Year: 2013 Page 1 of 2

An illustration of the Solar System by Dana Berry

The Bullshit Detector: #ZeroGDay

Illustration by Dana Berry for National Geographic

I was doing my morning Facebooking, like a dutiful Millennial, when an article caught my eye. “January 4th 2014 – Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity – Float For 5 minutes! #ZeroGDay“, read the headline. (Headlines seem to have lost their brevity as of late.)

The article claims that British astronomer Patrick Moore has “revealed” that on January 4th, 2014, at exactly 9:47am, Jupiter, Earth, and Pluto will align in a syzygy, and that due to this, “the combined gravitational force of the two planets would exert a stronger tidal pull, temporarily counteracting the Earth’s own gravity and making people weigh less.” Apparently, according to the article, if you leap into the air at exactly 9:47am on this day, it’ll take you three whole seconds to float back down to the ground.

I skimmed it, quickly determined it was bullshit, and went along my way, but something was nagging at me. I knew it was nothing but crap, but I also knew that, come January 4th, the #ZeroGDay hashtag on Twitter would be exploding with the confirmation bias of the gullible. People were going to fall for this, hook, line, and sinker, while I could dismiss it with nothing more than a cursory glance.

So instead of just letting it fade into the æther like I ought to, checking the hashtag on the 4th for giggles, I decided to explain how I know this is crap. Hopefully, it’ll help others hone their bullshit detectors.

Because this is a long, long post, I’ve broken it into pages. Click on the links below to navigate the pages.

Fall Foliage

Last week, watching the leaves turn around me, I went out for a walk with my camera to try to capture the gorgeous sights of Walla Walla in the fall. Then I saw an owl.

It was pretty awesome.

Here are my favorites of those photos.


A cocktail in a Mason jar, with a slice of lemon on the rim.

Gingy Whiskers

At one point during the week that R and I spent in Alaska this past summer, our friend and adventure buddy accidentally spoonerized a certain phrase. We were discussing what to buy for groceries and what sort of drinks we could make, and although she intended to suggest “whiskey gingers,” what came out was “gingy whiskers.”

It was too good a name to pass up, so I filed the name away in my brain, waiting to develop a drink to go with it. I think I’ve figured it out:

Gingy Whiskers
Honey and lemon meet ginger and whiskey in this twist on the classic whiskey ginger.
Write a review
Total Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
  1. 2 oz. whiskey
  2. 4 oz. ginger ale
  3. lemon
  4. honey
  5. ice
  1. 1. Pour the whiskey into a glass. Add honey to taste--I usually do a teaspoon or two. Stir to dissolve.
  2. 2. Squeeze half of a lemon over the drink.
  3. 3. Add ice.
  4. 4. Top with ginger ale. Stir.
  5. 5. Garnish with lemon.
  1. One of the difficulties with this drink is dissolving the honey; pouring it over ice is decidedly antithetical to your desires. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to go here.
  2. Ginger beer like Reed's or Cock & Bull would kick this recipe up another notch.
  3. This is (obviously) a rough recipe. Adapt it to your tastes.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t tip my hat to Emma’s Whiskey Ginger over on A Beautiful Mess. I hope to make a cocktail that mouth-watering some day.

Holding America hostage

In case you somehow missed the news, the U.S. government has entered shutdown mode. Congressional Republicans held up negotiations over the federal budget because Democrats wouldn’t delay part of the Affordable Care Act. At 12:01 Eastern time, since a budget had not been passed, the government shut down.

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A ramen burger on a plate

Ramen Burger, Mk. 1

About a month ago, news of a seductive new culinary sensation hit the internet. Chef Keizo Shimamoto debuted the ramen burger: a hamburger between two buns made of cooked, pressed, and fried ramen.

Naturally, the internet went crazy. Myself included. So last week, after some searching for recipes, I decided to make my own.

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A cartoon of a very tasty-looking sandwich.

The compassionate sandwich

My brother posted this on Facebook last night:A screenshot of a Facebook post by someone named Dan, which says, “Oh sandwich, you are the only one that truly understands me.”Naturally, I had to respond:

A cartoon of a very tasty-looking sandwich, with speech bubbles that read, “Come, Dan. Cry into my pickles."



Cover of the May 2013 issue of the Whitman Quarterlife magazine

Talking About Elephants

I’ve been meaning to ask:

You see this elephant too, right?

But every time I stick my neck out
and peer around his boulderous bulk,
you’re looking back at me.

It seems a shame to ruin the moment
by talking about elephants.



In third grade,
Sterling Miller flipped a penny 30 times
and got 30 heads,
I watched it.

I’ve never believed in God, but I know He plays dice,
that every moment is another spin of the slot machine,
and that there are no miracles,
only statistically significant improbabilities.

I’ve spent so long listening to the sermons
of the statisticians, the scientists, and the skeptics
that I never attribute to intention
what has a chance of being chance.

Are you really looking for me?

Do you actually see this elephant too?

Or does the penny just keep coming up heads?



The butterfly you pin to the board is lifeless.
You kill the cat by opening the box.
Merely by observing,
we change the outcome.

I’ve been meaning to ask:

You see this elephant too, right?

But maybe there’s no elephant at all,
maybe these legs are tree trunks,
this tail, a rope,
the trunk, a snake.

I don’t ask if you see the elephant,
because what does it mean

if you don’t?

Published in quarterlife, vol. 7, iss. 4: the troll issue (Whitman College, May 2013). Cover image by Bo Erickson, used with permission. Thanks, Bo!

(Yeah, I got my poetry published!)

New lens, tasty tea

A Mason jar half-full of sweet tea.

My new camera lens–the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, affectionately dubbed the “Nifty Fifty”–arrived today, and I wanted to share a photo I took with it. Also, I made some really tasty tea yesterday. So the photo’s above, and the tea recipe is below.

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Five in the morning is in that span of time I typically think of as “oh fuck no it’s early,” yet this morning, against all odds, I started stirring around 5:10. Rachel had a flight to catch, and was going to be waking up and getting out of bed in five minutes, but for those five minutes, I was awake by myself, in the stillness of the morning.

I love summer mornings. Summer nights are hot and muggy, leading you to throw windows open and blankets off, but at five in the morning, the air breezing through your window is refreshingly brisk. The oppressive heat pauses, and the whole world takes a breath. Though the window’s open, there’s hardly any sound of traffic or human activity, just the songs of waking birds far in the distance.

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Sexcetera - Spring 2013

Sexcetera: The Spring 2013 grand list

[Spencer’s note: No, I’m totally not posting in Fall 2014 a post that should have been made in Spring 2013. Of course not! Why would you think that?]

Like I mentioned in the last one of these, I write an opinion column in my school’s newspaper, The Pioneer, called “Sexcetera.” It’s a column on relationships, sex, and sexuality, from a perspective I’m trying to keep sex-positive, feminist, and inclusive. I’ve been doing it all year, but save for the last compendium, I haven’t really mentioned it here on the blog.

Here’s a directory of the things I wrote in my last semester of college (and the last semester of Sexcetera).

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