editorial comment

Galileo v Darwin

a new day
The Mathematician handed me an article from the Scientific American, and then stood back and watched me guffaw. The article in question was a discussion of the relative impact that Galileo and Darwin had on society. Which one was bigger?

First, it’s a dopey question, but on top of that, this little bit of silliness: one of the panelists claimed that Galileo was the most influential, because (and I’m paraphrasing) only fifty percent of Americans believe in evolution, whereas eighty percent believe the earth orbits around the sun.

Think about that for a minute.

Now, the Darwin thing I’m willing to let go, though I don’t believe it. A much smaller proportion of the population identifes as creationists, but let’s leave that aside for the moment.

The claim is that 20% of the American population does not believe that the earth orbits the sun.

I don’t believe this. I just don’t. I’m taken by this urge to stop people on the street and ask them a T/F question: does the earth orbit around the sun? I can predict that some small percentage will just look puzzled and have to think about it. These are the same people who can’t put France on a map (much less Iraq), and who don’t realize that the fact that there was a World War II, there must have been a Word War I. Or this person, quoted on Overheard:

Like, New York’s Technically a State Of Mind, Right?

College student with Boston accent: Yeah, I was reading this article in like Newsweek or something, that ranked the states from smartest to dumbest. Massachusetts was in the top ten.
College student with Miami accent: What about Florida?
College student with Boston accent: Florida was like, 47.
College student with Miami accent: Out of how many?


Overheard by: Still Laughing

Some people just aren’t interested in the wider world. Maybe the student with the Miami accent knows everything there is to know about sailboat rigging, but slept through every geography and social studies class. The temptation is to laugh (okay, I did laugh), but I think it’s a mistake to assume this person is intellectually a zero. Narrow, yes. But more than that, who knows?

The earth orbiting around the sun is to me so absolutely undebatable that I put it on a par with things like, the sun rises in the east or the earth is round. Further, some people may deny they believe in evolution for religious reasons, but no such baggage has been attached to Galileo. I hope.

Does that 80% sound weird to you?


Creative Commons License photo credit: cdemo

let’s hear it for the girl

Women who have reached middle age are, more often than not, invisible. Unless you happen to be Jane Fonda or Julia Roberts (she’s 42) or Hillary Clinton,  you go about your business just under the radar.

My guess is that a woman of a certain age and body type gets automatically cubbyholed as a ‘matron’ and as such, inherently uninteresting.  If you passed this woman on the street (assuming for the moment that you don’t recognize her)* what would go through your mind?

She could be the president of a university or a CFO of a large company, she might own a string of drugstores or  be the leading casting director in Hollywood.  Or she might be a housewife who has raised three kids and is happiest in the garden. Any of these things are possible, but I think most people settle on the housewife almost automatically.

When people underestimate you, you have an advantage; on the other hand, it is disheartening and often insulting to be so easily dismissed.

Which brings me to Susan Boyle, who is competing on Britain’s Got Talent. Susan is one of the invisibles, and everybody let her know she was out of place when she showed up on the stage. They smirked and rolled their eyes because an unpolished middle aged woman in a simple dress  was asking to be seen and heard.   Susan took it all in stride, because she knew what she could do. And then she did it.

You can watch her do it at YouTube (I would enbed it here, but that’s been disabled). Susan Boyle sings.

It happens quite often that women like Susan (and me) are treated like this, but the opportunity to shake things up doesn’t present itself very often. So good on Susan. Hats off.

*The photo is of [[Maureen Stapleton]].

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public service announcement: puppy mill rescue

You know about me and dogs if you spend any time reading this weblog at all.

Here’s something you probably haven’t heard, as it happened way up here in the northern most Pacific Northwest. Skagit County sheriffs raided a puppy mill yesterday and found 400 animals, mostly small breeds, in deplorable conditions. Confined to cages filled with feces, starved, matted, sick, with infections and diseases. They found seven dogs that had died as much as three months ago in a cage. They took only 200 of them away.

More details (if you can bear it) from an article in The Bellingham Herald (below). The rescue is being coordinated by SPOT of Skagit County. They need help, as you can imagine. If you can spare a couple bucks or supplies, please get in touch with them. The telephone number provided has a mailbox that is full, so email is the better way. Their website, with a link to email:  SPOT (Saving Pets One at a Time)

Also, here’s a link to an article with video and images.

More than 200 dogs seized from Skagit Co. puppy mill

Biggest dog seizure in Skagit history; animals not up for adoption yet


Authorities seized more than 200 dogs in two separate incidents in Skagit County Wednesday, and the owners of both kennels could face animal cruelty charges, authorities said.

More than 150 dogs, filthy and crowded into small spaces, were seized from a Little Mountain area home outside Mount Vernon after the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office linked the homeowner to a ring of Snohomish County puppy mills.

Sheriff’s Chief Criminal Deputy Will Reichardt said it was the biggest dog seizure in Skagit County’s history. He estimated that another 200 dogs were left behind because they appeared healthier, cleaner and better cared for. Logistics played a role in deciding how many animals to take, he said.

Most of the dogs taken from the home of Marjorie and Richard Sundberg are being kept temporarily at the Skagit County Fairgrounds.

The mostly small “designer dogs” were found covered in feces and urine and packed into small wire crates, said Teresa Letellier, a volunteer with the Burlington-based organization Saving Pets One at a Time or S.P.O.T. Many of the dogs imprisoned themselves into still smaller spaces yet, she said, crouching into bins in their crates because the rest of the space was so piled with feces.

Seven dogs — puppies and adults — were also found dead inside of a bin, Reichardt said. They likely died about three weeks ago, he said, but cause of death has not been determined.

At least four dogs were taken to area vet clinics, Letellier said. Three suffered from dehydration or lethargy and a fourth was found wearing a T-shirt, which when lifted revealed an infection and open sores, she said. Another dog and her litter were taken to the home of a S.P.O.T. volunteer, Letellier said.

In the other incident Wednesday, sheriff’s deputies seized about 40 miniature Australian Shepherds and Italian greyhounds and two ponies from a home near Big Lake, Reichardt said.

The Big Lake case was not connected to the larger seizure at the Sundberg home nor to a string of Snohomish County searches.

No charges had been filed in any of the Skagit or Snohomish County cases as of Wednesday night. But the Sundbergs and the Big Lake kennel operator could face animal cruelty charges, a felony, Reichardt said.

The Sundberg kennel has long been known to Skagit County officials because it has been operating for years without the necessary permits and has infuriated some neighbors. A county animal control officer had previously visited the breeding operation without requiring any dogs to be taken away.

However, past counts put the number of dogs closer to 150 to 200, far short of the roughly 400 dogs and puppies found Wednesday at the Sundbergs’ operation.

Reichardt said some of the dogs may have recently been brought to the Sundberg kennel from a home in Snohomish County, which was one of three homes searched recently by authorities there.

The three homes appear to belong to two of the Sundbergs’ daughters, according to Vicki Lubrin, licensing and animal control services manager for Snohomish County. Lubrin said a tip led the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office to a home owned by one daughter near the town of Gold Bar on Friday.

There, they seized 155 dogs, four cats and three parrots, Lubrin said. Many of the animals were sick, and 87 of the dogs were crammed into an attic, she said.

Deputies found evidence at that house that led them to two other locations, Lubrin said. One was a home owned by another Sundberg daughter where there were 44 dogs, Lubrin said, but all appeared in adequate condition and were left in her care.

The third home, which belonged to the same daughter who owned the Gold Bar-area property, had no dogs on site, Lubrin said, but there were signs that animals had been there.

Reichardt said witnesses saw dogs moved from that home in the middle of the night, and evidence found there suggested they were taken to Marjorie Sundberg’s home.

Reichardt, sheriff’s deputies, S.P.O.T. volunteers and animal control officers from neighboring jurisdictions were greeted with the smell of urine and feces when the arrived at the Sundberg kennel Tuesday.

Inside two buildings, as well as the Sundberg residence and an outbuilding, they found hundreds of dogs — some without food, water or heat — locked into crates encrusted with excrement.

“The urine smell was so strong it hurt your nose,” Patrol Deputy Rhonda Lasley said as she nestled a weeks-old Chihuahua inside her coat at the fairgrounds.

She called the tiny sleeping dog “Justice.”

For now, none of the dogs are up for adoption and still legally belong to the Sundbergs, Reichardt said. But S.P.O.T. is looking for experienced volunteers and foster homes to care for the dogs temporarily.

Letellier said donations of food, supplies, money and grooming help are also needed for the Sundbergs’ dogs and those seized from the Big Lake home. Call 360-336-5388 and leave a message with your name and contact information if you can help.


This morning at 7:30 I left the house and went into town, because the inauguration was being simulcast onto the big screen at our local theater. One of those old-timey, grand theaters with red velvet seats. A big place, and every seat was taken.

It was so much fun to watch in a crowd of enthusiastic supporters. People jumped up spontaneously and started clapping, there were people swaying and singing and generally being demonstrative. The crowd was very mixed, A lot of couples with young children, college students, old folks, and a lot of women my age. That was probably the biggest group. And they said he couldn’t win over women voters. Who exactly came up with that piece of faux-wisdom?

I found Obama’s acceptance speech to be … well, everything it should have been, and more. Because of his own history as a public speaker the bar was set high. I have read that he writes his own speeches, which doubles the burden. But he rose to the occasion. It was poetic and full of strong imagery, it was hopeful and inspiring with a good dose of pragmatism. I personally was surprised and pleased that when he mentioned various religions he also mentioned my crowd. He called us unbelievers, but hey, there are worse ways to phrase it.

The only sore point was the prayer led by the homophobic — outspokenly homophobic — born again preacher. I closed my ears. Normally I don’t mind listening to prayers, even if I’m not on the same bandwagon. But that guy, I can’t give him the time of day. I don’t even want to put down his name. Obama bent over backwards to make everybody feel included, and I suppose  this particular preacher did draw in a lot of hard right wing types.  I like the fact that Obama is being consistent about his stance on bipartisanship, even if I don’t like the form it takes.

The only thing that made me a little weepy was watching the daughters. Those little girls are in for a ride. It won’t always be easy, but they are going to have the time of their lives. And for some reason I love the idea that Michelle’s mother is moving in with them.  I’m really glad for Michelle and the girls that she’ll be there.

Those are my rambling thoughts. I’m putting them down mostly for my own reference, down the line.

We are afloat in goodwill and cautious optimism.