Thursday, December 24, 2009

Plectanthrus Failing - An update on Future Projects

Today I broke my Plectanthrus 'Mona Lavender'. It was a bit sad. The bigger portion of the plant broke off, but it is still alright. I put it in water, and perhaps I can get another plant out of it. It has been a while since I have written about my plants.

The spider plants have been planted into the makeshift window planter, and they seem to be coming along nicely. However, they keep falling off. Not just the spider plants but that's how I broke my Plactanthrus. I can't wait until this weekend though. My plans will soon be complete, and it will prevent many of the issues I am currently facing. My plan is to put up no less than 3 shelves on my wall for plants and for the tank I will soon be obtaining which will house my gecko.

Which means I need to plan a trip to home depot. I don't have a car, so perhaps my mom will be able to help me out with this one. I am not that good at houseman work either, but I think I can manage some simple shelves. I also wanted to hang my keyblade on my wall, as well as the poster of my research I had from Vermont. This means I have a lot of work I need to do, which will most likely be done this coming Monday, my day off. I work Saturday morning, and on Sunday, I work the cafe in the morning, and the audit at night.

Saturday seems like the optimal time to do this type of work, but it is not. I have a friend who needs to return to Germany on the 29th, and Saturday may be the only day I have to see her. Also my girl is off of work this week, but because of my horrible work schedule, we wont be able to see each other much. So Saturday is also a day I have to see, and hang out with her. She may be able to help me out on Monday also. I need pots too for all my seeds, like the seeds of the petunia plants I have, and the Hibiscus seeds I have from Ernie as well. I am thinking that they might be also good seeds to put into the tank with my gecko. They grow very well and quickly. The only problem is the humidity in a tank may be too much for them. More on this later.

So I put the severed 'Mona Lavender' into water, and pretty soon it will need a pot. A big pot, since this plant is larger than normal. If I am able to successfully root this piece, then it will be the 3rd 'Mona Lavender" in my collection. I may also throw it into the mix.

As for the sundew I got from Ernie, it didn't make it. Perhaps it was too hot near my windowsill, or in my room. Either way life is hard for the greenlife in my room.

I can't wait for the spring. My Amaryllis is currently hybernating, but I cannot wait for it to come out of it's sleepy state. Till then, I will keep cuddling, and keep myself in a sleepy state.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Special Comment on The Lastest Healthcare Reform Bill by Keith Olbermann

By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
updated 9:16 p.m. ET, Wed., Dec . 16, 2009

Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'

Finally, as promised, a Special Comment on the latest version of H-R 35-90, the Senate Health Care Reform bill. To again quote Churchill after Munich, as I did six nights ago on this program: "I will begin by saying the most unpopular and most unwelcome thing: that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat, without a war."

Last night on this program Howard Dean said that with the appeasement of Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut by the abandonment of the Medicare Buy-in, he could no longer support H-R 35-90. Dr. Dean's argument is informed, cogent, heart breaking, and unanswerable.

Seeking the least common denominator, Sen. Reid has found it, especially the "least" part. This is not health, this is not care, this is certainly not reform. I bless the Sherrod Browns and Ron Wydens and Jay Rockefellers and Sheldon Whitehouses and Anthony Weiners and all the others who have fought for real reform and I bleed for the pain inflicted upon them and their hopes. They have done their jobs and served their nation.

But through circumstances beyond their control, they are now seeking to reanimate a corpse killed by the Republicans, and by a political game played in the Senate and in the White House by men and women who have now proved themselves poorly equipped for the fight. The "men" of the current moment, have lost to the "mice" of history.

They must now not make the defeat worse by passing a hollow shell of a bill just for the sake of a big-stage signing ceremony. This bill, slowly bled to death by the political equivalent of the leeches that were once thought state-of-the-art-medicine, is now little more than a series of microscopically minor tweaks of a system which is the real-life, here-and-now version, of the malarkey of the Town Hallers. The American Insurance Cartel is the Death Panel, and this Senate bill does nothing to destroy it. Nor even to satiate it.

It merely decrees that our underprivileged, our sick, our elderly, our middle class, can be fed into it, as human sacrifices to the great maw of corporate voraciousness, at a profit per victim of 10 cents on the dollar instead of the current 20. Even before the support columns of reform were knocked down, one by one, with the kind of passive defense that would embarrass a touch-football player - single-payer, the public option, the Medicare Buy-In - before they vanished, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the part of this bill that would require you to buy insurance unless you could prove you could not afford it, would cost a family of four with a household income of 54-thousand dollars a year, 17 percent of that income. Nine thousand dollars a year. Just for the insurance!

That was with a public option. That was with some kind of check on the insurance companies. That was before — as Howard Dean pointed out — the revelation that the cartel will still be able to charge older people more than others; will — at the least — now be able to charge much more, maybe 50 percent more, for people with pre-existing conditions — pre-existing conditions; you know, like being alive.

You have just agreed to purchase a product. If you do not, you will be breaking the law and subject to a fine. You have no control over how much you will pay for the product. The government will have virtually no control over how much the company will charge for the product. The product is designed like the Monty Python sketch about the insurance company's "Never-Pay" policy ... "which, you know, if you never claim — is very worthwhile. But you had to claim, and, well, there it is."

And who do we have to blame for this? There are enough villains to go around, men and women who, in a just world, would be the next to get sick and have to sell their homes or their memories or their futures — just to keep themselves alive, just to keep their children alive, against the implacable enemy of American society, the insurance cartel. Mr. Grassley of Iowa has lied, and fomented panic and fear. Mr. DeMint of South Carolina has forgotten he represents people, and not just a political party. Mr. Baucus of Montana has operated as a virtual agent for the industry he is charged with regulating. Mr. Nelson of Nebraska has not only derailed reform, he has tried to exploit it to overturn a Supreme Court decision that, in this context, is frankly none of his goddamned business.

They say they have done what they have done for the most important, the most fiscally prudent, the most gloriously phrased, the most inescapable of reasons. But mostly they have done it for the money. Lots and lots of money from the insurance companies and the pharmacological companies and the other health care companies who have slowly taken this country over.

Which brings us to Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, the one man at the center of this farcical perversion of what a government is supposed to be. Out of pique, out of revenge, out of betrayal of his earlier wiser saner self, he has sold untold hundreds of thousands of us into pain and fear and privation and slavery — for money. He has been bought and sold by the insurance lobby. He has become a Senatorial prostitute. And sadly, the President has not provided the leadership his office demands.

He has badly misjudged the country's mood at all ends of the spectrum. There is no middle to coalesce here, Sir. There are only the uninformed, the bought-off, and the vast suffering majority for whom the urgency of now is a call from a collection agency or a threat of rescission of policy or a warning of expiration of services.

Sir, your hands-off approach, while nobly intended and perhaps yet some day applicable to the reality of an improved version of our nation, enabled the national humiliation that was the Town Halls and the insufferable Neanderthalian stupidity of Congressman Wilson and the street-walking of Mr. Lieberman.

Instead of continuing this snipe-hunt for the endangered and possibly extinct creature "bipartisanship," you need to push the Republicans around or cut them out or both. You need to threaten Democrats like Baucus and the others with the ends of their careers in the party. Instead, those Democrats have threatened you, and the Republicans have pushed you and cut you out.

Mr. President, the line between "compromise" and "compromised" is an incredibly fine one. Any reform bill enrages the right, and provides it with the war cry around which it will rally its mindless legions in the midterms and in '12. But this Republican knee-jerk inflexibility provides an incredible opportunity to you, Sir, and an incredible license.

On April 6th 2003, I was approached by two drunken young men at a baseball game. One of them started to ask for an autograph. The other stopped him by shouting "Screw him, he's a liberal." This program had been on the air for three weeks. It had to that point consisted entirely of brief introductions to correspondents in Iraq or to military analysts. There had been no criticism, no political analysis, no commentary. I had not covered news full-time for more than four years. I could not fathom on what factual basis, I was being called a "liberal," let alone being sworn at for being such.

Only later did it dawn on me that it didn't matter why, and it didn't matter that they were doing it — it only mattered that if I was going to be mindlessly criticized for anything, the reaction would be identical whether I did nothing that engendered it, or stood for something that engendered it.

Mr. President, they are calling you a socialist, a communist, a Marxist. You could be further to the right than Reagan - and this health care bill, as Howard Dean put it here last night, this bailout for the insurance industry, sure invites the comparison. And they will still call you names.

Sir, if they are going to call you a socialist no matter what you do, you have been given full unfettered freedom to do what you know is just. The bill may be the ultimate political manifesto, or it may be the most delicate of compromises. The firestorm will be the same. So why not give the haters, as the cliché goes, something to cry about.

But concomitant with that is the reaction from Democrats and Independents. You have riven them, Sir. Any bill will engender criticism but this bill costs you the left — and anybody who now has to pony up 17 percent of his family's income to buy this equivalent of Medical Mobster Protection Money.

Some speaking for you, Sir, have called the public option a fetish. They may be right. But to stay with this uncomfortable language, this bill is less fetish, more bondage. Nothing short of your re-election and the re-election of dozens of Democrats in the house and senate, hinges in large part on this bill. Make it palatable or make it go away or make yourself ready — not merely for a horrifying campaign in 2012 — but for the distinct possibility also of a primary challenge.

Befitting the season, Sir, these are not the shadows of the things that will be, but the shadows of the things that may be. But at this point, Mr. President, only you can make certain of that. There is only one redemption possible. The mandate in this bill under which we are required to buy insurance must be stripped out.

The bill now is little more than a legally mandated delivery of the middle class (and those whose dreams of joining it slip ever further away) into a kind of Chicago stockyards of insurance. Make enough money to take care of yourself and your family and you must buy insurance — on the insurers terms — or face a fine.

This provision must go. It is, above all else, immoral and a betrayal of the people who elected you, Sir. You must now announce that you will veto any bill lacking an option or buy-in, but containing a mandate.

And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you.

Let Mr. Lieberman kill the bill — then turn to his Republican friends only to find out they hate him more than the Democrats do. Let him stagger off the public stage, to go work for the insurance industry. As if he is not doing that now.

Then, Mr. Reid, take every worthwhile provision of health care reform you legally can, and pass it via reconciliation, when ever and how ever you can — and by the way, a Medicare Buy-In can be legally passed via reconciliation. The Senate bill with the mandate must be defeated, if not in the Senate, then in the House.

Health care reform that benefits the industry at the cost of the people is intolerable and there are no moral constructs in which it can be supported. And if still the bill and this heinous mandate become law there is yet further reaction required. I call on all those whose conscience urges them to fight, to use the only weapon that will be left to us if this bill becomes law. We must not buy federally mandated insurance if this cheesy counterfeit of reform is all we can buy.

No single payer? No sale. No public option? No sale. No Medicare buy-in? No sale. I am one of the self-insured, albeit by choice. And I hereby pledge that I will not buy this perversion of health care reform. Pass this at your peril, Senators, and sign it at yours, Mr. President. I will not buy this insurance. Brand me a lawbreaker if you choose. Fine me if you will. Jail me if you must.

But if the Medicare Buy-In goes, but the Mandate stays, the people who fought so hard and so sincerely to bring sanity to this system must kill this mutated version of their dream, because those elected by us to act for us have forgotten what must be the golden rule of health care reform. It is the same one to which physicians are bound, by oath: First do no harm.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dawkins Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution

The greatest show on earth is a must read for any educated person. It not only outlines the evidence for evolution, it also is an excellent book to debunk creationism, and intelligent design. From fossils to DNA, from embryology to comparative biology, from ecology to genetics, all signs point to evolution by way of natural or artificial selection. One of the best parts of the book is when Dawkins explains, that even without the fossil evidence, using only contemporary species, comparative biology, DNA evidence, and embryology, we still have a perfectly valid case for evolution. As a matter of fact, the entire idea of missing links is completely misleading. Every fossil ever discovered is a missing link to some other species, unless the species represented by the fossil went extinct. If it did go extinct, it still has characteristics that are represented by many organisms of the time.

But one of the most important chapters were the chapters where evolution has tried to compensate an adaptation from the past that no longer is valid. For example: how the vas deferans wraps around the urethra on it's way to it's final destination, as opposed to a direct route. Or how our bodies are not fully adapted for bipedalism, which brings about problems such as back aches, and foot problems.

One of the most shocking chapters was the appendix, when Dawkins talks about studies that have been done to poll the populations of the U.S. and Europe to gather their opinions on evolution. I consider this chapter the most telling of all. While it measures simple things, such as, how many people believe in young earth creationism vs intelligent design vs evolution, the deeper implications are astounding. In reality, once the evidence is presented, in such a way as Dawkins has presented it in his book, it is obviously unquestionable. Evolution is a fact, whether individuals believe it or not. It is my personal belief that such studies are not really a poll on the publics opinion on evolution, but a poll of ignorance in general. The more people in a population do not believe in evolution, the more ignorant the population is.

It is a shame that Dawkins didn't spend more time going over the implications of these polls in the appendix. I suspect it may be because he wanted to stick to the facts and not insert his personal opinion about God into the argument. It was obvious that the study from Turkey, the most religious state in the poll, also had the lowest percentage of the population believing in evolution. It seems to me that intelligence and religion are inversely correlated. There were only 3 or 4 studies mentioned in Dawkins book, but I am sure there are more. If your interested in the implications of these studies from the U.S. you should see Dawkins TED talk on militant atheism:

Overall, I think anyone with the language capable of understanding this book should read it. There is a need for biologists to reach out to the general population. There is a gap between common knowledge in the professors of this world, and the common knowledge of the common people. The two need to be merged either with seminars available to the public, or something of that nature. Dawkins and others have taken a major step by actively giving seminars and writing books.

I would imagine it would be difficult for someone in the sciences to reach out to the general public precisely because of the misconceptions. What types of mind numbing questions will be posed, and more importantly, who will be offended. I stand on Dawkins side, we NEED to offend people. And we NEED to answer each of those questions as best as we can, each and every time, with the patience as if it were the first time the question was posed. Ignorance needs to be eradicated, for the sake of peace. Peace through knowledge, knowledge through learning, and as always, patience prevails!

The Reptile Expo and other updates

Exactly one week after the Reptile Expo, and I still feel like I need a gecko. A crested gecko. Those little guys are so nice, and cute. Don't believe me? Look Here:
They handed me a gecko at the show, and I fell in love. So I have some requirements, of course, before I buy the gecko. And this is going to turn into an ongoing project for me. According to I need to get the habitat ready by the 24th of next month. This gives me a one and a half month period to get a tank and put some cool things into it. I was thinking that perhaps one of my Plectranthrus 'Mona Lavender' might do well in a tank.

If you remember, a small piece had fallen off when I was moving to the Bronx. I put it in some water, and viola, it set root. Plectranthus is notoriously easy to root in water. So this is no surprise. After such a long time in NY, I finally managed to find time (and money) to go to Walmart, and buy some soil. What happened afterward was magic. All the spider plants that I had put to root were still in water, together, in, what I would call, a tangled mess. I ended up planting about 6 of them in a windowsill garden planter, but I cannot put it on my windowsill because it is too cold. So it lies in my room. All the other spider plants were thrown out. I seriously had too many anyway.

I also planted the Plectranthrus in soil, and in a pot that Ernie gave me (thanks!!!). He also gave me some seed of a Hibiscus plant, which was thought to be endangered. I also have the thousands of petunia seeds from this summer, but I need a starter mix to get them started. I am thinking about planting one in a small pot I obtained in Vermont. I painted the pot so one side reads Don, and the other reads Jon (for Donna and Jonathan). I threw out the big petunia Donna had. It was just too big, and it was always producing seeds. Hopefully all the seeds retain the same attributes. It might also be interesting to throw some of these seeds into the tank with the gecko, when I get it.

I also need to consider doing this project on low budget terms. I hardly have money to do much. I know it is supposed to be this way, since I am just starting work after college, but I didn't know it would be this difficult. I thought I would at least have enough to get my own place, if I wanted it. Of course I was wrong. Perhaps Ernie can give me one of those tanks now?

Anyway, until then, I will finish up the last two chapters of Dawkins book, and lounge around, like these two turtles at the expo.

Also, an in depth review of Dawkins book will come tomorrow or the day after. Also a rant about our sense of smell and ability to taste as it relates to our terrible sense of memory.

Stay tuned