This is highly disturbing news

Via Jerome a Paris at Daily Kos comes this very disturbing story. We'll run out of beer before we run out of oil.

Now, ever since the issue of peak oil and global warming hit my consciousness a couple of years ago, I've known that ethanol was a weak idea at best. The amount of energy you spend planting crops just to turn them back into energy means your net energy is low compared to other systems, and you don't change the emissions levels drastically enough to make it worthwhile in my opinion. But this just puts the nail in the coffin for me.

The rapid expansion of biofuel production may be welcome news for environmentalists but for the world’s beer drinkers it could be a different story.

Strong demand for biofuel feedstocks such as corn, soyabeans and rapeseed is encouraging farmers to plant these crops instead of grains like barley, driving up prices.

Jean-Fran├žois van Boxmeer, chief executive of Heineken the Dutch brewer, warned last week that the expansion of the biofuel sector was beginning to cause a “structural shift” in European and US agricultural markets.

One consequence, he said, could be a long-term shift upwards in the price of beer. Barley and hops account for about 7-8 per cent of brewing costs.

That's right. Less barley means more expensive beer--assuming you're talking about real beer and not that stuff made with rice.

There are some scholars who argue that the real reason humans became agricultural instead of staying hunter-gatherer societies was because we figured out how to make beer. To move away from that is to deny our ancient heritage. Or something.

Don't take away my beer dammit!

Vilsack's Out and the Random Ten

Not that I'm all that surprised by it--what little oxygen is left in the race after Obama and Clinton finish talking is taken up by Edwards and speculation about Gore. Richardson, it seems to me, is running for the VP spot, as I don't imagine either Edwards or Clinton are interested in being number 2.

In a different race, Vilsack might have had the chance to catch on, but in this race of stories, Vilsack just couldn't match what Clinton and Obama bring to the table in terms of excitement. He's a decent enough guy from what I've read, and came from a pretty rough background--given up for adoption as an infant, adopted mother had drug and alcohol problems--and in any other year, that might have gotten him the kind of coverage Bill Clinton manufactured for himself in 1992. But this year, it's all Obama/Clinton all the time. Edwards has even largely walked away from his "son of a mill worker" speech in favor of his "I was wrong on Iraq and Hillary ought to admit it too" campaign, and it's a real question if he's going to be able to crack the big two in terms of national attention.

As for the others, I don't imagine Biden or Dodd will make the long haul. Kucinich will stay in like he did last time, and Richardson might make it through the first couple of primaries barring something extraordinary. I don't see a candidate pulling a Dean because there's no issue as powerful as the war where everyone's basically on the same page and an insurgent candidacy can erupt. This one will be all about structural power, I imagine.

Here's the random ten--iTunes is on party shuffle and here are the next ten songs on my list. Don't make fun of me, unless you really want to.

1. Sick of Myself--Matthew Sweet
2. Hem of your Garment--Cake
3. Misty Mountain Hop--4 Non-Blondes
4. I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight--Cutting Crew
5. Canceled Check--Beck
6. Shack Up--Nouvelle Vague
7. Epistrophy (Theme)--Thelonious Monk
8. Ants Marching--Dave Matthews Band
9. Circular Trend--Veruca Salt
10. Geek in the Pink--Jason Mraz

Anyone want to share this week?

Shorter Michael Medved

Via Shakespeare's Sister, I give you Michael Medved's take on Tim Hardaway's gay-bashing:

Actual Michael Medved:

The ill-favored, grossly overweight female is the right counterpart to a gay male because, like the homosexual, she causes discomfort due to the fact that attraction can only operate in one direction. She might well feel drawn to the straight guys with whom she’s grouped, while they feel downright repulsed at the very idea of sex with her.

I don't know who's smarter--Medved or Peter Griffin.

Sulu's gay?

Who knew? Guess I'm not as big a Trek geek as I thought.

I wonder why, in Generations, they gave him, of all the characters, a daughter? Did the producers want to keep it a secret?

Hey Bama folks

I know not all of you people are drunken rednecks--I grew up two states to the west of you and we can smell our own. But this kind of stuff doesn't help.

TV Night

Why is it that all our favorite tv shows, the only ones we set aside time to watch, are all on Sunday night? Well, it keeps us from vegging out the rest of the week.

Homophobia in sports and the Random Ten

I imagine it's a nationwide story given the number of sportswriters who have devoted either ink or electrons to it, and the amount of time local sports radio has given to it. I'm talking, of course, of Tim Hardaway's homophobic comments on the Dan Le Batard Show a couple of days ago.

It was bound to happen--former NBA player John Amaechi came out and was promoting his book, so on sports radio, the question for any former player was obvious--did you ever play with someone who you knew was gay, and would it bother you? The answers, pre-Hardaway, were about what you would expect--a lot of "not that I was positive about," and a few "I don't care as long as he can shoot/defend/rebound, etc."

And then there was Hardaway.

Hardaway is certainly not the only bigoted NBA player out there, past or present. For all I know, he may be in the majority. But he was the first to open his mouth and say something stupid on the subject, and the pleasant result has been that no one publicly has stepped forward to agree with him or back him up.

Could we have said that ten years ago?

Much of the debate on sports talk radio over the last few days has been over whether a professional athlete can come out while active, and the answer from the talking heads has largely been no, based on the assumption that there would still be too much hostility in the locker room and from fans (especially on the road, where the jeering would be intense), but having watched this unfold, I think they may be wrong on this.

Part of it is because while there would no doubt be loud-mouthed fans slinging homophobic slurs at an openly gay player, there would also be people in the stands shutting them up. Sports fans are not universally homophobic, something that's been emphasized to me in the short time I spent lurking on the fan forums at CBS Sportsline. Sure, there were people pulling out the expected homophobic crap, but there were also a surprising number of people shutting them down and calling them out. The world has changed, and continues to change, sometimes faster than we expect, and on this issue, I see a tipping point approaching where homophobia will be considered, rightly so, as offensive as racism.

Here's the Random Ten--turn on your computer's music player, put it on random, and list the next ten songs to appear. No skipping the Def Leppard.

1. Sick As Your Secrets--Veruca Salt
2. Definition--Black Star
3. Pride (In the Name of Love)--Nouvelle Vague
4. Ripple--Grateful Dead
5. I've Found a New baby--Squirrel Nut Zippers
6. Stardust--John Coltrane
7. Whiskey Gone--Paul Brill
8. Who Drove the Red Sports Car?--Van Morrison
9. Renegade Master--Fatboy Slim
10. Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian--John Prine
Special Bonus Track: Sleep All Day--Jason Mraz. I'd like to do that, but alas, I have to grade.

Okay, I have cheekily put out info via my myspace page about how I am in this month's Playboy, with an urging to go buy the mag and look at page 44.

But here, I will be less cheeky and admit that it is only my words and name that are published in Playboy, a brief, mostly-not-ad-hominem-attack criticism of a terrible (Brian and I were wailing aghast and appalled by this one) article published in Dec. about how the natural wonderfulness of boys is being systematically destroyed by an over-feminized education system.

I fired off my reply by email and never heard back, but apparently they decided it to publish it in the current (March) issue, in the FORUM (reader response section), page 44.

So now I can claim to be in Playboy, and (even better) Brian can claim that his GF is in Playboy. NEAT!

So go buy Playboy and check me out. There's hot chicks too. Yeah.

How do you do this?

In this story from MSNBC, I learned this little tidbit about Rep. Charlie Norwood, who died today after battling cancer and lung disease.

Norwood won two Bronze Stars as a combat dentist in the Vietnam War.

That's a story I want to hear more of. I don't know anything else about the man--he was a Georgia Republican, which means I wouldn't have agreed with him on just about anything, but I want to know how he won two bronze stars while being a dentist.

Wherein I plumb the Orwellian depths of conservative email.

I was cleaning out my old email box this afternoon (in between grading papers), and I saw the subject line: The New Flat Earth Society. I just had to check it out.

The email comes from GOPUSA, a group that either phished my email address from somewhere or got it from a blog visitor who thought I could use some edge-ya-macation. Normally they get deleted along with all the penis extender/weight loss/lottery winner/free-food-from-restaurants-I'd-never-go-to ads, and so did this one eventually, but not before I explored just who this New Flat Earth Society consists of.

Surprise. It's scientists, global warming scientists in particular. I'm not going to quote any of it--I don't want to soil my apple-c function--but let's just say that the author, one Doug Patton by name, has done a hacktackular job on the subject.

So Mr. Patton, since you have placed me and most other thinking individuals in the GWC (global warming cult, you see), allow me to place you in the Corner of Mockery, along with your friends the Young-Earth Creationists and the Holocaust Deniers, never to be taken seriously again (if you ever were to begin with).

I really loathe book contests and the random ten

But alas, that's the way it seems it's done these days, so I'm sending out to two more today--the Sarabande and the National Poetry series, which it seems to me got a raw deal from the folks over at Foetry (which isn't surprising). I was an early poster over there, but it got hysterical really quickly, and I found myself defending the honor of people I didn't like personally and don't otherwise find honorable as a result. Made me feel icky. Of the 25 books the National Poetry series has put out in the last five years, the Foetry people found "conflicts" (and who knows what passes for a conflict nowadays) in 3 of them. Those are odds I can live with, though it would be nice if book companies just published poetry mroe often and we weren't stuck with this damn contest system in the first place.

Enough po-ranting. Here's this weeks random ten. Turn on your computer's music player and put it in random mode. List the next ten songs that pop up, even if they're from your angsty days.

1. Froggie Went-a-Courtin'--Spider John Koerner
2. Backstabber--The Dresden Dolls
3. Heart of Glass--Nouvelle Vague
4. A--Barenaked Ladies
5. From Four Till Late--Robert Johnson
6. Everything I Do Gone Be Funky--Dirty Dozen Brass Band
7. Soothe Yourself--Luscious Jackson
8. Intergalactic--Beastie Boys
9. Life is Wonderful--Jason Mraz
10. I Liked You Tonight--The Shins

This is why I live in Florida

What the hell do you call this?

'Right through the weekend'
Forecasters early Thursday said they expected up to 100 inches in places by the end of the weekend, but said the snow emergency still has a way to go to make history.

"We are shying away from calling this a record event," Mike Pukajlo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Buffalo, said Wednesday.

"There are several areas in that region that often get hammered during a winter. Seventy, eighty inches is uncommon for sure, but it's not highly unusual, especially over a several-day event like this," Pukajlo said.

Pukajlo said snow squalls "will keep going right through the weekend. But we expect to see the bands moving around a bit more, back and forth, so it's not going to keep pounding on just one area."

Over eight feet of snow. Eight freaking feet. I keep thinking I should type something different, but I'm stuck on repeat. Eight feet of snow. Eight feet of snow. Eight feet...

The only song I ever heard him sing

But man, he did a hell of a job on it.

Frankie Laine, dead at 93.

Congratulations all around.

Three friends of mine were announced as Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Award winners yesterday: Emily Rosko, Robin Ekiss and Xochiquetzal Candelaria. Emily and Robin and I were all Stegners together, and Emily and Xochi and I were all on an AWP panel together last year. I'd like to reprint all three of their poems here, but I fear that would be stretching the limits of fair use beyond reason, so I'll stick with Xochi's poem since I've posted poems by both Emily and Robin before, and because this is the first of Xochi's creative work I've ever read. Enjoy.

The Irises

Their green sepals begin like mouths, forming the word
okay, turning over at the tips to say
yes, then oh yes.
Three deep purple petals smoldering give way
to three more giving way.
Fire breaks through as a seam in the center.
These are messengers remembering that to speak
one should bloom and to bloom
is to sing and sing and sing.

You can read the other winners over at the website for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Awards.

I'm not quite ashamed

PZ Myers is ashamed because he scored a 90% on "The Ultimate Bible Quiz. That's actually a pretty respectable score for one of these online quiz things--it's filled with enough gimmes that most people can pass, but it had some oddball questions as well.

I did a little better.

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

I'm not bothered by my perfect score. I like doing well on tests in general, and I can always fall back on the argument that any discussion of western literature, especially anything more than 200 years old, has to include the influence of the Bible, but the truth is that I just have a ridiculous memory for this kind of minutiae. It's one of those blessing and curse things--the looks I get when I answer some trivia question about a 1970s tv show that ran less than two seasons are the worst of all.

The Random Ten, Voting Machine Edition

Seems a bit circular, seeing as much of the electronic voting machine controversy began here in Florida back in 2000, that Florida may have just struck the death blow for those machines. I voted against Charlie Crist last November, and I more than likely won't vote for him when he runs for re-election, but I'll give him credit so far on this one issue. Well done.

Here's the random ten--set iTunes on party shuffle and write down the next ten songs that pop up. No cheating to look tragically hip.

1. Driftin'--Herbie Hancock
2. One Arm Steve--Widespread Panic
3. Kiss of Death--Split Lip Rayfield
4. Line Up--Elastica
5. The Drugs Don't Work--Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
6. Street Woman--Ornette Coleman
7. I Couldn't Love You More--Sade
8. 5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO--The Coup
9. Gonna Make You Sweat--C & C Music Factory
10. 911 Is a Joke--Public Enemy

Special Bonus Track: Your Woman by White Town

Bring on the optical scan machines!

Not to pile on, but...

It's bad enough that Boston's finest went a wee bit overboard in their "investigation," and that Menino had a conniption on national television, but this is ree-goddamn-diculous.

A friendly tip, Mayor. Your initial reaction might be excusable, considering the way the Bush administration has been jerking us around with the terra-alert system for the last five years and the shit way they've dealt with homeland security, but jailing an artist who was looking to make a couple of bucks on an ad gig is no way to rehabilitate your image. And trust me, you need lots of rehab right now--Lindsay Lohan/Britney Spears quality rehab.

Dear Mayor Menino,

I am writing from Florida to thank you for the best laugh I've had in ages. It's funny enough that Boston mistook pictures of cartoon characters for... a terror threat??!!!... (did you guys think you were being invaded by aliens? That's precious!)... but that fact that you're now so embarrassed that you want to make a case of it... well, let's just say it's the best advertising that a cartoon that airs at 3am(!) could ever hope for. It's not, however, very good advertising for Boston or Bostonians, who, if you will forgive me, look at bit, from down here, like a bunch of well-lit boobs. :-) Thanks again for the laugh! - Amy Letter

[You can write the mayor here!]

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