Sunday, May 31, 2009

Useful Physics Trivia


...if you were standing on train tracks holding a single one-gram b.b. as a 2,000 metric ton train bore down on you at 100 km/h, you would have to throw that b.b. at 185.3 times the speed of light to stop that train dead in its tracks? That is 13.8 billion times faster than the average chicken can run!

Note to everyone who believes physics has no practical applications: your move.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Priest Marriage will ruin celibacy for everyone

So is a priest switching from Catholics to Episcopalians to be with his girlfriend the sectarian version of a gay man going to Hawaii to legally marry his boyfriend?

I love this story. Partly because it features a man named Cutie (but pronounced koo-tee-AY instead of KEW-tee), but also because the Episcopal Church was spun out of the Catholic Church in part to give Henry VIII a divorce. It amuses me that almost 500 years later, someone else is bailing from the Catholics because he wants to be with his gal. I hope Mrs. Cutie has a better end than the second Mrs. VIII did (Anne Boleyn). Or at least less behead-y.

In 2003, a man named Gene Robinson was selected as the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church. Then in 2007, the church successfully connected with its younger members with a controversial outreach program called "Pay Your Tizzle Fo Shizzle" -- a hip, modern take on the importance of tithing (available as a video podcast only on Zune and HD-DVD). Those Anglicans are taking pride in this Island of Misfit Toys thing.

Good luck, Cutie!

Voting Maybe, Kinda on Prop 8

As I was reading about the recent California Supreme Court decision to uphold Proposition 8, it reminded me of a line from one of my favorite films, A Man for All Seasons. This is a wonderful story about the life of Sir Thomas More, one-time friend of Henry VIII, eventually executed for treason.

More: After all... I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

Wait... shit, sorry. Wrong movie.

HERE we go. This is a brief conversation between More and his future son-in-law about the rule of law:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of

More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's. And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Tough words, and many scholars feel that More's belief in the law is what led to his downfall. Others think he was pissed because his daughter was in love with a man who looked like a cross between Prince Valiant and Jesus.

But the rule of law is why the California court decision was not the huge setback that it appeared to be at first, and why it might ultimately be a problem for Proposition 8 supporters.

For those of you who don't know me well, I am a huge advocate of gay rights. Proposition 8 is a terrible ruling, just like all the similar rulings that some states have adopted. (Really, Nevada? You legalize prostitution and gambling and Elvis impersonations, but think gay marriage is too much? Who has made more of a mockery of marriage: George Takei marrying his long-time partner in California, or Britney Spears getting married for a weekend in one of the drive-through wedding chapels in Las Vegas?)

But this ruling isn't really about that. All it said was that the vote last November to add Proposition 8 to the state constitution was legal and valid, and there was no cause to simply overturn it. While we might have hoped to hear differently -- it would have been awesome to learn that the Prop 8 backers had cheated and the whole thing tossed out -- I don't think anyone expected anything that simple. Indeed, if that had happened, it would have just started up again next election cycle.

Now the court has refreshed the lines on the playing field. Gay rights advocates know for sure what it'll take to undo Proposition 8, and when that happens, the anti-gay-rights bunch will not have a legal leg to stand on. It will be tossed away as legally as it was added in the first place.

Not that it makes the initial vote in November any less embarrassing. To me, on the other side of the country, it looks like the gay rights folks took California for granted. At some level, I think they forgot that California is more than the stretch of beach between San Francisco and San Diego. Cali has long been known as a bastion of the Loony Left, and everyone thought that would work in favor of Gay Rights when the voting came along. Certainly all the celebrities I follow on Twitter who live out there are shocked and appalled.

As an aside, isn't it odd that Californians can change their constituion with a simple majority vote? And they're only on Proposition 8? Is that 8 shorthand for 800,000? There are some real pieces of work out there, so you would expect to see Proposition 4752: Recognition of Vegetable Pain Act, demanding acknowledgement that your wheat grass smoothies audibly sob when they go in the blender. Or Proposition 577: Official Feng Shui Day. Proposition 1993: Gasoline is made illegal, and cars must be constructed to run on love.

Anyway. The courts didn't give a quick fix, but they showed they will obey the law as set down in the state constitution, or wherever California keeps their laws. Inside the Scientology HQ building, maybe, or deep inside Arnold Schwartzenegger. This is the same court that voted to make gay marriage legal in the first place. So we know they can be gay-friendly and that they'll play by the rules. In the long run, this is for the best.

And gay marriage will become legal in the next few years. The younger generations are much more comfortable with the idea than their parents and grandparents, and eventually they'll log off MySpace long enough to vote. (I kid the younger generation! If I had the same web apps when I was a teenager, I would have been no different.)

Cheer up! Regroup. Plan the next move. It'll be that much sweeter when it's granted in a way that can never be taken back.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Jenny McCarthy Song

My friend and patron-but-not-in-a-gay-Mozart-way Brian Thompson has written, performed, recorded, and posted a video about Jenny McCarthy's latest campaign: getting famous again.

Oh, wait. Sorry. Too "big picture." Jenny's campaigning to reduce the number of vaccines kids take. Jenny has problems with vaccines, because they don't have a vaccine to prevent lower back pain caused by hauling massive breast implants around. Also, she hates other people.

Anyway, Brian maintains The Amateur Scientist page and podcast (to which I am lucky enough to contribute). Pass the word about this video, so he can get rich and famous so that next time he comes to Atlanta, he doesn't have to sleep in a Quiznos dumpster with three tranny hobos and a sack of dead muskrats. (Yes, he failed to read the fine print on Priceline.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thus Spock Zarathustra

Okay, like everyone else, I saw the new Star Trek movie. Like everyone else, I loved it. Everyone else, that is, except George R. R. Martin. But to him, I say "shut up and get back to work, bitch."

Hard for me to admit that, because this film had time travel. I hate time travel stories.

Basically some Romulans going back in time to blow up Spock's planet. In the process, they kill Captain Kirk's father about 45 seconds after Baby Jim is born. Old Spock shows up later (time travel is the opposite of an exact science) and convinces Young Spock to give Jim a chance, and everything is fine. We'll get at least two more movies showing how these two are the best of friends like always. Meanwhile, Vulcan is destroyed and Old Spock goes off to live out his days with the survivors on a colony planet.

See? Time travel. Mostly evil.

Bear with me as I exorcise this: Spock... That is not the same Kirk you knew. I know you need K&S to be buddies, and might not even know about Kirk's dead dad at first. But the man whore/Priceline shill you knew grew up in a two-parent house. Not that someone from a one-parent household can't be a good person who is just as willing to have sex with other species and tell pre-Industrial cultures that their symbol tribal beliefs are horseshit. But having your father murdered by aliens? Might that be a destabilizing influence when you encounter other space-faring races?

Sulu: Captain, Klingon ship decloaking. Weapons powered down. Looks like they've taken damage.
Uhura: Captain, they are surrendering.
Kirk: Scotty, phasers at full power.
Scotty: Oh, hell yes.
Kirk: Open fire, Mr. Chekov.
Chekov: Hot damnski.
Kirk: Where's Yeoman Rand?

This Kirk has all the makings of a different Kirk. The one Old Spock knew became T.J. Hooker. This younger one has already been in a Lindsay Lohan movie. If you had sat through Just My Luck, you would wish you were on Vulcan when the Romulans turned it into a black hole.

On the plus side, now we have a backup Spock who knows a lot about what's coming up. He's getting kind of old, so he could write up some memoirs. Or, if he's worried about screwing up the timeline AGAIN, he could schedule some last-second messages.


To whichever Captain comes across the SS Botany Bay,

Do us all a favor and blow it up without boarding. If you can't bring yourself to do that, do not set the survivors down on Ceti Alpha 5. Seriously.

Live long and prosper,


P.S. Ceti Alpha 6 is going to explode in six months. Not normal for planets. Maybe have someone go figure out why?


Dear Captain, sorry, Commander Decker,

That giant cloud hides Voyager 6. It's back. Look up the cheat codes for its ground computer and send someone replaceable there to set it to broadcast. Do your best to ignore the drug trip on the way in. Bring a recorder. Good luck with baldy.




To Starfleet Command,

The M-5 multi-tronic unit is a piece of shit. That idiot Doctor Daystrom plugged in his own brain in. It would have worked if he had tracked down a Vulcan to help, but Daystrom is a megalomaniac with a chip on his shoulder and a loose grasp of morality. He's like a shark with an overbite that other sharks make fun of.

If you already signed a contract with Doctor Dickhead, then plug his murderous little toy into a shuttlecraft with no weapons or engines. I bet it's good at chess.


The Spocker



When you capture the space hippies, just take them to their stupid planet. All the grass is covered in acid and all the fruit is poisoned. Send webcam too, please?

Keep it logical, yo!



Dear younger me,

I don't know where the Uhura thing came from, but well done! If it doesn't pan out long term, that Nurse Chapel is going to be up in your space every chance she gets. I suggest giving her some thigh-cramping pon farr just to calm her down. Srsly, send her right up Mount Silea and back.

If she gets clingy, just invent some increasingly bizarre Vulcan rituals until she freaks right out. Won't take much. Take a look at the list I included from a Klingon you'll meet later.

Hang in there with Uhura, though. This is what you had to look forward to until Vulcan blew up:

Looks like fun, no? That's some white-knuckled pon farr right there. Where no man has gone before, my ass.

Live large and peace out,

Cool me


That'll be fun, if they follow through. And it seems like PineKirk is close enough to ShatKirk to occasionally save life as we know it and still have time to populate a small galaxy of people looking for cheap hotel prices. (Chris Pine might not be an ass to Wil Wheaton if they ever meet, though.)

Anyway, the movie is a lot of fun. I still don't like time travel, but I've seen it done worse (for example, every single time they've done it since Back to the Future). If that's what it takes to double up the Spock, then I'll cope.

When's the next one come out?

Monday, May 11, 2009

All over but the being healthy

Got my scan results back! WOO HOO! SUCK IT, CANCER!

Okay, more details.

The whole point of the low iodine diet was to make any leftover thyroid cells extra hungry for iodine. Thyroid glands absorb iodine, doncha know. Then, right when the remaining treacherous bastard cancer-prone thyroid fragments are craving iodine like Oprah craves gullible sycophants...


I give it iodine, but with a radiation chaser. Sucked it right up. Shame that radiation is lethal to those poor little evil bastard cells. Wait, did I say "shame?" I meant "hilarious." Of all the laughs available, last laughs are my favorite.

So my scan results are, according to my endo, "exactly what we expected." Since he isn't an irretrievable pessimist, that's what I wanted to hear. (Man, how horrible would it be to have a pessimist as a doctor? "Yeah, it's normally treatable, so you'll likely be fine until you die of something else, probably before you pay my bill.")

Where does that leave me? As cancer-free as I can expect to be at this point. In six months, I'll get another scan and hope we have a lot fewer thyroid cells. Six months later, another scan, and we shouldn't find any cells at all.

In the meantime, I'll be getting my levels right for my synthetic hormone pills. For those of you keeping score, I've been at 75 micrograms for a week. Just got upped to 1.5 pills, which I guess means 112.5 micrograms. We'll see what kind of party that gives us. I expect my ultimate level to be between 175 and 200.

Where does that leave you? With a lot less cancer news to listen to, but a lot more of me being peppy:

Gotta figure out what to blog about now. Maybe I'll get called for jury duty again?

Monday, May 4, 2009

I'm not made of pee

Special treat! A medical issue unrelated to cancer!

I have time to write this because I am not at my new job at AT&T. The reason I am not at AT&T is because they require a drug test, and I have spent the last two weeks on a diet of marijuana and Quaaludes dissolved in rubbing alcohol.

No, actually, the problem is when I went in to one of these lab-tests-in-a-strip-mall places, they managed to lose my sample, and didn't confess to it until Friday afternoon. It was probably radioactive anyway.

There was a place nearby open on Saturday, so I managed to gear myself up for another contribution, and the results aren't back yet. Maybe tomorrow.

But somewhere, someone has a little bottle of urine that has no immediate plans. They are going to regret using those small Sunny D bottles.

Scanning... scanning...

So I had my body scan today. One thing about this cancer stuff is that it's full of new experiences. You gotta have the new experiences, right? Not that I can recommend most of them...
  • Having cancer: Sucks. Not recommended
  • Biopsy: Sounds interesting, but is just a needle in the neck with insufficient anesthesia
  • Surgery: Despite the wicked scar, surgery blows beyond my ability to describe. Schedule it when Crocodile Dundee isn't going to be on TV
  • Low iodine diet: Not as bad as I expected, but strange. Stay away from salt, potato skins, sushi, and dairy
  • Radiation: Extreme boredom punctuated by unlimited cosmic power. Leaves a bad aftertaste.
With today's scan, that should wrap things up for major medical procedures for awhile, assuming the results are good. I'll get the results next week.

So, what's a body scan like? A little like being in a kitchen utility drawer that's being opened slowly.

You lie down on a long skinny table and made to be as uncomfortable as possible. Then you're slid into this tiny Stargate. (Warning: If you're taller than a certain height, you will have your feet pressed up hard against the far wall. That certain height is three inches shorter than me.)

Then a big square scanning plate comes down to about two inches above your eyeballs. I don't have claustrophobia or anything, so that wasn't a problem. But if you possess a prominent, aristocratic, sexy nose (like Sarah Michelle Gellar or myself) you are encouraged to not sneeze.

See how you can't stop staring at her nose?

Once all that is set up, the doctor (specialist in pushstartbuttonatrics) pushes a start button and says "see you in 40 minutes."

The view slowly changes. Your feet gradually... stop... pushing... against... the... wall. Imagine that you need to get into your sock drawer but you believe a poisonous leaping tarantula has moved in -- this is how the sock would experience life.

After what seems like a weekend but is really maybe 40 minutes, you realize your perspective hasn't changed in awhile. Someone comes in and arise as refreshed as if you've been balancing on a 2x4 for most of the last hour -- that is, you don't arise at all and have to be pulled to your feet.

And you're done! Nothing to do but wait for the results! A fitting finale to a long, scary process that began with an uncaring office staff and a series of stabs in the throat. Now that you know what having thyroid cancer is like, you don't have to do it yourself.

Stay tuned for the gripping results, same time next week!