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So I was talking with Atomique’s cousin (of Sydney band Toojoo) about talkboxes, as dude built his own. That not-insignificant effort has earned him a  promotion to electro-accoustic warfare specialist for the fleet.

I put together a quick list of must-see videos for him to draw inspiration from because I’m a pompous music snob who thinks he knows all and hears all.  Here they are!

2Pac – California Love

Zapp & Roger – Do It Roger

Chromeo – Night by Night

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The Guardian has put together an interesting family tree of music, using the London metro system as the map.

I find it curious that The KLF, George Clinton and Jean-Jacques Perrey don’t show up, given their respective effect on the music to come after them. As the the article states, though: “Pedants, of course, will find flaws.” Let it not ever be said that I am anything less than one bad-ass pedant.

On the other hand, I’m chuffed to see lesser known (yet still influential) acts like The Skatallites, Whodini and Ennio Morricone in this strange version of the underground. There are a lot of great acts busking at these train stations.

Go read the article and check out the map if you have a brief amount of time to kill. If you have more time to kill, grab some of the names and hit Last.fm (or other music source of choice).

I tend to shy away from some topics at work when away from my immediate team – I work at a very large institution and I don’t know all the peeps as well as I ought to to get away with all topics of conversation. This blog is where I get most of my ranting done. After all, this is my playground, where I get to spout on about whatever topics are really simmering inside my brain.

But, last week, I slipped up and got into a discussion about one of my pet peeves, organic food. I was in the kitchen, making small talk with a coworker. I asked, “Hey there, what’s up?”

“Oh, just making an English muffin with organic butter,” came the reply.

A Tribe Called Quest – Butter

“Ew, organic.” This is the point at which I found myself backed myself into a corner, because once I’m on a topic, I’ll end up stuck for a while trying to get my point across before discretion kicks in.

Predictably, the next question is “Why ew?”, and the answer leads us both awkwardly down the rabbit hole to Viper Pilot’s wonderful land of proof and studies. I’m so much better at presenting my thoughts when I have time to re-read and edit, so on the fly things can get to the aforementioned awkward when I start talking facts instead of just playing at being the prince of clowns.

I realised what I’d gotten myself into, so started out cautiously. I explained that since it’s yet to be proven that organic food has any increased nutritional value, I feel rather ripped off paying more for anything labelled ‘organic’ (organic in this case as a marketing term, not organic meaning something made of carbon, which, as we all know, all plant matter on the planet is).

Things rapidly went downhill from there; despite me saying words in an order that presented some very reasonable points about the issue at hand, pretty much anything that came out of my wordhole went overhead of anyone else in the conversation. I ventured on quite bravely, trying to weigh in with facts and evidence and that kind of junk without sounding like a dick (which, unfortunately, seems to be what happens these days when you’re knowledgeable without also being a celebrity).

I even worked Norman Borlaug into the conversation…
…and still came up fail!

I knew things were pretty much over when I said “It’s not like a plant knows the difference between an atom of nitrogen that’s come from a chemical fertiliser than one that’s come from some cow poop.” That’s always been one of my favourite points on this matter, but when the response to that is the exact same line over the whole of the conversation (reworded slightly each time) – in this case: “I just think that our bodies aren’t meant to be taking in stuff that’s man-made.” – I had to throw in the towel.

Man-made nitrogen atoms? Sigh.

I ran off at that stage to go fulfil a quest for a latté, far away from shared lunch areas and the sociological dangers within.

I know I have a handful of readers who are science communicators or science educators. How do you guys bring science into a conversation when the average person has been let down so badly by the education system?

(Epilogue: There’s a brilliant line in the above link to the LA Times article written by Russ Parsons:

Furthermore, a lot of the best farming practices of the original organic philosophy — composting, fallowing, crop rotation, the use of nonchemical techniques for controlling most pests — have been adopted by many nonorganic growers, even though they still reserve the right to use chemicals when they think it’s best.

So for what it’s worth, I’m NOT saying I’m opposed to organic growing techniques. But farmers, like scientists, are experts in their fields. As such, if a farmer deems that in a certain circumstance that a chemical is the right solution to come to the best outcome for his crops, then that is a-fucking-okay by me. There’s no way I want to buy a product that’s been developmentally hamstrung by limiting what options the grower has at his disposal just so he can slap a label on his crop that lets him change top dollar for something that’s at best only equal to the alternative.)

I tend to shy away from some topics at work when away from my immediate team – I work at a very large institution and I don’t know all the peeps as well as I ought to to get away with all topics of conversation. This blog is where I get most of my ranting done. After all, this is my playground, where I get to spout on about whatever topics are really simmering inside my brain.

But, last week, I slipped up and got into a discussion about one of my pet peeves, organic food. I was in the kitchen, making small talk with a coworker. I asked, “Hey there, what’s up?”

“Oh, just making an English muffin with organic butter,” came the reply.

A Tribe Called Quest – Butter

“Ew, organic.” This is the point at which I backed myself into a corner, because once I’m on a topic, I’m sort of stuck there.

Of course, the predictably-next question is “Why ew?”, and the answer leads us both awkwardly down the rabbit hole to Viper Pilot’s wonderful land of proof and substance. I’m so much better at presenting my thoughts when I have time to re-read and edit, so on the fly things can get to the aforementioned awkward when I start talking facts instead of just being my usual prince of clowns self.

I realised what I’d gotten myself into, so started out cautiously. I explained that since it’s yet to be proven that organic food has any increased nutritional value, I feel ripped off paying more for anything labelled ‘organic’ (organic in this case as a marketing term, not organic meaning something made of carbon, which, obviously, all plant matter on the planet is).

Things rapidly went downhill from there; despite me saying words in an order that presented some very reasonable points about the issue at hand, pretty much anything that came out of my wordhole went overhead of anyone else in the conversation. I ventured on quite bravely, trying to weigh in with facts and evidence and that kind of junk without sounding like a dick (which, unfortunately, seems to be what happens these days when you’re knowledgeable without also being a celebrity). I even worked Norman Borlaug into the conversation – and still came up fail!

I knew things were pretty much over when I said “Yeah, but it’s not like a plant knows the difference between an atom of nitrogen that’s come from a chemical fertiliser than one that’s come from some cow poop.” That’s always been one of my favourite points on this matter, but when the response to that is the exact same line you’ve been getting the whole conversation(reworded slightly each time) – in this case: “I just think that our bodies aren’t meant to be taking in stuff that’s man-made.”

Man-made nitrogen atoms? Sigh.

I ran off at that stage to go fulfil my quest for coffee, far away from shared lunch areas and the dangers within.

I know I have a handful of readers who are science communicators or science educators. How do you guys handle trying to bring science into a conversation when the average person has been let down so badly by the education system?

You may have heard about it, you may have even sung about it, but until now you probably never knew how fucking awesome it is:

The Song That Never Ends

Yesterday, I received that ring at the door. You know the one, the one that happens just a little too early on a Sunday to be any of your friends.

There, standing on my stairs, were two well-dressed gentlemen from obviously different generations. They didn’t even need to tell me way they were there, for the tell-tale selection of colours on their pamphlet gave away what they were trying to sell all too easily. What is it with Christian door-knockers and their love of yellow parchment tones and brown text on their handouts?

I had time to read the all-caps ‘JESUS’ on the pamphlet before greeting them with a “Morning gentlemen, how are things?”

They were fine, and proceeded to tell me about some Jesus event they wanted me to attend. I told them that if I had the time to sneak off anywhere, it’d be to the 2010 Global Atheist Convention in Adelaide (which was already on its last day by then). Knowing they were beat, the two gentlemen bade me good day and went on their way.

While Atomique was fairly chuffed by my handling of the situation, I so dearly wish I’d been able to mount a stronger stand. But, with a toddler at your knees, you need to choose to spend your time wisely.

Had I had it in me to open a can of worms, the response may have been drastically different…

“Look, guys – I know you’re trying to do the right thing,” I start, tone conversational and welcoming (I don’t want to scare anyone off), “but really, if you’re trying to make the world a better place, you do it by going and doing good things. You do good things for your friends, your family, your community. You figure out what good things are by examining the world and caring to improve the lives of those around you. What you don’t do is run around convincing people to follow a two-thousand year old guide book on how to get into somebody’s secret country club after you’re dead.”

They probably bail at that point, and, doubtfully, will either of them take any of what I’ve said to heart. But, still, it would’ve made me feel warm on the inside, knowing that I may have planted just the tiniest seed of change in the younger guy’s brain.

Next time, maybe.

The government’s Ministry of Sound has just issued a revised Policy of Truth. Pundits are saying this is an overly populist move, given how close we are to Election Day. This year in particular has been a turbulent one in the Politics of Dancing, with more than one party room resembling Anarchy in the UK.

Yeah, more kids music.  Piss off if you don’t like it, because, quite honestly, you are severely psychologically damaged if you don’t like this.

I swear to Dawkins that this is not
a recycled picture of Orion’s brother

It’s time for another census update, as the fleet now counts one more passenger. Rocking up at 14:17 on February the 26th, Orion Amélie Haggman* clocked in at 3.75kgs, .25kgs heavier than her older brother at birth (yet she possesses a far more delicate and reasonably-so less pumpkin-sized noggin than him). Whereas I may have once rashly decreed that Tycho was quiet and inquisitive, it took him not much longer than 24 hours to reveal himself as a loutish, yelling brute, while after a week now Orion continues to spend most of her time doing not much else than feeding, sleeping or staring at her hands.

Okay, not always quiet

Many of the differences between this kid and the first are rather more environmental – not surprising, really, that an eight pound lump of flesh that can’t do anything other than cry, eat and poop isn’t all that different from another eight pound lump of flesh that can only eat, cry and poop. By environmental, I mean that having a toddler in the house makes the infant seem like a lot less work than said toddler was at this neophyte stage. Case in point, it’s taken me nearly two weeks to throw this post together (it doesn’t help that my few spare seconds these past two weeks have been whiled away in SimCity, a magical land without hungry babies or destructive toddlers).

Atomique continues to be pro at babies. When push came to shove (har har) it only took three contractions and less than fifteen minutes for the whole show to be over. At least the obstetrician was present for this one! At any rate, all went extremely well and all involved are healthy and well.

Orion, stellar edition

What’s Not in a Name: What Might Have Been

Orion is named after one of the night skies’ most easily-recognized constellations: Orion, the Hunter. It was important to squirt the kid out sooner rather than later, as Atomique has had her eye on this name for decades and it would have been bad form to take the name after NASA officially launches its next-gen space vessel of the same name. As someone very dear to us quite wisely pointed out, it’s also rather fitting that Orion is a celestial equator constellation, meaning it is visible from both hemispheres – fitting for a child of Canadian and Australian parentage.

Amélie is a far less semiotic designator – I just wanted a French name with an accent aigu in it, as I was unable to find a girl’s name in the family tree that took my fancy. Heck, if I have to have an accent in my middle name, I might as well pass that on. In the end, it was mostly Atomique’s choice, as I pissed around unable to find anything suitable and she threw names at me until something stuck. This means Atomique chose both names. What happened to Viper Pilot’s input, you ask? Well…

We had a rule for the name: it had to be something celestial. I was uneasy with Orion as it’s a masculine constellation, and the ladies at work warned me that I would have to have a mighty Amazon warrior-child for a girl with that name, the odds of which weren’t good given the lack of beefcake genes I’d be passing on. I offered the following five alternate names in an attempt to usurp Orion and each was shot down ruthlessly. Probably for the better, but here, archived for posterity, are VP’s choices:

  • Polaris: also known as Alpha Ursae Minorus, our current pole star.
  • Escher: 4444 Escher, a main-belt asteroid named after artist M. C. Escher.
  • Callisto: One of the Galilean moons of Jupiter; third largest in the solar system. (Shortened to Cally?)
  • Eris: Dwarf planet in our solar system, named after the Greek goddess of discord. Bonus points earned with any Discordians in the house.
  • Dysnomia: Moon of dwarf planet Eris, named after the Greek goddess of lawlessness, who was also a daughter of Eris. (Shortened to Dizzy?)

Oh well, it doesn’t really matter in the end if it’s her mom or her dad who saddle her with a name she’ll have to correct the spelling of over the phone for the rest of her life, does it?

Booking Information & Private Viewings

As with the last model in this line, please contact your local propaganda officer to arrange a meeting with Orion. There may be delays due to the popularity of this product.

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Looking for music by Viper Pilot? This blog is the current home of Viper Pilot's Munition Works, where he stores all of his mashes and mixes.

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