When Bad Writing Is Good

Brian Switek pointed us at a site today that actually managed to make me laugh despite a certain monthly recurrent condition that makes me hate life, my uterus and everything.  That’s no small feat.  Anyone who reads or writes will appreciate How to Write Badly Well.  Only a great writer can write so badly so perfectly.

For example:

It was four o’clock in the afternoon and Derek was facilitating his process environment. He validated his competency, taking care not to leverage his parameters to an un-optimal degree, then took ownership of the resultant paradigm.


Dr Henry Billingsworth was a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and all-round renaissance man. In the course of his long career, he had held sub-atomic particles in the palm of his hand, excavated lava from the centre of the Earth and invented a whole new mathematical function which supplemented the old-fashioned plus, minus, multiply and divide to create a unheard-of fifth way of doing sums. At present, he was absorbed in his new experiment – observing evolution in fruit flies.


Penny stared down at the police interview table.
‘I’m embarrassed and quite scared,’ she said. The policeman nodded.
‘I’m aware of that,’ he said. ‘However, I’m not above using your fragile emotional state to get the information I need. You see, despite sympathising with you and, to be entirely honest, being quite attracted to you, I am very good at my job.’
Of course, after reading several entries on the site, I’m having flashbacks to several pieces of ostensible literature written in our college creative writing class, and I’m not sure if the resultant sweating is a symptom of impending nervous breakdown or just regular ol’ hot flashes.  It’s an enduring mystery we shall solve next week.
In the meantime, go enjoy some of the best bad writing on offer.
When Bad Writing Is Good

Bone-Chilling Thoughts

PalMD’s post on Facism and the New Right is a definite must-read.  Here’s a taste:

Cult of tradition
Americans certainly have a love of tradition, a uniting national identity.  We have our own liturgy in our founding documents.  But this is not cult-like.  Eco describes a traditionalism that is false, in a sense, in that it combined mutually incompatible traditions, creating from them a unifying identity.  Believing in the Bill of Rights, while simultaneously calling for the repeal of the 14th Amendment; believing in the Constitutional protection of religion but denying the secular origins of this principle, and creating a false mythology of the Founders as Believers—these create a false, new American tradition.

Read the rest.

Bone-Chilling Thoughts

Loving Bad Universe from Literally the Second It Starts

I’ve pseudo-liveblogged my reaction to the premiere episode of Bad Universe.   I didn’t watch it live, alas.  Meant to, but I fell asleep this evening (and dreamed I was running away from glaciers – don’t ask me why), then woke up too late for the main event.  Besides, the new downstairs neighbors sounded like they were torturing and killing an elephant downstairs.  It turns out they were just preparing for a night on the town, which apparently requires pachyderm sacrifice.  Go figure.  I let them get done with that so’s they wouldn’t impact (ha!) my viewing pleasure.

And here, raw and unvarnished, my thoughts on the program:

When a science show starts out, “The experiments in this program are conducted by trained professionals.  Do not attempt any of these tests at home,” you know there’s gonna be mayhem.
“Smells like mass extinction.”  HA HA HA HA HA!
License plates, I get, but did they seriously have to pixelate the manufacturer’s logo on the truck?  What, did Chevy not pay them for the privilege?  Mark this as the first time I’ve been curious enough to pause a program so I could google an SUV.
I love they’re mixing explosions with the Inverse Square Law – and the Bikini Gage.
The look on Phil’s face when that first explosion went off was priceless.  And any show that includes the words, “Let’s go do field geology!” immediately makes it to the top of my viewing list.
(Long interval of eating pizza whilst immersed in show.  Do not take lack of commentary for apathy.)
Want a scale-model dry ice comet!
Does Phil really have a warning sign that says “Big Scary Laser”?  Want that, too!
Do not want the show to end.
Um.  The graphic of of Apophis?  Fucking terrifying.
Poor big granite ball.  Ouchies!  But its sacrifice was not in vain – that was motherfucking awesome.
Less than 19 years to save the world.  Good thing Bad Universe is on now!  This has been much more terrifying (by virtue of being accurate) than most ZOMG the world’s gonna end! teevee shows.  It might spur some actual action.
More than happy with this show.  If Discovery doesn’t make it a regular feature, I’m calling for a mob.  Sharpen your pitchforks and oil your torches just in case.
Loving Bad Universe from Literally the Second It Starts

Tomes 2010: A Mere Quartet

I’ve been reading a lot lately, I promise, but it’s just that I’ve been dipping into many books at once, sampling here and there, and so I haven’t got as many completely read as usual.  I’m on the verge of finishing a few more, so I figured I’d best get these out there before we ended up with a monster book dump.

Geology Underfoot in Illinois

This book actually depressed me horribly, but that’s not a strike against it.  Everything about the Midwest (Chicago excepted) depresses me horribly.  I was born a Hoosier, but I just can’t live there.  This book reinforced that: the author talks about relief of 120 feet as if it’s amazing.

That’s just a wee bit pathetic.

However, that doesn’t mean that Illinois doesn’t have interesting geology, and this book points out quite a lot of it, including places I’d be happy to see.  There’s plenty o’ continental glacial landforms to peruse, some utterly delicious rock formations created by inland seas, and I’ve got to see Bell Smith Springs before I die.  That’s old-home stuff – I cut my teeth on sandstone landforms.

This book made me feel marginally better about the Midwest.  Perhaps my visit to my dear old mother won’t be unmitigated hell after all….

The Street-Smart Naturalist: Field Notes From Seattle

You know what, it’s hard to praise this book enough.  I loved and respected Seattle before I read it.  I understood, loved and respected Seattle afterward.  And now I know “it rains a mere 11 percent of the time.”

After reading this book, I have a better relationship with the neighborhood crows.  I don’t mind goose shit as much.  I know where to go downtown for a good round of geology as revealed in the buildings.  I’m planning a field trip for next summer to follow the glacial erratics.  I’ve got a handle on the invasive vs. native species.  And I’m more conversant with our local fault.  Few books can immerse you in the natural world contained within your city; fewer can do it with David’s silken-smooth prose.  If you want to know Seattle, buy this book.  Carry it with you when you come visit.  And then open yourself to the natural wonders you might be able to find right in your very own city.

Natural Grace: The Charm, Wonder, & Lessons of Pacific Northwest Animals and Plants

I bought this at B&N along with The Street-Smart Naturalist, figuring they made a perfect pair, and do they!  I’m normally not that interested in babblings about plants and animals that look like nothing more than groovy granola musings on how majestic the natural world is, maaan, but this book had one particular selling point: its opening line.  Observe:

“You animal, you.”

I fell in immediate love, and unlike most romances, this one survived its first young blush.  I read it as a follow-up to The Street-Smart Naturalist, and it proved the perfect compliment.  It expands the scope to the whole of the Northwest, taking us all the way from the most taken-for-granted animals round here (learned a lot about jellyfish and deer, f’rinstance), through dirt (which deserves more respect), up through geology, the tides, and killer whales.

After reading these two books, I’ll never see the Northwest in the same way again.  Especially not now that I can tell the difference between various trees.  They compliment each other with their knowledge, wisdom and humor.  Both are elegantly written, but not pretentious, and worth every instant I spent with them.

Beyond the Moon: A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides

The tides are a mystery to me.  They go in, they go out, I look at a tide table to understand when and where and how much.  I knew the moon and, to a lesser degree, the sun had something to do with it.  Suspected geography might as well.  Didn’t know jack diddly about how this stuff actually worked.

Well, thanks to this book, I know a bit more now.  I can kinda sorta explain why there’s only one high tide in the Gulf of Mexico, and why the Bay of Fundy has 50ft tides whereas many places only have 3-6ft.  I know the factors taken into account when making tide tables, how different bits interact, and why the Pacific Coast tides are so damned weird.  My city even makes a special guest appearance!

This is a book written by a (former) amateur for amateurs – James McCully isn’t a scientist, but he practically became one in writing this book.  And he gets definite kudos for this paragraph I marked out:

When people say, “Ignorance is bliss,” they mean the ignorance that is oblivious to the problem.  There is another kind of ignorance.  Once you become aware that you are ignorant, it is anything but blissful.

True, dat!

There are a few things in the writing style that grate, but overall, this is a good introduction to how tides work, and you’ll be less ignorant for having read it, which is a different kind of bliss.

And that’s it.  That’s all I’ve got – for now.

Tomes 2010: A Mere Quartet


Excuse the shouting there, but it’s so nice to know that we here in the States can call a spade a spade without considering how much our bank account converts to in pounds sterling (although I guess it’s Euros now, innit?):

American authors, journalists, and bloggers can breathe a sigh of relief: with broad bipartisan support, a short time ago President Obama signed a bill into law that makes sure that the awful and regressive libel laws in the UK cannot be enforced here in the United States.

Huzzah!  Now all we have to deal with are the ridiculous SLAPPs from butt-hurt woomeisters.  Which is a breeze compared to defending against a libel charge in Britain.

I have only one thing to say to the dumbshits who hoped Britain’s noxious laws would save them from good ol’ American dickishness:



DBAD: The Return

Poor Phil.  His Don’t Be A Dick stuff’s still getting panned.  Our own George W. took it apart:

I like Phil Plait a lot, but he’s recently been on a thing about “Not Being A Dick” and his recent video is supposed to be a clarification of that position.  
This reminds me of the scene in nearly every cop show where they take a fuzzy picture and apply enhancement software to it, and see a reflection of the killer’s face on a chrome-plated lugnut.  There’s only so much you can clarify a position that is fuzzy to begin with.

The rest of that post is well worth your time.

Les at Stupid Evil Bastard ripped a great gaping hole in the central premise of Phil’s argument:

Phil says all that does is make people defensive and resort to knee-jerk rationalizations and that is often true, I’m certainly guilty of it, but that doesn’t mean they won’t stop to consider the accusation of idiocy later when they have cooled down and are no longer in the midst of the argument. Not everyone will, but people who are anything like I am probably will and prompting that self-reflection can be the beginning of change.

I have much long and bitter experience in determining the truth of that.  

So, we’ve determined that a) quite often we’re hitting the target we intend, not the one he thinks we aimed at and b) when we turn double-barreled dickishness on someone with the intent of converting them, specifically, it can get the job done.  And I’ve not yet seen anyone argue that we must be all dick all the time.  There’s a time and a place for some hand-holding, sweet words o’ persuasion, and some gentle urging along.  That doesn’t leave DBAD in great shape.

Look, the sentiment was nice, and it’d be great if we lived in a world where dickishness was unnecessary, but there’s a reason for the carrot-and-stick proverbs.  Sometimes, all of us need a good sharp thump with a really big stick (or dick, ha ha) in order to snap out of our stupidity.

I just hope Bad Universe fares better than DBAD.  And, Phil?  I still love you, man.  How could I not, with posts like these?

DBAD: The Return

Things That Caught My Attention

I actually had time to catch up on a little reading today.  Even updated me blogroll to include some of the geology blogs I’ve gotten addicted to recently.  I’m a little distracted just now with terminal PMS and Rocko’s Modern Life, so now’s a good time to share some finds.

Brian Romans at Clastic Detritus made me drool with this Friday Field Foto.

More drooling: Dan McShane shares Notes from the Metaline Formation.  Old, pretty rocks; lovely water. Mmm!

And Callan Bentley’s guest blogger Filip Goc is responsible for some severe water damage to mah domicile – drooling turned to a gusher when I saw this post on the rocks of Glacier National Park.  Bonus drool: tension gash (which is a lot prettier than it looks). 

Lockwood found a box of crayons I dearly wish I’d had as a kid – oh, hell, I’d like them now.

I know most of you have seen this by now, but for those who haven’t: Chris Rowan’s excellent exploration of what lies beneath Yellowstone.

Courtesy of Ron’s Geology Picks, a fascinating new look at plate tectonics.

In non-geo news, Orac explains what happens to herd immunity when the herd refuses vaccination, and lays the smackdown on bogus vaccine ingredient calculators.

For the one of you who doesn’t read Pharyngula, PZ explains the importance of being a dick.

And Cujo’s right when he says it’s time for our better selves to show up – which has nothing to do with DBAD and everything to do with the horrific suffering in Pakistan.

We like to end with sunsets whenever possible, and thanks to Suzanne, we’ve got a beaut.  Go feast your eyes.

I know I’m missing some stuff.  However, my brain has been fried by hot flashes, and it’s time to crawl into bed with me oceanography textbook (yes, I read textbooks for pleasure).  Let me know what I’ve missed!

Things That Caught My Attention

Dumbfuckery du Jour

And the horsemen of hypocrisy keep on ridin’.  Short story: NJ’s Education Commissioner, Bret Schundler, managed a cock-up of astounding proportions, thus losing New Jersey a shitload of education funding.  Gov. Chris Christie threw a screaming fit, claiming the Obama administration’s bureaucracy was to blame (it manifestly wasn’t). 

We’ll stop right there for a sec.  Christie, who is a Con fucktard, was howling over not getting big guvmint largesse.  Yes, a Con wanted federal money.  Yes, the same Con who swore up and down he wouldn’t take federal money if it had strings attached (and one can’t imagine this chunk o’ change came without strings) threw a fit over not getting federal money.  But that’s not the hypocrisy that caught my attention at first.  This is:

Christie, now having been caught misleading the entire state about what transpired, got rid of his education commissioner today.
And then there’s the interesting part.

[Schundler] said he was asked to resign, but he requested to be fired instead so he could collect unemployment insurance.

“I have a mortgage to pay and a daughter about to start college,” he said.

So, to summarize, Schundler, a far-right Republican, screwed up and cost New Jersey $400 million in education grants. But his top concern, upon being shown the door, is qualifying for unemployment benefits — which his far-right brethren don’t think should exist.

My goodness, how attitudes change when the unemployment check’s in the other wallet.

Bonus Dumbfuckery: Mississippi hasn’t got the memo about our post-racial society.  And the AFA’s attempting to install frothing fundie judges to get rid of those horrible gay-lovin’ libruls in Iowa, which makes this a good time to point out how psychotic they are.  A sample:

And freaks like these scream I should be proud to be an American.  Not when they’re around, I’m not.  If we, by some horrid turn of fate, find ourselves in the same room with the AFA, I’m Canadian, eh?

Dumbfuckery du Jour