Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

After it became obvious that the United States had elected a left-leaning black man with a foreign name to the highest office in the land, I figured I needed a few lurid memories of the event for my declining years, and that gaping at my laptop screen was insufficiently carnivalesque.

So I decided I'd head over to the bar, and down a few shots in honor of our looming gay radical Christofascist Islamosocialist atheocratic terrorist worker's paradise. It turned out to be a slow drive, what with the groups of cheering pedestrians, and the horns honking on all sides, and the fireworks arcing over the street.

As soon as I got inside, a complete stranger demanded a high five. Someone else waved an Obama sign, and the room cheered. At the bar, a black man, probably in his late forties, told me he felt like slavery had ended all over again. I bought him a beer; he gave me a long hug.

Dazed but happy people kept drifting in, and each new arrival was greeted with cheers and hugs and overexuberant toasts that sent liquor splashing in all directions. Things get hazy after that. I do remember the walk home, though: The sidewalk was spinning under my feet like the reel of a slot machine; I felt like I'd entered a log-rolling contest.

Having sobered up somewhat since then, I suppose I should try to explain that the things I liked and didn't like about Obama -- as I considered him in my bloodless, self-protectively analytical way -- were very far from my mind when he won; what mattered was that something had happened that I'd sincerely thought was impossible.

Part of it's generational, I think. My wife, who's over a decade younger than me, was equally gratified, but not nearly as astounded. Regardless, the important thing is that I was wrong. This wasn't impossible, and any opinion I'd had to the contrary was the product of feigned knowledge and learned despair. Which is why, in the end, all I can do is repeat what I said at Eschaton, when that odd feeling of being a bit more vibrantly and purposefully alive first took hold of me: "If this is possible, anything is."

I've always loved America for what it was: the birthplace of various arts and sciences and ideas, of George Herriman and Bix Beiderbecke and Skip James and Charles S. Peirce and Lucy Stone. And I've loved it for what it could be and ought to be. But this is the first time in my adult life I've been able to love it here and now, as it is.

And now, having paused for a moment to admire it, let's improve it, for God's sake. Because as much as we've accomplished, it isn't anywhere close to enough.

With that in mind, here's Ali Davis on California's Proposition 8:

The Mormon Church alone poured $20 million into the Yes on 8 campaign. Twenty million dollars that could have been used to feed the hungry, train people for jobs, or build a hospital a cancer wing instead got used to make misleading ads to stop people who just wanted to marry each other in peace.

And the people of California, the great bastion of liberal tolerance, have just decided to set aside a group of people and take away a fundamental right.

All of that is sickening and sad.

But what I saw volunteering for the No on 8 campaign was amazing....I’m still touched by the number of straight people I volunteered with who didn’t have a gay sibling, cousin, or uncle. Technically, Prop 8 didn’t affect them personally, but they took the stance that any discriminatory law affects them personally. That is progress....

Prop 8 didn’t happen because of hatred, it happened because of ignorance. And ignorance is something that chips away. As we make it easier for people in all communities to understand that, yes, they do have gay neighbors and bi siblings and transgendered aunts and they’re actually pretty nice people and the world hasn’t fallen apart, Prop 8 will seem sadder and sillier. And it will go away.

Ignorance is something we can handle. It just takes time.

Please don’t despair.
Good advice, especially given that Marilyn Musgrave has been defeated. And Kate Brown became Oregon's secretary of state. And Jared Polis was elected to the US House of Representatives.

Ten women were elected to the House, of whom eight are pro-choice. And three horrifically anti-choice bills failed. South Dakota's abortion ban lost for the second time. California's parental notification bill lost for the third time. And Colorado's "fetal personhood" bill suffered a spectacular defeat, receiving only 27% of the vote. In Michigan, meanwhile, a bill to expand embryonic stem cell research passed. (Amanda has more.)

California's Proposition 2 requires that "calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely." The fact that the passage of this modest bill is being treated as the End of the World by factory farmer demonstrates how necessary it was.

It's always a nice surprise when a political opponent turns out to possess some sort of rudimentary conscience, so I'm pleased to report that Laura Bush is apparently battling Dick Cheney over the future of the Pacific Ocean:
On one side is first lady Laura Bush, who according to the Washington Post has asked for two briefings on the issue from the White House staff, and has asked her aides to confer with scientists on how to preserve diverse ecosystems.

On the other side is Vice President Dick Cheney, who along with some officials in the Northern Mariana Islands argues that banning fishing and mineral exploration will hurt the region's economy.
Two new species of gecko have been discovered in Australia; no word yet on whose livelihood protecting them will threaten.
The Cape Range Gecko (Diplodactylus capensis) is found only on the Northwest Cape near Exmouth, while the Southern Sandplain Gecko (Lucasium bungabinna), occurs in the southern deserts in Western Australia and South Australia, north of the Nullarbor Plain.
Twenty poachers are going to jail:
Twenty people have been convicted for poaching Asiatic lions last year in India's Gir National Park. The twenty individuals will spend three years in prison and be fined 10,000 Rs each.
A rare baby pygmy hippo is doing well after being born in a zoo.
Born during the early hours of October 15, Monifa initially had to be patiently coerced into even trying to feed from a teated syringe. Ms Zammit and Ms Roberts spent alternate days working around the clock to keep her alive.

She has now doubled in weight and is drinking from a bowl, content to suckle the thumb of her keepers.

Here's an interesting article on bioleaching:
Bacteria can leach small amounts of valuable metals from otherwise useless ore, researchers have found.

These mineral-crunching microorganisms are a type of bacteria that use minerals as their source of energy. When the life-forms break down the matter through metabolism, they squeeze out metal ores or concentrates combined with sulfur in a process called bioleaching.

The method is emerging as an increasingly important way to extract valuable minerals when conventional methods such as smelting can't do the job cheaply enough, experts say.
A Patagonian fungus produces components of diesel fuel:
The harmless, microscopic fungus, known as Gliocladium roseum (NRRL 50073), lives quietly within ulmo trees in the Patagonian rainforest.

Gary Strobel of Montana State University has found that the fungus produces many energy-rich hydrocarbons, and that the particular diesel components produced can be varied by changing the growing medium and environment of the fungus. The fungus even performs under low-oxygen conditions like those found deep underground.
Almost makes you wonder what else is living quietly in rainforests.

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have come up with a promising antireflective coating for solar cells:
Untreated solar cells only absorb 66% of the light that hits them. When treated with this new coating, made from silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide nanorods, absorption was boosted to a nearly perfect 96%. The coating also lets solar cells absorb light from any angle. No more mechanized solar panels on articulated arms that have to follow the sun’s path. The researchers are calling it a “game-changer.”
WorldChanging describes the eerie properties of "ultra-clean water":
Ultra-clean water is produced using an advanced filtering system that removes salt, minerals, lime, heavy metals, and other byproducts. After filtration, high surface tension at the molecular level gives the water the ability to powerfully dissolve dirt. After being used to clean greasy parts, the water can be refiltered and then used to clean again, in a closed cycle. Manufacturers could also choose to filter the water and emit it into the sewage system without the usual discharge of hazardous chemicals. The process uses cold rather than hot water, increasing its energy efficiency.
A scientist in Taiwan claims to have invented a chlorophyll battery:
While the strength of the battery is about half that of an ordinary battery, its storage capacity is more than that of Japan's water-powered fuel cells, he said.

The production cost of the chlorophyll organic battery is very cheap -- about NT$1 to NT$2 (US$.03 to US$.06) , Liao said, adding that the battery contains no toxic substances and will not pose an environmental hazard, even if discarded at will.
Make of that what you will.

As part of its quest to build a mathematically perfect One State, the EU has formed a renewable energy agency that is even now plotting to micromanage your life:
The agency, known as IRENA, will serve as a global cheerleader for clean energy. It plans to offer technical, financial, and policy advice for governments worldwide, according to a joint announcement from Germany, Spain, and Denmark - the project's leaders.
The last nerve gas landmine remaining at the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility has been destroyed:
Officials at the Umatilla Depot began destroying VX nerve agent munitions in September 2004, and began their effort to destroy the landmines in September 2008. In all, 122,000 pounds of VX nerve agent in 11,685 landmines were destroyed.
(h/t: ErinPDX.)

A physical basis seems to have been found for fibromylagia:
"Fibromyalgia may be related to a global dysfunction of cerebral pain-processing," Guedj added. "This study demonstrates that these patients exhibit modifications of brain perfusion not found in healthy subjects and reinforces the idea that fibromyalgia is a 'real disease/disorder.'"
Apart from the obvious fact that finding a cause is an essential step towards finding a cure, it's worth noting that the vast majority of fibromyalgia sufferers are women; it's probably just a coincidence that it's long been viewed as a symptom of hysteria or depression.

Probiotics are being used to prevent respiratory infections:
The authors found that the probiotic treatment was as effective as the antiseptic. Use of the bacteria has other advantages; there are common side effects associated with CHX use in oral care, including tooth discoloration, irritation and, very occasionally, serious allergic reactions. Moreover, CHX diluted by saliva and represents an additional risk for the creation of resistant strains. The authors claim that the L. plantarum 299 solves these problems, "It is not likely to incorporate resistance genes or plasmids or to transfer genetic material. Consequently it does not contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains. As the bacteria adhere to the oral mucosa, they are able to counteract potentially pathogenic bacteria around the clock, which is superior to the fairly short-term effect of orally applied chemical agents."
An odd study in the Lancet claims that green spaces help to reduce health inequalities:
In an accompanying article in The Lancet, Dr Terry Hartig, from the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University in Sweden, wrote: "This study offers valuable evidence that green space does more than 'pretty up' the neighbourhood - it appears to have real effects on health inequality, of a kind that politicians and health authorities should take seriously."
Oldest. Proto-Canaanite script. Ever. Paintings by A.A. Deineka, some of which are very striking. Virtual Shaker archiecture. Tilt-shift videos of a Lilliputian world. A giant Lego man, cast up by the sea.

Masons for Obama. The Serpent Race backs him too, I hear, and is probably also the source of the unknown structures "tugging at the universe." What does this mean for extra-dimensional workers? And could this explain the "shifting" significance of red and blue in American politics? Think about it.

Nearly done. But first, panorama handbills. Images from the Wellcome Collection. The manuscript for Jonathan Edwards' Efficacious Grace. A gallery of hidden faces. And some astonishing close-up views of a "Blanket Flower".

Also, here's a movie for you, if you've got nothing better to do.

(Illustration at top by Patrick Moberg.)


peacay said...

this is the first time in my adult life I've been able to love it here and now, as it is.

It gets better. If you'll all form an orderly line at the UN you will receive one cookie each as a token of our admiration.

Pablo said...

I have to say I was eager to see how this particular Friday's Hope blog post was going to come out.

Similar to what you said, I feel like our country is beginning to realize its potential, finally. I hope the march continues!

Mahakal / מהכאל said...

It seems the fibromyalgia link is currently set to the Shaker link.

charley said...

i think we just got lucky, which is to ignore the last 8 years, but...

an immensely qualified candidate was able to beat a horribly failed candidate.

ignorance still abounds.

those paintings by Deineka are amazing. David Hockney owes him.

again, thank god he beat him.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Speaking of Skip James, did you know he once haunted South Street and played harmonica there? Philadelphia and I go way back.

Anonymous said...

My nieces agree that the baby hippo is the cutest animial in the world.

Anthony McCarthy

angela said...

"If this is possible, anything is."

The perfect encapsulation of my feelings which is why I feel sort of disoriented in my relief and happiness.

We've broken through the 4th wall.
It's as though Tom Hanks was the executive producer of...real life.