Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The March of Time, Daily Show Edition

You can watch every episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on their website. This got me thinking: I could construct an image demonstrating the eroding effects of time on the host. Sic transit gloria mundi, amigos. Just kidding. We'd be lucky to look this good when we're 57.

(click for larger)
Prestigious Internet tip for looking young: Don't sleep in a beef dehydrator.

Some people take a picture of themselves everyday in hopes of someday constructing such a time line. Fortunately for us, television personalities are photographed nearly every day. Sure beats working on it for 12 years.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Film Review: Survival International's "Mine"

Survival International's new film "Mine: Story of a Sacred Mountain," tells the story of the Dongria Kondh, a tribal people in India trying to save their way of life from an uncaring international mining corporation, Vedanta Resources. While similar to the story of the blockbuster hit "Avatar," "Mine" is considerably lower budget. The special effects were not nearly as immersive as in "Avatar." Further, the antagonists are barely present in "Mine," merely being represented by a smoking aluminum refinery in a formerly fertile plain, and as construction equipment driven by faceless drivers. I would recommending seeing it, as it is not very long. My only real criticism is the unrealistically evil protagonist. Are we to believe that Vedanta Resources would really destroy an entire people just for aluminum? That verges on cartoonish super-villainy. Lastly, the film ends on a cliff-hanger. It remains to be seen what will become of the Dongia Kondh and their mountain. Find out more here.

Trouble in Hague City

The 2006 elections in the Netherlands presented an interesting problem. For those of you unfamiliar with parliamentary democracies*, after the election the parties in the parliament must form a coalition that will govern the country. There are several costraints on these coalitions. The goal is, generally, to have the smallest coherent coalition that has a majority. Coherency involves not being so ideologically opposed that they cannot work together.
*Americans and people who live in one-party states, I suppose.

Den Haag

After the elections in the Netherlands on November 22, 2006, ten parties were represented in the Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, the Dutch lower house, which is the house that votes on legislation. I made an attempt to order the parties roughly from left to right. This isn't precise, but it gives you an idea of the composition. (For instance, the Party for the Animals is officially neutral to left-right issues. But somebody called "The Party for the Animals" has got to be at least in the left half of the spectrum, right?) Note that historically, the Labour Party and the Christian Democratic Appeal have been the main center-left and center-right parties. Consider them the Democrats and the Republicans, if you are familiar with American politics. (I know that in reality both of those parties would be on the right half of Dutch politics, but they serve congruent conceptual roles.)

Election results by municipality. Green=Christian Democratic Appeal, Red=Labour Party, Yellow=Socialist Party, Blue=People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.

However, unlike in the American Congress in which the two major parties hold all or nearly all the seats, no party in the 150-seat body had a majority. The following is a list of the parties, roughly from left to right, and the number of seats they held.

Socialist Party (25)
GreenLeft (7)
Democrats 66 (3)
Labour Party (33)
Party for the Animals (2)
ChristianUnion (6)
Christian Democratic Appeal (41)
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (22)
Reformed Political Party (2)
Party for Freedom (9)

It is also important to note where the center-point is. The ChristianUnion considers itself a centrist party. According to Wikipedia, they have "a conservative point of view on ethical issues, with more centre left ideas on economic, migration, social and environmental issues." Seventy-five seats are needed to form a government. Consider the following diagram:

(click for larger)

If the five left-wing parties could join the ChristianUnion, the could form a government with 76 seats. However, the ChristianUnion will not join a coalition without the Christian Democratic Appeal (which, in this case, was the largest party.)

So it would seem if the Christian Union would join a right-wing coalition of the Christian Democratic Appeal, People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, Reformed Political Party, and the Party for Freedom, they would have a majority. This coalition would have 80 seats. However, the Party for Freedom is considered so far to the right that the major parties refuse to coalition with them. Without their 9 seats, a center-right coalition would have only 71 seats, not a majority.**
**Also, the Reformed Political Party is too Calvinist to join any coalition. Ask them about it.

This means that the governing coalition must be a left-right-center coalition. Remember another goal of coalition building is to not have the coalition be larger than necessary. If the Labour Party and the Christian Democratic Appeal agreed to join a coalition, they would have 74 seats.*** They would have to convince one more party to join. But this party must be acceptable to the other coalition members.
***When the main left and right parties coalition, this is sometimes called a "Grand Coalition." Germany had this from 2005-09.

In the course of negotiation, further constraints developed. The Socialist Party would not join a coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal, who wouldn't join a coalition with them either. The GreenLeft also rejected a coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal. Democrats 66 said they would not work with the ChristianUnion. The ChristianUnion would not work with the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy over differences regarding immigration. (In case you were wondering, the Party for the Animals did say they would be happy to form a minority government with the Labour Party, the Socialist Party, and the GreenLeft.)

This left only a few possible coalitions. Try out combinations in your head. Remember the goal is to get 75.

What you will find is that the only coalition that works is the Christian Democratic Appeal, ChristianUnion, and Labour Party. This is the coalition that ended up forming the government. The Christian Democratic Appeal got 9 ministries, the Labour Party got 6, and the ChristianUnion got 2. Unsurprisingly, this coalition collapsed in February of 2010.

The reason I wrote about this is to demonstrate how coalition building can become an interesting problem of trying to create the minimum coalition that has a majority and no unacceptable members. Almost like a Sudoku. In this case, it was a bit of a "perfect storm" where a few more seats here or there would have made it simple. The next election looks even more complicated because another right-wing party, Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands), seems to be on track to get two seats, leading to 11 parties in parliament. Distressingly, polls show the Party for Freedom may be the second largest party. Below is a diagram of what a 14 February Peil.nl poll shows the result might be.

(Gelieve te klikken beeld om het groter te maken.)

For those of you following the Dutch elections on this blog, (and honestly, who isn't?) Peil.nl came out with a new survey on 14 March. I've recorded the results into the now familiar Prestigious Internet Dutch Election Bar Graph.

It looks a lot like the last poll, with D66 and the GreenLeft taking seats from the Socialist Party and the Labor Party, although not as much as in the previous poll. The 14 February poll had the Labor Party losing 18 seats, but the current poll has them losing only 6 seats. The Party of Freedom has grown at the expense (it seems) of the Christian Democratic Appeal, but the left-right balance seems unchanged.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Next Economic Bubble

We've all heard about the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble, but any time there is a speculative frenzy, a destructive bubble can develop. The next bubble, I postulate, is zombie movies. The chart below shows the number of zombie movies released per year since the genre was started in 1932. Below that is a detail of the same chart, only showing years since 1990. (Raw data from this page.)

(click for larger)

The zombie movie genre was birthed in 1932 with Victor Halperin's White Zombie. It remained a fringe artistic movement, with such titles as King of the Zombies (1941), Ed Wood's inspired, but budget-constrained Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), and Ray Steckler's The Increidbly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964). The genre's first breakthrough came in 1968 with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which grossed (get it?) $42 million with a budget of $144,000. (Adjusted for inflation, it grossed nearly $700 million.)

From the beginning of the zombie movie in 1932 through 2002, there were an average of 3.23 zombie movies per year. From 2003 through 2010, there were an average of 103.88 zombie movies per year. I think much of this growth was driven by the success of 2002's 28 Days Later, which grossed over $82 million, with a budget of only £5 million. Next, 2004 brought us a re-make of Dawn of the Dead, which grossed $102 million with a budget of $28 million. After that, the market was flush with zombie-dollars ready to fund the next 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead. Unfortunately, for every 28 Days Later, there were dozens more like Diary of the Dead (2008), which had a budget of $2 million and grossed $5 million, despite being directed by George Romero, who had 39 years of zombie movie experience.

Like all bubbles, this is doomed to crash. I think we see signs of it already, with studios pumping out dozens of zombie movies a year, like desperate gamblers, trying to make up losses. It isn't a perpetual motion machine, though. Eventually, the public's taste for zombie movies is going to fade, and somebody is going to be left holding the bag. My guess is it's going to be the US taxpayers.

Ryan asks: "Is your graph adjusted for total movie market output? It's only a meaningful statistic if viewed as a percentage of all releases." Good question, Ryan.

Ask, and you shall receive, that's what we say down here at the Prestigious Internet.

First, I had to find the total number of movies released each year. I went to IMDB and did a year by year search for movies. (It isn't a perfect data set, but it should show whether or not zombie movies are constituting a higher percentage of movie output.) That resulted in the following graph, which illustrates my point even better than I thought it would. In 2009, zombie movies constituted over 0.5% of all movies, up from 0.06% ten years earlier. Of the movies slated for 2010, over 2% are zombie movies.

Fig. 1.3: Zombie movies as a percentage of total movies, 1932-2010.

In the period 2003-present, which I call the Zombie Bubble, zombie movies averaged 0.62% of total movies, as opposed to 0.05% in the period 1932-2002. All years taken together, zombie movies averaged 0.11% of movies.

Also, here is a bonus graph of movie output over time.

Fig. 1.4: Movies per year, 1932-2009. Source: IMDB.com

Newsweek irresponsibly pumps the bubble a little bit more. Haven't they seen Jon Stewart eviscerate Jim Cramer?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cap and/or Trade

Did anyone else notice how we went from "any climate change legislation is off the table" to "cap and trade or nothing else" without any public discussion? Rep. Boehner (R-Crazytown) says this to cap and trade legislation: "Hell, no!" For once, though, I think he may have a point. Annie Leonard, of Story of Stuff, has this to say about cap and scam:

She's so casual and well-spoken.
She must be right. (Transcript with references.)

Some environmental groups are behind this, though. Should we let perfect be the enemy of good? I think in this case this is another system that gives control of our world to corporate interests. Like allowing them to patent naturally occurring genes. Further, it hasn't been shown to decrease the bad stuff. Carbon emissions actually have gone up (or gone down) in Europe since they instituted cap and trade. (Remember when PGE left the Chamber of Commerce over the latter's opposition to cap and trade? What they didn't tell you is that under the current bill, utilities like PGE get free permits! This is true in Europe as well.)

Whenever I find myself agreeing with Sarah Palin on something, I pause to reconsider. Which is another part of how clever this plan is. No environmentalist wants to find themselves in the same camp as the pro-pollution crowd. Thankfully, some have seen through the (deliberate?) obfusation and are doing something. Common Dreams has a good article about it here.

Cap and trade worked for sulfur dioxide, though, which is the reason you haven't heard about acid rain in a while. (Acid rain levels are down 65% since 1976.) In addition to the government auctioning off fewer pollution permits, environmental groups have purchased more than 14,000 tons of sulfur dioxide permits, which is clever. (It's like a temperance advocate buying booze to keep it out of the hands of would-be imbibers. Except it makes sense.)

There are a couple differences between sulfur dioxide in the groovy 1990's and greenhouse gases today. In the 1990's, if you ran a coal plant, you could listen to Nirvana's latest album and install scrubbers (a technology that already existed), or switch to low-sulfur coal. Further, the sulfur market only a applied to a few hundred plants, not the entire economy. I stole those points from this article, by the pro-business Institute for Energy Research, so they are probably wrong.

Lastly, balance your view with this article from the generally respectable Grist in favor of cap and trade. As a bonus, they have not one, but two articles replying to "The Story of Cap and Trade." One of them compares it to a "circular firing squad." Now I'm really confused. A lot of this falls into a familiar scenario: Leonard argues against what cap and trade will likely be, while Grist defends what it could be, in its best incarnation. Both important sides to consider while you plant trees, make biochar, bicycle to work, and blockade coal plants.

(As a post-script, I've heard it alleged anti-environment lobbyists pay people to search the Internet for any article about global warming and post lies. I don't get many comments here, so any pro-pollution comments will be suspect. That seems reasonable.)

Bonus articles: Cap and trade will work, won't work, it depends, and won't work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Armistice Day

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,—but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

—These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a bloodsmear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
—Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
—Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Lt. Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
suggested soundtrack: Tom Waits - The Day After Tomorrow

Peak Everything

The following image, from New Scientist, shows how long various resources will be depleted at their current rate. Uranium, for instance, will be gone in 59 years. You have 46 years to take advantage of zinc. If you want indium, you have only 13 years. 45 years for gold, 61 years for copper. Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Red Henski and Dr. Ism


On the Georgia Guidestones

I read in Wired Magazine about a mysterious monument in Elberton, Georgia called the Georgia Guidestones. Read the article, but the story is that a mysterious man, using a pseudonym, came to Elberton in 1979 claiming to represent a mysterious group of secretive people, who wanted to build a Stonehenge-esque monument. The necessary 240,000 pounds of granite would be quarried in Elberton.

The monument was to be built to highlight certain astronomic features. A hole was to be drilled through which Polaris would always be visible, for instance. More interestingly, perhaps, was that on its eight sides, a message was to be carved in eight languages. The languages are English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. A further message was written on the capstone in Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The primary message, the one written in eight languages, was a list of ten principles, assumed to be a message to current and/or future people. They are

1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.

2. Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.

3. Unite humanity with a living new language.

4. Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.

5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.

6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.

7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.

8. Balance personal rights with social duties.

9. Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.

10. Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.

You might think a bizarre monument in the middle of nowhere wouldn't bother anyone. But in fact, some people were very upset by its message. Some wanted it to be torn down. Some even thought it was from a global conspiracy. People took most issue with the commandment to keep the human population at five hundred million. What sort of genocide did the mysterious designers have planned for nine-tenths of us?

Internet comments often give insight into people's reasoning. At Damn Interesting, their article on the Georgia Guidestones prompted the following comments:

"The number of dreadfully naive people who just don’t grasp the implications of this, and the other Elitist propaganda is mind numbing.

So [those agreeing with a lower population], you think that reducing the population to 5,00,000,000 is a good idea aye? So which of you enlightened ones are going to volunteer to join the other 4.5 Billion viruses on their way to the gallows? Hmmm? Oh, you THINK you are going to be one of the 10% allowed to stick around, huh? What makes you think you are going to be one of the anointed ones? And at the rate of only 1 out of every 10 surviving this needed change, I suppose it will be alright by you that your entire family and friends are summarily dispatched, all for the sake of mother earth?


The bottom line here is that the international “Elitists” who run this planet are in constant fear that the masses (like you) are going to wake up one day, revolt, and put an end to their rule (though it seems their fear is unfounded from the looks of things). That’s why they want to reduce the population by 90%. Why 90%…because the remaining 10% would be much easier to control, and pose much less of a risk. And, that 10% is an adequate number by their estimates needed to properly serve them, else they might have to do an honest day’s work themselves and get their own hands dirty, Satan forbid. And finally, what good is it to be a maniacal egocentric elite ruler if there is no one to actually rule? So yes dear viruses, you do have purpose."

"The thing is that a small group of people (a kind of higher race) places itself a memorial for the future. A future where 1.000 people (the master race) can live on the fat of the land and another 499.000 people (slave race) have to live under total control. The climate hoax and the fairy tale about 9-11 are just the means to the end. Who cares about 3000 dead people whenkilling them eases the way of reaching the target carved in guide stones?

If I had the possibility, I’d blow the guidestones up.

When will mankind wake up?"

"And somebody just went there and completely VANDALIZED it!!!


This commenter linked to another blog that covered the vandalizing. The vandal spray painted the following over the monument:

"Fuck you read this Rockefeller"

"You will not succeed"

"Jesus will beat u Satanist"

"No North American Union"

"Skull + Bones sucs dick"

"Death to the Globalist"

"CFR scum"

"Rockefeller sucs"

"Rothechild sucs"

"The elite want 80% of us dead, see #1"

"911 inside job"

"Obama iz a Muslim!"

"Death to the New World Order"

"No one world government"

"Fuck the NWO"

"Jesus will prevail"

Which is quite a litany. Apparently, Obama, Rockefeller, Satanists, Muslims, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Rothechild planned 9/11 in order to achieve a North American Union, in order to start a New World Order, in which 80% of people will die. And made a giant monument to their scheme in rural Georgia.

The blog writer said this of the vandalism:

"This is too cool. I just can say WOW!,"

"And some dude just vandalized it. Way too cool!!!,"

"There is a BIG problem on guide number 1. How do you reduce world population from 6.5 billion to 0.5 billion? There is no way of doing it, unless killing LOSTS of people."

Commenters on his (I assume it's a "he") blog said the following:

"No, this is not "way cool." People who are not aware of what is taking place in our country will see this and learn to equate criticism of globalism with juvenile criminal behavior. And that's exactly what the bankers want."

"Good on them, anything evil should be destroyed, I love that they vandalised it. The vandalism is nowhere as offensive as their Satanist filth. Destroy all their garbage."

"This is good to see. Freemasons temples around the world should also receive similar treatment. We need to let these vermin know we are onto them."

"Epic. Just epic! This is a non-violent way to fight the NWO and it sends a clear message to those involved in the deceit. I commend them for taking a pacifist path and thank them for new desktop backgrounds! Grats to the people responsible! I commend you as true Patriots!"

And so on. (Naturally, I didn't include any well-reasoned comments. But you can read them for yourself if you are so interested.) My favorite comment in this vein comes from the Wired article, in which a Guidestone critic says:

"The Guidestones are the New World Order's Ten Commandments. They're also a way for the elite to get a laugh at the expense of the uninformed masses, as their agenda stands as clear as day and the zombies don't even notice it."

This question of population reduction interests me, though. Suppose we wanted to reduce the population without a New World Order-engineered "vaccine" that causes sterility. There is a group called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, for instance, which advocates reproducing below the replacement rate, so that the population will go down every generation. I decided to do some bad calculations to see how this would work. My intuition is if every two people produce one or fewer children, then each generation will be half the size of the generation before it. This seems like a easy way to reduce population, since we don't have to go through all the trouble of genetically engineering a pandemic virus, declaring martial law, rounding up all the dissidents in FEMA concentration camps, starting a North American currency union, etc.

Presently the world death rate is 8.3 per 1000. That means, every year, 8.3 out of a thousand people die. Since the population is 6.7 billion, that means 55 million people die a year. The birth rate is 20.3 per thousand. This means 136 million people are born every year.

I constructed a spreadsheet to see how different birth rates would affect the population in the years 2109, 2209, 2309, and 2509. This is somewhat naive, because, for instance, if people have fewer children, the average age of the population will go up, and older people have shorter life expectancies, meaning the death rate will go up. (For example, of you have two identically health populations, and one has half the people over 90, it will have a higher death rate than the population with fewer older people.) The point is, there are a lot of demographic effects I'm not taking into account.

If the birth rate stays at 20.3, and the death rate stays at 8.3, the population in 2109 will be 22 billion. In 2209, 72.8 billion. In 2309, 240 billion. In 2509, 2.6 trillion.

This calculation also ignores an disruptive technologies. Ray Kurzweil, for instance, predicts death will be cured in the next hundred years, so that would have an effect.

I did some experimental birth rates to see how the population would be in hypothetical future.

If the birth rate becomes 7.3, that is one more person dies than is born per thousand every year, you get the following time series:

2109: 6 billion

2209: 5.5 billion

2309: 5 billion

2509: 4 billion

It seems that this birthrate will not achieve the New World Order's population goal in 500 years. Next I tried a birthrate one half of the death rate.

2109: 4.4 billion

2209: 2.9 billion

2309: 1.9 billion

2509: 838 million

This made me think there was something wrong with my calculations, as that seems really slow. It would still not achieve the monument's target population in 500 years.

If the birthrate became one quarter of the death rate, we get the following:

2109: 3.6 billion

2209: 1.9 billion

2309: 1 billion

2509: 295 million

This time, we get 500 million in less than 500 years. My spreadsheet shows it will happen in 2425.

What sorts of draconian measures can we implement to reduce birthrates? As was proposed, we would require everyone to get a "vaccine" that actually makes them sterile. Or we could put fluoride in the drinking water, as this reduces sex drive. Both effective, but I think a cheaper proposal would involve increasing economic opportunities for women and increasing access to contraception. Several countries already have fertility rates below the replacement rate. Japan, for instance. Making contraception available would be a big help, as a study showed 38% of pregnancies are unintended.

Lesson: if you see anyone trying to encourage women to participate in the formal economy, they are probably an agent for the Georgia Guidestones-guided New World Order.

Explanatory note:

My population model took three inputs: Current population, birth rate per 1000, and death rate per 1000.

It calculated the number of people born that year by (current population/1000)(birth rate). It calculated the number of deaths as (current population/1000)(death rate). It then added the number of births to the current population, subtracted the number of deaths, and used this number as the starting population for the next year. It repeated the calculation from the year 2009 to 2509. As I said, this method is naive and misguided, but I think gives some idea of how populations grow or shrink over time. Someone who is math-wiser than I could easily write a formula that would output the population in any future year given these three inputs, rather than doing hundreds of calculations. But spreadsheets are so easy to use.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On the Ethics of Eating Roadkills

Some of you may recall an earlier post, in which we acquired one accidentally-killed deer's worth of meat. At first I thought I might eat it, but decided against it. Richard Dawkins must have heard my dilemma, for he questions ethicist, animal rights advocate, and Australian Peter Singer on the ethics of eating roadkills, both non-human and human.

Singer agrees with Dawkins that there should be no ethical objection to either. Although, as my comrade Ken often says, dead animals aren't food. By trying to find exceptions to the rule, one normalizes the eating of dead animals. A truly accomplished vegetarian realizes that refraining from eating dead animals isn't a burden, as eating dead animals is entirely undesirable. Like punching a baby in the face. Conceivably, there could be a situation that warranted, or even required, baby face punching, but we don't seek out these situations to satisfy our latent baby punching desires. (Don't ask me to concoct such a scenario, I'm just saying it is logically possible.)

Once Ken and I walked by a trash can and saw a leather briefcase being thrown out. It had a tear that made in unacceptable as a vessel for fine legal briefs, or whatever it was it transported in its course of service. "Say, Ken," I asked, "we could take the leather off that briefcase and turn it into moccasins." "Or," Ken suggested, "we give it a proper burial."

(Want to hear an overly technical argument against second-hand leather? Let's say A types will only buy new leather and B types will buy new or used leather. C types will only buy used leather, thinking it is more ethical. However, as C types buy up the stock of used leather, this leads to B types buying more new leather, as used leather becomes scarce. A second effect is that it drives up the price of used leather, making new leather a better investment. "Sure", and A type might think, "that's a lot for that leather trench coat, but I know I will be able to recoup most of the price when I sell it on the second-hand market.")

I think the only situation that could warrant dead animal eating is survival situations, such as being stranded in the mountains in a snow storm and eating porcupine.

Mountain lore says that you never kill porcupines, except in survival situations. Being covered in spines, they lack defenses to skull-crushing blows with tree branches. This makes them easy targets. Mountain lore singles out porcupines, however, as they are high in fat. Eating only rabbits, the story goes, will actually kill you, through a process known as "rabbit starvation." Apparently, if you don't enough fat your body kills you. This is not the case with porcupine. Therefore, a wise mountain dweller lets the porcupine live so that it will be there when you need it.

This started out as an excuse to post the Dawkins/Singer video, and I seem to have gone on for a while. Some say this is what talking with me in real life is like.