Saturday salmagundi

• Scot McKnight gets a look at Norm Jeune’s Theologian Trading Cards and find them to be just as cool as they sound. (For his — and my — admittedly odd value for “cool.”)

• Sarah Laskow of Grist commends scrapple as a food sustainability advocates should embrace. She quotes one Pennsylvania chef comparing scrapple to polenta. (What’s the difference between scrapple and polenta? About $7 a serving on most menus.)

• Here’s a cool invention: a generator that converts urine into hydrogen to produce electricity. Who invented this? NASA? CERN? Bell Labs? Nah. It was four teen-age girls in Nigeria.

“It is most, most well-deserved,” Phil Niekro said in a statement. “And I’m super proud of him.”

• Michelle Dean’s “A Lament for Witches” had me lamenting her neglect of Ms. Rosenberg.

• Clowns vs. White Supremacists, Round 2. Clowns remain undefeated.

• Caleb Wilde shares the “Top 20 Pop Songs Requested at Funerals in 2012.” I might request that first one — but only the Sid Vicious version, not the Sinatra one.

• Susie Madrak has a terrific round-up of links and phone numbers for anyone looking to help the recovery in New York, New Jersey and other places affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Phyllis and Del, a love story.

• Dan Savage says that The Liar Tony Perkins is, you know, a liar.

Robert Murray is an awful human being.

• Here’s yet another blogger who volunteered this election season in Pennsylvania’s 6th District: Carol Kuniholm of Words Half Heard.

• They were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. Some are programmed to think they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

• Georgia’s Republican state senators prepare to fight against Nicolae Carpathia and his nefarious one-world government:

President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as “Delphi” to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That’s according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.

• Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress says that the Georgia lawmakers’ claims that Obama has mind-controlling Antichrist powers is just silly. “President Obama is not the Antichrist,” Jeffress said. “But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”

(Thanks for the tip, Tony. And yes, I’ll take that bait.)

• The “vote fraud” myth was intended as a fig leaf for voter suppression — actual in-person voter fraud doesn’t really exist. But after the Fox News and talk-radio machine spent months beating the drum about this menace, some of their followers came to believe it — with disastrous results.

• On the positive side,  Haskell County, Oklahoma, managed to spell “Sabbath” correctly on their Ten Commandments monument. On the negative side, Haskell County apparently doesn’t like Lutherans or Catholics — choosing a sectarian monument that numbers the commandments in a way that excludes those Christians.

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  • chris the cynic

    Ok, question.

    We’ve known that urine could be converted to energy for years now and no one got around to actually inventing something that does that until now?  WTF?  

  • Münchner Kindl

    We’ve known how to convert sunlight into energy since the 1940s and nobody takes it seriously – so? People have invented dry toilets back in the 90s, yet dry areas in the US (where money is not a problem) still use water toilets – so? We have cells that can split water into hydrogen to burn cleanly with electricity won from sunlight for over 10 years, and it’s still laughed at…

  • D9000

    Are you sure about that last one? I thought hydrogen cells worked by burning hydrogen and thus producing, the problem with them being, where the hell do you get the hydrogen from? (total science idiot speaking, btw, shoot me down by all means)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    There’s two ways to use hydrogen:

    1. Combustion
    2. A process called a redox reaction

    #2 is how the fuel cell works: You have two electrodes; hydrogen reacts in a controlled fashion at one electrode, and oxygen at the other. This produces electricity instead of an explosion, so fuel cells are safer and more adaptable than hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines.

  • D9000

    Thanks for that. It was #2 I was thinking of; we had (still have?) some hydrogen fuel cell  buses in London, and they were touted as very green, producing only water vapour, but it looked to me as if they had to cart a hell of a weight of fuel around with them.

  • Ross

    Are you sure about that last one? I thought hydrogen cells worked by
    burning hydrogen and thus producing, the problem with them being, where
    the hell do you get the hydrogen from? (total science idiot speaking,
    btw, shoot me down by all means)

    With hydrogen, the question isn’t so much “where do you get hydrogen from” (It’s the single most abundant substance in the universe) as “How do you hold onto enough of it to make the whole process worthwhile without spending twice as much energy as you end up producing?”

    The tricky bit about energy is that you really don’t want to think in terms of “making” it;  rather, you’re taking energy that’s already stored in something and claiming it for your own needs. Petroleum stores quite a lot of energy — which is why it takes millions of years to make it; it spends all that time sucking up energy and storing it in complicated chemical structures.  Hydrogen, on the other hand, stores very little energy. The main thing it has going for it is that it’s, as previously mentioned, the single most abundant substance in the universe.

  • D9000

    AIUI the problem is that its also the kinkiest substance in the universe … all a hydrogen atom wants to do is get into a threesome with the nearest oxygen atom. Can’t be got apart  hardly at all, the dirty little devils.

  • Albanaeon

     Oh there not all that picky really.  They’ll take a Carbon or a Nitrogen in a heart beat too. 

    But let’s be honest, Oxygen is probably just as kinky too.  It bonds with everything except those stuck up Nobles.  

  • Chloe P. H. Lewis

    Adding on to Invisible Neutrino —

     There’s *lots* of hydrogen — in water, for instance. But the energy it takes to crack it out of the water is slightly larger than the energy we get back when it recombines with oxygen to turn back into water (the ‘slightly’ margin is the nothing’s-quite-perfect nature of the material world). 

    Hydrogen energy is `just a battery’, just something we use energy to make because it’s easier to carry around than whatever our source is. But even fossil fuels are just batteries — they’re storing up the sunlight of millions of years ago.

    A whole lot of eco-fuel research is trying to find the best possible battery to connect renewable power sources to  consumer and industrial use. (And we’re still going to have to live on, as it were, our current solar income.)

  • Chloe P. H. Lewis

     We’ve known that urine could be converted to energy for years now

    1. Physics tells us it’s possible, materials science does it, engineering makes it cheap and reliable and safe. Long chain of people working who often don’t know each other. One of the things making this possible was the invention/discovery of a relatively *cheap* material to make the process energy-efficient.

    2. If gas is cheap, why bother? 

    Other nice thing: this should leave all the phosphorus in the remainder, with much less stink, as they’re getting energy from ammonia conversions.

  • Münchner Kindl

    While the invention to convert urine into hydrogen is very interesting, hundreds of households in Africa already use a simpler process where all shit (human and animals) of several households is put into a silo which contains the right bacteria who then process this into methane, which is used as gas for cooking.

    And several people are looking into capturing urine for something more important than hydrogen – phosphor, which is running out.

  • chris the cynic
  • Invisible Neutrino

    I can’t believe out of touch total assholes like that can possibly think themselves qualified to decide who should and shouldn’t vote.

  • Dash1

    And for those of you filling out your Racist Bingo cards, the Maine GOP Chair has called the “calling someone a racist is much, much worse than actually acting like one” square:

    “I’m not politically correct and maybe I shouldn’t have said these voters were black, but anyone who suggests I have a bias toward any race or group, frankly, that’s sleazy.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as
    “Delphi” to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United
    Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be
    forcibly relocated to cities. That’s according to a four-hour briefing
    delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last

    This person must have somehow come from an alternate universe where such a thing is true.

    Same old crap just like the dumbasses who used to say fluoride in the water was a Communist mind-control plot.

  • Brad Ellison

    Fluoride conspiracy theorists are still around, they’re just not as worried about communists as they are about the UN.

    A friend of mine, for course credit, was teaching a small class on comic book writing at the local library (we’re both part of a local collective-type-thing for comics creators), and he roped a couple of us into joining to flesh out the class size.  Took a couple of weeks, and by the end of it we all had to write, share, and workshop our comic book scripts.
    Well, there was one fellow in the class who was a pretty hardcore conspiracy theorist who was mostly concerned with fluoridation and the mind-control / Weather Dominator applications of HAARP.  Mostly he was concerned about the gub’mint/NWO/military-industrial complex turning the world into a zombified police state in the next thirty years.  So he wrote a comic book script set in this grim yet inevitable future feature a revolutionary hero called Kid Meth, as I recall, who fought the evil HAARP stormtroopers using the mind-freeing power of bathtub-brewed amphetamines.

    Apparently I was the only other person in that class who spent any time listening to Coast To Coast AM, because there was a really weird 15 minutes of group discussion after we all read this thing  and talking about its technical merits as a sequential art script where I was waiting for everyone else to realize that this wasn’t just some wild grimdark sci-fi yarn, but something this guy earnestly believed to be the world that was coming.

  • Marc Mielke

    That sounds kind of awesome. Of course, the movie adaptation would have to star Aaron Paul as Kid Meth. 

    I do admit to seeing sort of an underpants gnomes problem between ‘fight the power’ and ‘cook meth in your bathroom’…

  • FearlessSon

    You know, one of the reasons why I enjoyed the Deus Ex franchise is because it is kind of a conspiracy kitchen-sink, with all these various OWG type conspiracies bouncing off one another.  Makes for a hell of an intriguing tale.  

    But at least the developers of Deus Ex know that the conspiracies they are putting in the game are just fiction.  In the words of writer Warren Specter, “I wanted to make the kind of world conspiracy theorists think we live in.”

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    If you like that, you might like the new MMO, “The Secret World”.  Weird History, Conspiracy Theories, and a Zombie Apolcalypse!

  • D9000

    Hell’s bells, people at funerals have got no taste. I want the 1812 Overture at mine. With real cannon.

  • chris the cynic

    Saw it done with a WWII (I think) era howitzer once.  They didn’t get the timing quite right (the people operating the howitzer were National Guard with, so far as I know, no musical training), and I wish I’d seen it twice because that time I was trying to get some pictures of the event and I think it would have been better if I’d been able to sit back and let the music flow over me, but it was good.

  • Coleslaw

    When Baton Rouge first got the USS Kidd, the symphony orchestra performed the 1812 Overture at their Fourth of July concert using the guns on the Kidd and the carillon from the First Baptist Church. It was beautiful, but I’m not sure they’d do a burial at sea (actually the river) for you.

  • Coleslaw

    As far as funeral songs, I’ve already said I wanted this one.

  • Tricksterson

    Monty Python’s “Bright Side of Life” for me

  • Randy Owens

    Just want to say, the presentation of that link to the Southern Strategy item was a thing of beauty.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    As another political scientist, Thomas Schaller, wrote in his 2006 book Whistling Past Dixie
    (which naturally quotes the infamous Atwater lines), “Despite the best
    efforts of Republican spinmeisters…the partisan impact of racial
    attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.”

    Shouldn’t that be “As desired by the best efforts…”?

    Republican politicians have been actively and assiduously dog-whistling their way into the hearts and minds of white voters who should know better. Think Jesse Helms’s Affirmative Action “Hands” Ad back in the 1990s.

    It’s been going on a long-ass time here.

  • Ann Unemori


  • Kiba

    Just want to say fuck you Tony Perkins and you as well Robert Murray. 

  • Lori

    What’s the difference between scrapple and polenta? About $7 a serving on most menus. 

    Um, $7 and a bunch of the odder bits of pig, some of which are IMO edible only on a technicality. Polenta is just cornmeal with butter or cheese. Unless you put some totally optional meat in it or on top of it, or cook it with broth, polenta is vegetarian. Scrapple, not so much. I appreciate the impulse to get people to waste less, but these are not equivalent foods.  (Yes, I’ve eaten scrapple. I love polenta. Scrapple, I can’t lie,  I’d pass on ever having again.)

  • P J Evans

     I think they’re confusing scrapple with cornmeal mush, which can be sliced and fried after it cools off. (My grandmother made fried mush at least once that I can remember.)

  • Lori

    If you read the thing, they clearly know what scrapple is and are in fact promoting it precisely because they think that meat eaters should be eating more “nose to tail” in order to waste less.

    Like I said, I consider that an admirable goal but I can’t get onboard with scrapple. Just not my cuppa pork. If, FSM forbid, it was a rule that one had to consume X amount of scrapple in order to be entitled to Y amount of bacon I would  A) be very sad and B) seriously consider giving up bacon unless X was a very small number and Y was whatever I wanted it to be.

  • Tricksterson

    Tried scrapple once.  As far as i can tell it’s made out of the parts of the pig that were rejected for Spam

  • Lori

    Yeah, Spam isn’t really my thing either* but it’s comparatively non-weird.

    *The LA County Fair did hold a Spam cook-off every year and I had a couple of things there that I’d voluntarily eat again in a non-apocalyptic context. Spam “sushi” (note appropriate use of quotes) was just wrong, wrong, wrong. Spam fried rice wasn’t bad at all though.

  • Brad Ellison

    I have said before that a bacon-wrapped slice of fried spam makes a fine foundation for a delicious sandwich.

  • Ross

     I dunno why scrapple gets such a bad rap. It’s not really much different from pork sausage, aside from being more finely textured and milder in flavor.

    Pan-fried firm polenta would be pretty similar to scrapple texturally, now that I think about it. Though polenta also comes as something textually more  similar to mashed potatoes.

  • Lori

    FWIW, I’m not a big fan of most sausage either.

    Pan-fried polenta is sort of similar to scrapple texturally, but not taste-wise and there’s still the whole meat vs not meat thing. There’s also the fact that I’m OK with the texture for cornmeal, but a lot less OK with that texture for meat.

  • Lori

    About the funeral song list—I had no idea Eva Cassidy was that popular in England. Here in the US I’m not sure enough people have heard of her for her to make the list here. I love her, but when I mention her most people just give me the blank stare. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Eva Cassidy is popular here, too. The first time I heard one of her songs I was drifting off to sleep and woke up abruptly wondering how God’s voice got on the radio.

  • D9000

    Shortly after her death she was heavily promoted on Radio 2 by Terry Wogan, who had just discovered her and wanted to share the joy the several million people who listened to his show every morning. Mrs D is somewhat of a fan, but for myself I don’t like her voice very much, and her choice of songs still less.

    The 1812 Overture thing was mostly a joke, but if there is to be s more sombre song at a  funeral, let it be Sandy Denny singing ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’.

  • EllieMurasaki

    For my funeral I want them to play “For Good” from Wicked. I’m torn on whether I want them to follow that with “Finale”.

  • Winter

    For some reason I crave pig ears now. Kinda stewed in soy sauce and spices. There’s just something about that crunchy cartilage mixed with the skin that’s gone a bit jellied.

    Or a knuckle or two. Shame they’re too big and knobbly to make a proper sandwich.

  • mistformsquirrel

    Assuming I can’t be immortal (and I’m sure as hell gonna try >.>) – I’ll go with Wayward Son – Kansas at my funeral.  It’s been ‘my’ song for years, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be there at the end too.

    Unrelated I have some good news:

    I actually got approved for disability a few days ago!  I’m still kind of in shock, I only applied back in July, so it hasn’t been that long!  I really expected this whole thing to be an uphill fight; but… it worked out.  Now I can go back to counseling!  Hooray!

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Yaaaaaaaaaaay! Congrats, mistformsquirrel! :) (^_^)b

  • mistformsquirrel

     Thank you! (^o^) hopefully this will let me get my life back on track.  Certainly beats being totally reliant on my mom at age 29, I can tell you that for certain!

  • chris the cynic

    A couple years younger than you, but in some of the same places, I still have to apply, and then hope like hell that by the time disability comes through or fails to I won’t be disabled anymore* and can just tell them to keep the money.

    Anyway, again, best of luck.

    * I am getting help, through university, which I am in through a combination of grants and student loans, and which I am really, at this point, only in because I’m getting help through university, graduation could have happened long ago.

  • mistformsquirrel

     I hope that if you apply, it goes every bit as smoothly for you as it did for me.   I was astounded – I’m still kind of dumbfounded at how quickly it all shook out. Best of luck to you as well Chris (^-^)m

  • Becka Sutton

    The thing with the pee-powered generator is that it has negative energy economy. Splitting the urea into nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen requires more energy than you generate with the hydrogen and oxygen.

    And of course water vapour (the inevitable waste product of burning hydrogen) is a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Therefore unless you have a way to collect the water hydrogen cells have a negative impact.

    This is why the simple anerobic digester Münchner Kindl mentioned is by far the better option. Anyone with the right knowledge and equipment can make one, it is energy efficient, and human and animal waste would release the methane into the atmosphere anyway as it decomposed. While burning methane does release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere methane is also a worse greenhouse gas so it actually has a positive impact there as well.

    And if you keep human and other carnivore waste seperate from the herbivore waste you can use the decomposed remains of the herbivore waste as compost. The human/carnivore waste can also be used as compost but should only be used around non-edibles. Or you can bury it and plant fruit and nut trees on top of it – that’s safe you just don’t want human/carnivore waste around your green and leafies. The danger is minimal but it does exist.

    And yes, if you want you can use biomass digestion to make electricity

    (Edit because discus ate my paragraph breaks)

  • Matt McIrvin

    I think you’re right about the energy budget of hydrogen from urine, but I wouldn’t worry about the greenhouse effect of water vapor emission. The reason we worry about CO2 emission and not water vapor emission is that the earth’s rapid water cycle regulates the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere pretty quickly. The cycle regulating CO2 is very slow by comparison, so elevated CO2 can persist for a very long time.

    On the other hand, the setpoint that the water-vapor level gets driven to is itself dependent on temperature, so this is one of the positive feedbacks in the climate system; the net effect of it is to increase the climate sensitivity to CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane, not to water vapor emission per se. (Climate scientists say “water vapor is a feedback, not a forcing.”)

  • Becka Sutton

     Yeah, that’s a very good point about the speed of the water cycle. But the energy budget is the much more serious problem with that generator. A generator that requires more energy to produce the fuel than the generator produces is pretty useless.

  • Randy Owens

    Not at all useless necessarily, unless you put more restrictions on what you mean.  After all, a system that uses solar energy as its initial input, and gets less energy out than the initial insolation, is quite useful.

  • Becka Sutton

    We’re talking about the initial anthropogenic energy input not the efficiency of the actual energy producing process. Fossil fuels are such incredible fuels and even knowing what we know we find it hard to let go of them because their positive energy balance is so amazing. I think for coal it’s something like for every kwh spent digging and shipping coal you get 50kwh return and once you get to oil it just starts getting into silly numbers.

    So for a solar panel to have a negative energy balance it would need to be the case that the amount of energy used in producing and shipping the raw materials, producing the panel, shipping and installing was more than the energy the panel would produce in its lifetime. The fact it isn’t 100% efficient isn’t really a factor.

    Think of energy as having economics – you want to be making a profit on the transaction. If you were an alchemist who could turn lead into gold but for every kilo of gold you made you needed reagents that cost the monetary equivalent of two kilos of gold you wouldn’t really have a useful process (except that you maybe could make a fortune showing it off which might make it economically viable but you can’t make extra energy that way if it requires more energy to make the fuel than the fuel will produce).

    (Note: yes I know the alchemy thing couldn’t happen – it’s an analogy ;-P)

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Actually, do you mind explaining why it is that you can’t compost meat?

  • Becka Sutton

     You can if you have a bokashi bin or a hot composter.

    The reason it’s advisable not to compost meat or fish in a normal heap is because if it doesn’t get hot enough it’s likely to go manky and ruin the compost or attract vermin. It also slows down composting and is smelly.

    The reason you shouldn’t use compost made from human or carnivore waste around veggies is that certain infective agents can survive the composting process whereas herbivore poop is usually safe. Food waste – including meat – is taken away by my local council is composted and sold cheap in garden centres as municipal compost. A clever way to make extra money and keep council tax down.

  • Dash1

    More on Project Delphi (why am I clicking these links?):

    The presentation also featured a special video cameo from conservative
    talking-head Dick Morris in which the former Clinton aide warns that
    Obama “wants to force everyone into the cities from whence our ancestors

    The cities from whence our ancestors fled? Yeah, once upon a time, humans were all in cities, and then eventually we discovered agriculture and went out into the countryside to engage in it. If he means suburbia, he’s not young enough to have ancestors who fled to suburbia.


  • Tricksterson

    yes, tha line struc kme as odd too.  Why the idea tthat forcing people into the cities is part of some siister agenda?  Especially if he’s comparing Obama to Mao.  mao and Pol Pot) forced people <i?out of the cities

  • Randy Owens

    Yes, that line struck me as odd too.  Why the idea that forcing people into the cities is part of some sinister agenda?  Especially if he’s comparing Obama to Mao.  Mao (and Pol Pot) forced people out of the cities.

    Hopefully saving some fellow readers from working that all out, especially the Disqus-mangled HTML.  Yes, I’m a little bit compulsive.  (And no, I don’t consider this any reflection on you, @099fb591b48898d10a3e8609d81df286:disqus, though I am a little curious how it happened.)

    ETA: Just because I’m a little compulsive, don’t y’all go expecting me to do the same for Victor!

  • Tricksterson

    Some of it at least was Discus, some of it my tendency to hit post without checking my spelling, some of it my keyboard.

  • Randy Owens

    Really??  I thought it might be that you were on a phone or something, because normally, yours are among the clearest, least error-prone, I thought.  So, I’ve certainly never noticed that tendency before now.

    P.S.  Next time, blame it on the cat; that always works. ;)

  • Tricksterson

    Oh, and thank you!

  • Michael Cule

    I want Zander Nyrond’s SAM’S SONG at my funeral, with maybe THE TRAVELLER by the Alan Parsons Project. But then I am an aging geek.

  • chris the cynic

    Squirrel, good for you, hope good things come of it.  May you be prepared to face all that you have to face.

    Random thought, I wouldn’t do it because I’m not an instigator, agitator, or organizer (I’m boring) but “Joe Hill” (the Alfred Hayes poem* set to music, not the ballad) might be a good funerary thing.  And it’s not like you don’t have options for singers.  Paul Robeson, Joan BaezPete Seeger, and so on.

    I can’t remember who said that they started singing it because they were working in Australia and they noticed someone coming to every show and asked if that person had a request, and the person did but the singer didn’t know it that well and offered to sing something similar and the person explained that he’d been working on the Sydney Opera House during construction when an American came by so he could give the first performance (Opera House wasn’t nearly finished, so presumably no one else had done a performance there yet) and sang to the workers and the American sang that song and he, the requester, had been waiting [however many] years for an American to come to Australia and sing that song again so it really did have to be that song.

    I did, however, find the first time the requester heard it, at the performance done for the workers at the opera house.  As you might expect, Paul Robeson was the performer.

    *”I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night”
    by Alfred Hayes

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night 
    Alive as you or me 
    Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead 
    I never died, says he 
    I never died, says he 

    In Salt Lake, Joe, says I to him 
    Him standing by my bed 
    They framed you on a murder charge 
    Says Joe, But I ain’t dead 
    Says Joe, But I ain’t dead 

    The copper bosses killed you, Joe 
    They shot you, Joe, says I 
    Takes more than guns to kill a man 
    Says Joe, I didn’t die 
    Says Joe, I didn’t die 

    And standing there as big as life 
    And smiling with his eyes 
    Joe says, What they forgot to kill 
    Went on to organize 
    Went on to organize 

    Joe Hill ain’t dead, he says to me 
    Joe Hill ain’t never died 
    Where working men are out on strike 
    Joe Hill is at their side 
    Joe Hill is at their side 

    From San Diego up to Maine 
    In every mine and mill 
    Where workers strike and organize 
    Says he, You’ll find Joe Hill 
    Says he, You’ll find Joe Hill 

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night 
    Alive as you or me 
    Says I, But Joe, you’re ten years dead 
    I never died, says he 
    I never died, says he