Category Archives: Off-topic

A Sign from Above and a Free Fire Zone

We bring you news of what is likely to be the most memorable event that has ever occurred or that ever will occur in your life. It’s certainly the most thrilling news we can remember. Pay careful attention, dear reader, and remember that you learned about it here, at this humble blog.

We know this is a true story because we found it at the website of television station KXAN, the NBC affiliate in Austin, Texas. Their headline is: Jesus image spotted in Central Texas moth. The TV station informs us:

A Georgetown [Texas] woman says a moth that showed up at her home with a pattern that resembles the face of Jesus is a sign from above.

Aaaargh!! A Jesus moth! Aaaargh!! [*The Curmudgeon's emotionless eyes shed unaccustomed tears of joy*] We are so overwhelmed that it’s difficult to continue, but we shall try.

The TV station’s article has a picture of the blessed insect, but we probably shouldn’t copy it. You’ll have to click over there to see it. As long as you’re doing that, we only need to give you one more excerpt:

Yvonne Esquilin tells KXAN the moth showed up at her home just after noon Wednesday. At first, her family thought it was a butterfly. It stuck around until she got home from work and saw it for herself. “We were just amazed at the size of the moth,” she told KXAN. “It didn’t dawn on me until I snapped the picture. At first it looked like Jesus – and I still think it looks like Jesus.”

[...]

I believe this was a sign,” she said. “God is letting me know Good News is Coming and to keep the Hope.”

Verily, none can deny it. We suggest that you start making preparations for the rapture, dear reader. Your Curmudgeon is already prepared, so we’re going to take the dogs outside. They know how to react to these things. While we’re doing that, feel free to use the comment section as an Intellectual Free Fire Zone.

As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Whither this Humble Blog?

Addendum: We’re not moving the blog. After eleven days of uncertainty and virtually unanimous opinion from the blogging community here, WordPress staff have announced that they have “no plans to permanently remove the classic editor.”

We’ve mentioned a few times that WordPress.Com, where this blog is hosted, has launched a new editor for writing and editing posts. They call it Beep Beep Boop. It’s what one would expect from such a juvenile name.

Aside from innumerable bugs which initially impaired the function of even its limited capabilities, Beep Beep Boop is awkward, time consuming, and just plain foolish. It’s clearly designed to appeal to those whose blogging consists of a few sentences per post.

We’ve seen no reasons given for the sudden appearance of Beep Beep Boop, so all we can do is speculate. We assume that’s what this site’s management sees as the future, and they’re eagerly reaching out in that direction, unconcerned that those who write more substantively will be unable to continue blogging here.

Our guess is that bloggers like your humble Curmudgeon use too much of this site’s resources with our drafting, saving, previewing, revising, saving again, loading earlier posts to copy background material, editing some more, previewing again, and eventually publishing. It seems that WordPress would prefer to replace us with a bunch of teens whose posts are brief and unedited, and who therefore require virtually none of the server time required by bloggers like your Curmudgeon.

Besides, who cares how long a blog post is, or what it says, or how well it’s written? An amateurish, unedited, two-sentence post will carry the same advertising as something longer and revised numerous times, and there are more people who post like that than people who do as we do. That means your Curmudgeon is obsolete — or at least not optimal. The message we’re getting is: If we don’t like Beep Beep Boop, that’s just too bad.

For the moment, the original editor (now designated “classic”) is still available as an option, but it’s been strongly hinted that this option will survive only while they work out the bugs of Beep Beep Boop. When the new editor has reached juvenile perfection, there’s little doubt that the “classic” editor will be gone. We’ve asked management to give us a time estimate for the demise of the classic editor, but they haven’t responded.

So what are we going to do? A couple of things are clear. First, Beep Beep Boop is unacceptable for our requirements, and we can’t continue blogging here if it becomes this website’s only editor. Had it been in place originally, we never would have chosen this site as the home of our blog. Second, because of management’s silence, the most prudent course is to anticipate the worst.

That means we need to set up a new blog at our own domain (we already own SensuousCurmudgeon.com) using software from WordPress.Org — which is different from WordPress.Com. That would give us the “classic” editor, so we could continue to do what we do, albeit at a different website where we would have the unwanted responsibility of being the webmaster.

But there are problems. Yes, we can migrate all of our content to the new site. It’s a pain to do because there’s so much. We’ll have to do it year by year, in order to move everything and have it all at the new blog. We’ll get it done. However, you may have seen and browsed our extensive tables of contents. Those comprise thousands of links to all of our posts, organized by topic, and — alas — each of those links points to a post at this website. It’s unrealistic to change those links to whatever would be the new location of those posts. That’s our biggest problem.

There are three possibilities for dealing with this. In addition to moving a copy of our archives to the new site, we could: (1) abandon our tables of contents; (2) leave the tables of contents and the original archives at this website where they would continue to be functional; or (3) move the tables of contents to the new site while leaving the original archives here (as a duplicate), so the links in the tables of contents at the new site– which all point here — would still function.

At the moment, options 2 and 3 both seem attractive. Either way, we would use this place to store an extra copy of our archives while we post new material at the new blog. Search engines will probably downgrade us for having duplicate material, but that’s unavoidable. Leaving an extra set of the archives here would preserve the utility of our tables of contents, and — just as important — it would preserve other links to our earlier content, which are all over the internet. We’d be spread out over two different sites, but so what?

We think this place will, on request, migrate our subscribers to the new location, so that would be a convenience. If not, we’ll leave a prominent note at the home page of this blog explaining our new location. That’s essential for anyone trying to find us, because it’ll take search engines like Google some time to figure out our new location.

Anyway, we’re not moving yet. But this weekend, when we may have the time, we’ll start setting up a new blog at another site with software from WordPress.Org. That requires a bit of work — selecting a theme, making sure it looks okay, adding essential features like a spam detector, migrating our archives, etc. The new site will be kept “private” so it won’t be visible on the internet until we’re certain we have to use it. If that becomes necessary, we’ll make it public and let you know that the new place is active and that’s where our new posts will be. We’ll also try to get our subscribers moved.

We’re not looking forward to this, and we keep hoping there will be some message from management that the classic editor will be retained. But if that doesn’t happen, we gotta do what we gotta do. We’ll keep you advised. Meanwhile, if anyone has any helpful suggestions, we’d like to hear from you.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Aaaargh!! No News Free Fire Zone

Argos Sleeping

A cyber storm is raging at WordPress. They’ve changed the editor for creating posts, and it seems that no one likes it. Lots of controversy, and it’s no fun.

Meanwhile, there’s no news of The Controversy between evolution and creationism, so it’s a slow day — which is just as well because editing a new post is somewhat agonizing. We note, however, that the Discoveroids’ lost revival — see Discovery Institute’s Lost Creationist Revival — is still lost.

And in South Carolina, where they’ve been having an agonizing bureaucratic squabble over education standards — see There Are Weird Creationists in South Carolina — there’s been another development, so to speak. In the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina we found this headline:Palmetto Sunrise: Evolution vote left for another day. One excerpt will be sufficient:

The State Board of Education postponed a vote Wednesday on newly written language for South Carolina’s evolution standard. … The language, which has been touted as a compromise, requires students to understand that the theory of evolution, like any other scientific theory, may change as new scientific information is obtained.

So you see what we’re dealing with. Besides software problems at WordPress, there’s no news worth writing about anyway.

To show you just how slow things are, we’ve posted a new pic of Argos (a/k/a Aaaargh!!), one of your Curmudgeon’s two splendid Dobermans, sleeping under our desk.

Therefore, it’s time for an Intellectual Free-Fire Zone. As with all our free-fire zones, we’re open for the discussion of pretty much anything — science, politics, economics, whatever — as long as it’s tasteful and interesting. Banter, babble, bicker, bluster, blubber, blather, blab, blurt, burble, boast — say what you will. But avoid flame-wars and beware of the profanity filters.

We now throw open the comments to you, dear reader. Have at it!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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Habitable Extra-Solar Planets Are Everywhere

This is the kind of thing that drives creationists crazy, so it’s the sort of news we enjoy. In PhysOrg they have this new article that should gladden the hearts of all you science fiction fans out there: Red dwarf stars might be best places to discover alien life.

Why red dwarf stars? Wikipedia says:

Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Milky Way galaxy, at least in the neighborhood of the Sun, but due to their low luminosity, individual red dwarfs cannot easily be observed. From Earth, not one is visible to the naked eye. Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, is a red dwarf (Type M5, apparent magnitude 11.05), as are twenty of the next thirty nearest. According to some estimates, red dwarfs make up three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy

Okay, there’s a lot of them. But what is that that makes them candidates for finding alien life? PhysOrg says, with bold font added by us:

[N]early every one of these [red dwarf] stars may have a planet located in its habitable zone where life has the best chance of existing, a new study concludes.

Here’s a link to the new study they’re talking about. It’s in International Journal of Astrobiology, titled In situ models for planet assembly around cool stars. All you can see without a subscription is the abstract. Let’s get back to PhysOrg:

Astronomers are discovering more and more planets around red dwarfs, and recent findings from NASA’s Kepler space observatory reveal that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are one-half to four times the mass of Earth.

We’ve come a long way since the 1990s, when the first extra-solar planet was discovered. Until then, no one knew if any existed. Now, to the anguish of creationists, they appear to be the rule rather than the exception. You gotta have some sympathy for the creationists. Once, before the telescope, when astronomy was based on naked eye observations and no one knew anything else, they were happy thinking that Earth was the center of the universe, the specially created focus of divine attention.

Then it was discovered that were just another of the planets in the solar system, and like all the others, we orbited the Sun, not the other way around. That was a very difficult adjustment for those who imagined that their ancient texts told them all there was to know.

These days the creationists either claim that the bible somehow isn’t contradicted by the solar system, or they totally avoid the issue. But until recently they could still cling to the hope that the Sun is unique in having planets. Now, even that illusion is gone, so all they’ve got left is the hope that our world is the only one that supports life. PhysOrg continues:

Study author Brad Hansen, an astrophysicist at the University of California at Los Angeles, used computer models of in situ planetary formation to see how often red dwarfs might develop Earth-sized worlds, and where these planets might orbit around the stars.

In his computer simulations, Hansen modeled red dwarfs half the mass of the Sun, with proto-planetary disks extending from 0.05 AU to 1 AU (one astronomical unit is the average distance from the Sun to the Earth) from the stars. The disks contained an amount of gas and dust equal to six times the mass of Earth. He then looked at how many planets developed after 10 million years.

Well, if the model is good, the results should be informative. Here’s more:

Of particular interest to Hansen were the so-called habitable zones of these stars, the areas where planets are potentially warm enough to sustain liquid water — and potentially life — on their surfaces. Red dwarfs are relatively cold stars, which means their habitable zones are closer than Mercury is to the Sun — just 0.1 to 0.2 AU.

The suspense is killing us. What did he find? We’re told:

Hansen found most of the resulting planetary systems comprise between four and six surviving planets inside 0.5 AU, although the largest number went as high as 10. In addition, the red dwarfs usually possessed one or two planets within their habitable zones, which extended from 0.23 to 0.44 AU. “A high frequency of potentially habitable planets makes it more likely that we could actually find one that is habitable,” Hansen said.

The creationists must be furious about Hansen and his Satanic model. But wait — it gets even better. One last excerpt:

Moreover, Hansen also found that planets in the habitable zones of red dwarf stars could accumulate significant amounts of water. In fact, each could possess roughly 25 times more water than Earth has as a whole. All in all, he noted these results “broadly support the notion that habitable planets are plentiful around M dwarfs in the solar neighborhood.”

It’s not as if the creationists didn’t have enough to worry about. But it doesn’t matter what science discovers. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about creationists, it’s this: They’ll continue to deny reality until they can no longer make a living at it. But that day will never come. After all, we still have plenty of astrologers.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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