages that Americans and Canadians will pay. Which means a business owner or a panel of shareholders have to be willing to settle for a merely extravagant profit margin, instead of an obscene one...

And I wish us all good luck with that... I won't be holding my breath.

1 - Maybe we could all be TV stars... Maybe America could be the national version of the "I used to be someone, but now I'm kind of an ex-celebrity loser" type that populates all those reality / humiliation shows... We could export shows about a people who can't seem to realize that they snoozed just a little too long, and now they're a former economic world power... So they end up seeing who can swallow the most ping-pong balls to win a new flat screen TV... From China, of course.

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Listening to:: Clannad

4 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
A newly met friend - a wonderful person and damned cute to boot - got herself diatribed at the other day because she mentioned - verbatim - that someone had called her a "fucking loser". Naturally, the Language Police came to tell her she was a bad sheep, and they brought back-up.

So, equally naturally, I felt a compulsion to ride to her defense. I'm sure it will surprise no one here that my amicus brief was both strident and verbose. Because I'm evil, I'll share it with you now.

Well... I missed it entirely (i.e: I scarcely noticed the f-bomb), but I do have some strong feelings on the subject.

If someone actually found themselves seriously offended because you repeated someone else's' use of the word "fucking", I think first, they should think about why, exactly, and they should be brutally honest with themselves about it.

Most will likely say "I don't like that word." or "I don't like that kind of language." Anyone who finds themselves in that category should refer back to the part where I said be brutally honest with yourself, and start over... That's not even a reason, and it's dishonest to boot.

What...? You don't like Anglo-Saxon words? Words with vowels? Words with consonants? Words that can have more than one meaning? Words that can be used to refer to the sex act?

I'll go out on a limb and guess it's none of the above. I'll bet you don't like that word because someone once instructed you that you were not to like or use that word, and now you get all bent out of shape if everyone else doesn't manage themselves by the same nonsense rules you do.

Let's explore a bit further... Did you ask that Infallible Authority Figure -why- you were not to like that word? If you did, did you get a better answer than "Because I SAID SO!"?

Probably not. You probably got an untrue nonsense answer like "Nice people don't use those words", or - even better - God doesn't like those words. (Show me a major religion with more than one word on it's proscribed list - and even that one's not banned, just regulated.)

Ask yourself another question... Would it have been OK if she'd said 'frikin' or 'effin' or 'F---ing'? It would?

Ok, now, ask yourself this: Do you imagine there is -anyone- over the age of 9 in the whole of the English speaking world who would NOT have known EXACTLY what she meant if she'd said any of those things? No. I don't imagine so either.

But it does tell us a lot about your position and your motivations.

A) You dislike those words for no rational reason - just because someone in your past gave you a highly questionable and irrational 'rule' about them.

B) You're not happy just living by your own irrational rules, you demand that EVERYONE be forced - whether by law or by social pressure - to be subjected to the same irrational rules you have chosen for yourself.

C) It's not even the meaning or intention of the word you dislike, it's apparently just the actual word-form itself that has these magical powers to weaken our men's resolve, crumble the foundations of our cities, turn our women into worthless sluts, and cause babies to be born naked.

D) The meaning and intention of the word is outside your scope of concern. Simply using a universally known synonym would be fine. This is approximately as logical as saying it's ok if I penetrate his body with a soft metallic chemically propelled projectile, causing fatal injuries, but I'm a bad girl if I SHOOT him.

Language taboos are amateur-night mind control and low grade social engineering... They fall into the same category as taboos regarding food, daily activities (you mustn't do this on this day, you must do that on that day), sex, clothing, and any other factually meaningless list of commands.

One the one hand, they get you well conditioned - used to following orders about things that make no sense and don't actually matter to us, so that when we give you instructions that DO matter to us, you'll obey them without hesitation or question.

On the other, they give us a laundry list of "sins" that you know, deep down, you have committed numerous times. A huge great list of little things for you to feel guilty about, all the time.

Since we have a monopoly lock on the forgiveness business, that means you ALWAYS have something you need to tell us about and ask our forgiveness for, or it's going to eat away at you...

It also means, whenever we might have to ask you for something, or to do something, you're going to know, deep down, that you "owe" us... Making you more likely to say 'yes'.

There are lots of useful lessons we've learned from our masters over the years... Lessons worthy of being passed on... But this one is NOT one of them.

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Listening to:: Marilyn Manson - This is the New Shit

2 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
Please open your texts to the Book of Genocide, Chapter One, verse Twenty-Six. And we begin...

26: And Man said, Let us make gods in our image, after our likeness: Let them have all our insecurities, fears, ignorances, hatreds, cruelties, prejudices, and faults, and let them have dominion over the thoughts of our minds, and over the desires of our hearts, and over us like cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping pathetic, fearful, impotent, inadequate fault that creepeth upon our minds and souls.

27: So Man created gods in his own image, and in the image of Man created he them; male and female, of whole cloth.

28: And Man blessed them, and said unto them, Be hateful, and vicious, and ravage the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the meek and weak of society, and over the ignorant and fearful of mankind, and through them, over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

31: And Man saw this horrible, terrible thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening was the last, for the morning were to never come again, so long as Man's gods had dominion over his imagination.

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Current Location: my desk

2 Scary Clicks --Why not Spin the Cylinder?
Remember the fiction snippet thing,'rough draft', from before? Had a thought about one today... Barely a snippet, but still.

He was a man of unwavering principals and uncompromisable standards: There were simply some things he would not do for money...

Unfortunately, work was one of them.

Current Location: Earth
Listening to:: Pete Townsend - Who are you?

1 Scary Click --Why not Spin the Cylinder?