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Push button starters


I keep seeing these commercials for push button ignitions on cars and wondering how you prevent kids from starting the car.  Anyone know if there are protections on these things?  They seem cool otherwise (Not that keys are hard to use, but whatever).

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A. sediba published...and quickly!


There is a lot of hype right now about the exciting new report of a species of Australopithicine from South Africa, which was just published in Science (the article is free to download, there's also a podcast). And just in time for the Paleoanthropology meetings which begin on Monday in St. Louis - this should bring a lot of the press to the conference (To save you the trouble of searching, Berger is presenting Tuesday at 11:15).

A. sediba skull
(image taken from NY Daily News website)

The finds are exciting and interesting - a hominid with a lot of Homo traits, but the brain size of an Australopithicine (and a chimp). But s/he's got nice brow ridges and cheekbones too. The fossil is less than 2 million years old, so there are Homo species living in other parts of Africa well before this one, but that doesn't mean that an early family of Homo headed south and eventually became these guys.  I expect lots of folks at the meetings will be debating it's place on the family tree over coffee. Don Johansen has already said he thinks it should be considered H. sediba, not A. sediba.  And the folks over at AiG (the creationists, not the financial debacle) say they'll have a statement about the fossils out tomorrow, after they've looked over the article more carefully.

I have my own questions about the identifications, but since I'm not a paleoanthropologist I won't publicly humiliate myself by asking them here (rather, I'll wait until I get my hands on my paleoanthropoloigst friend and ask him about them - he won't laugh at me). My main concern, at this point, is that the only adult they have is fairly incomplete - she's got a nice long arm and a large portion of her skull, but her lower limbs are fairly scant. Those missing parts are important for understanding bipedalism and the sex, particularly since there is no adult male to compare the specimen to yet. But there are at least two more skeletons to be published, which is great. *sigh* I love the puzzle that is our evolutionary history!

But the point of this rambling post isn't even about this debate on how to identify the species. The data is available and the discussion has begun. And I'm having fun following the experts around the blogosphere to see what they think. And for this I want to applaud Berger LOUDLY. I want to walk up and shake him by the shoulders and say 'THANK YOU DR. BERGER! THANK YOU!' Because the fossils were only uncovered in 2008. And paleoanthropologists have a Horrible habit of keeping their fossils locked up in their labs for years before anyone can look at them. For example, Tim White's team found the fossils of Ardipithicus ramidus in the early 1990s, and didn't publish them until 2009. I knew more about how annoyed people were with him than I did about the fossils. But this took less than two years!

By getting the fossils analyzed and published so quickly, is Berger going to get critiqued for his interpretations? Probably. But I tend to believe that the collective discussion is often more productive and more quickly productive than analysis in isolation. Science is a collective enterprise, and as such, we need to get our data published in a reasonable time. He'd probably get critiqued anyway, paleoanthropology is confusing and complicated.  But if you get your data out in two years, you've got a better excuse for being wrong.

And speaking of getting data out in a reasonable time, I've got several more dissertation pages to write tonight, so I am off.

Cooking with frozen okra


I really need to get back on the blogging treadmill. Might as well start with my lunch.

It seems most people really find the goo-factor in eating okra to be a turn off. I LOVE it. I like texture, and I find the unusual texture of goo and little seed balls intriguing - kind of like some people like those tapioca balls in their drinks. And people eat jello and pudding; we have weird textures in our foods, but none quite like okra.


I buy frozen cut up okra, and when I've looked on-line for recipes it seems the only thing people do with it is make gumbo or deep-fry it. I like gumbo sometimes, but other days I just want a quick meal. So here are my standard concoctions:




Okra side dish:

Just frozen cut okra, corn and onions. Boil a little water (per the directions on the bag), toss them in to cook, and drain in the strainer to get rid of some of the goo (It's good to let it sit a minute because the goo drains slowly). It's still slimy, but so what? Your spit is slimy too, the okra is just getting the process started for you. If it needs a little extra flavor I add parmesan cheese and paprika.

Okra main dish:

Very similar. I toss a bouillon cube in the water, or use broth (don't know if this actually flavors anything, but it seems like a good idea). Today I didn't have frozen onions so I cut up a fresh one and fried it with a clove of garlic (sliced) in olive oil. Meanwhile, I cooked the okra and corn in the broth, then drained as above. I added a can of drained black beans for protein (I didn't cook them, just let the heat of the veggies warm them up - but I hate overcooked beans). Then I added in the fried onion/garlic, and a small can of diced green chiles. Delicious, and plenty of leftovers for dinner.

If I have them around, I'll usually add diced tomatoes also. YUM Tomatoes!

If anyone has other ideas for good frozen okra recipes, I'd be glad to hear them. I think this is an ideal creepy halloween food to try on kids - and much faster to prepare than peeling the skins off grapes.

new band name


John Cusack and the Two Dollars.

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Parents, see this as an opportunity


Okay, I want to share my 2 cents on the whole stupid Obama talking in schools thing. Never mind Nancy Reagan telling us not to do drugs, or all the presidents who have sat-in-the-same-room-as-your-children! and read stories to them (sometimes upside down).

Today I heard a caller on NPR who finally gave me a rational reason that someone would dislike the president's speech. After calling out 'socialism!' a few times he gave me insight when he said 'Obama says you should stay in school because that will help our country. He is reinforcing the idea of putting country before the individual and I don't want him saying that to these kids." Then he ranted about how that was socialism again.

So while I don't agree, at least I get it now. Some people value their individual freedoms much more strongly, and don't want kids to think in terms of 'what i can do for my country', they want them to think 'how can i be all that i can be?'. That is a reasonable opinion to have, and I can see why they might not like Obama's take on things.

BUT

That doesn't mean you block your kids from hearing about it. Instead, how about this novel idea: send the kid to school, and read the speech yourself, then talk about it together over dinner! Talk about why you think it's more important to do your personal best for yourself. You should be talking to your kids about what they learn in school anyway. Why is he any more of a threat than the band teacher?

handy tips


I just found some tips in an old notebook that appear to be from a cookbook. They're neat, so I thought I'd share:

  • When mailing a cake or cookies, they will stay fresh longer if packed in marshmallows, which act as humidors to retain the moisture.



  • Bacon will not curl while frying if the strips are dipped in cold water for a few seconds before placing them in the frying pan.



  • Remove fat from soup by twisting an ice cube in a cloth and dipping it in the soup pot. excess fat will gather on the cloth (i've tried this with variable success myself)



  • A slice of raw potato will remove dirt marks from a raincoat, mudstains, etc...



  • To prevent your brown sugar from lumping, store it in a tightly closed jar with an apple. Sugar that is already hard may be softened this way also.

    hack! phtwop! phooey!


    Just the smell of rye is enough to make me want to barf.

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    my theory on Palin (everybody's got one)


    Sarah Palin resigned. The people of Alaska may be pissed/pleased depending on their perspectives. Personally, I find it pretty damn rude of someone to take an oath to work for the people of a state, and then change their mind because it's hard.

    And now comes the ever present 'why sarah, why?' that we say after everything she does on the national stage. WHY didn't you prepare for that interview? WHY did you stand in front of a dying turkey on thanksgiving? Why are you resigning in a huffy rambling fashion that outdid Governor Sanford?

    We already know Sarah Palin doesn't do what people tell her, she does what SHE thinks is right. What SHE thinks will get her into the position of power that she wants, regardless of who she takes down along the way. She already took down McCain.

    Now, I speculate, as my wild hypothesis, that her plan is to start a new political party that aligns with her views, and try to take the evangelical conservatives away from the Republican Party.

    I know that's ridiculous. But it's Sarah Palin. She's a 'maverick'. And she does what she wants. I can see her saying 'I'm fed up. I'm taking the ball home and playing my own game' stomp. stomp. stomp. aka, 'working for change outside of the governor's office', as it were. She knows she won't get the republican bid for president, so she'll start her own party. This is her 'higher calling', I'd surmise. It would seriously mess up the republican party, but not be strong enough to compete with the democrats. She'd stay famous. All these frustrated tea-party-ers would feel they had a voice. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Sure it's crazy, but so is she, so why not? If she thinks that the US Government is not representing her views, and the views of people who support her, the best way to fix that is by starting a party that has those views as a platform (theoretically). I'm calling it.


    On an aside, someone on Jezebel suggested that they should get an affected teenager to read her speeches from now on, since that what she sounds like. I think it would be a youtube hit.

    Photo


    I really found this photo moving.

    Full info about it after the link.

    I'm sorry, Ice Age WHAT?


    Okay I don't have a TV, so I don't keep up on movie previews, etc... all too well. So imagine my chagrin today when I got an e-mail from the Michigan Theatre about Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.


    I'm sorry, what? Did we NOT just see a bunch of paleontologists ranting about the creation museum? Now, instead, we're just going to give them completely mixed up geology?

    FACT: Dinosaurs were around before mammals evolved, they did not dawn after mammals did.
    FACT: There were mammals around during the time of the dinos, but primarily small ones (we think).
    FACT: After the dinosaurs went extinct about 60 million years ago, mammals expanded to fill in the niches that were left behind. They got larger and more diverse.
    FACT: The large mammals highlighted in the Ice Age movies are fairly recent species, which went extinct about 10,000 years ago, after the end of the most recent ice age.
    FACT: HUMANS, as seen in the first Ice Age movie, NEVER CO-EXISTED WITH DINOSAURS.


    FACT: I LOVED the first Ice Age movie because it was SO geologically accurate. I maintain that they very clearly showed the melting of the glaciers in northwestern North America, culminating in the animals coming out of the ice free corridor into Montana, where they eventually discovered the hot springs that are in Yellowstone National Park today. It was FANTASTIC. They put a lot of effort into getting the geological history right.

    From what I understand, the dinosaurs in the new movie live in an underground world that the mammals discover - we're getting back to the Journey to the Center of the Earth/Land of the Lost theme that is so popular this year. That mollifies me a bit, but because the first movie was so well done (in my opinion), and made real geological facts interesting, I am sad to see them going this direction.

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