Monday, May 31, 2010

from the ridiculous to the mundane

In effort to contribute toward the balance of this blog content (which currently seems to be focusing on either the ridiculous or the ethereal)(admittedly not a bad combination of brain expanders and guffaws), here are some mundane helpful household hints.

1. If you don't have a separate canister for tea bags, turn a box of tea bags into a tea bag dispenser by placing it "vertically" in your kitchen cabinet and ripping off (or cutting off) about an inch from the front bottom of the box.

2. Avoid those little broken pieces of soap by getting a new bar once the old bar gets thin and before it breaks, getting both bars wet and sticking them together.

3. Step on milk cartons before putting them in the recycle bin to save space.

Any other suggestions in the practical art of the mundane (whether household related or not) would be appreciated and could may significantly to our collective practical intelligence.

By the way, our faucets are leaking. They are the kind that have a single central on/off, hot/cold arm. Do these have to be replaced or is there something like a "washer", like the old faucets, that can be replaced to prevent the leak?


Islam is Not your Enemy

It has become fashionable from both sides of the political spectrum – the religious right and the secular left – to bash Islam. It’s wondrously strange that Christopher Hitchens and Ann Coulter might end up agreeing on something.

The consensus is that Islam is a violent, intolerant religion bent on robbing you of your freedom and your life. Well, if you turn to the Qur’an, you’ll find that, like the Bible, it has it’s share of both aggressive texts and passages that promote kindness and compassion. While an exhaustive study of the Qur’an might be helpful in getting to the bottom of the essence of Islam, it’s not something that I want to do tonight and, as we all know, even the devil can quote Scripture for his own purposes.

So I’ve been looking at how Islam is actually doing today at toleration. In 2009, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released what it claimed to be the first quantitative worldwide study on how governments and societies infringe on the religious beliefs and practices of individuals. The study scored each country and then ranked them. See Government Restrictions Index.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Saudi Arabia was number 1 with the most restrictions on religion in the world, and that Iran was number 2. Atheistic China, however, was ranked number four. It seems that Islamic countries don’t hold the corner on intolerance.

But if we look down the list at the countries with only moderate restrictions on the practice of religion, where France and Germany, for example, are ranked, we have eight Muslim majority countries: Bangladesh, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Chad, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan and the Palestinian territories.

And among the countries with the lowest restrictions on the practice of religion – where America is listed – there are 12 Muslim majority countries, 10 0f which place less restriction on religious freedom than we do: Sierra Leon, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Djibouti, Mali, Gambia and Albania. (Pete the Elder and Lisa might be able to fill in some of the details about Senegal.) Just to round things out here, Kosovo and Lebanon were the two other Muslim majority countries with low restrictions but not quite as low as ours. Sierra Leon gets the distinction of being in the top 10 countries in the world with the lowest restrictions on religious freedom.

So, it seems that the Muslim bashers have committed the logical fallacy of hasty generalization: reaching an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence. As we see here, this fallacy commonly involves basing a broad conclusion upon the information about a small group that fails to sufficiently represent the whole population. I’d say that it’s a common problem with bigots.

I certainly recognize that there are a lot of intolerant, even murderous Muslims in this world. I just don’t see how anyone can conclude, given the Pew study, that being a Muslim turns you into a fanatic who wants to destroy all non-Muslims. As Karen Armstrong muses, “There are some forms of religion that are bad, [and] just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too.” Huston Smith goes one more: “Institutions are not pretty. Show me a pretty government. Healing is wonderful, but the American Medical Association? Learning is wonderful, but universities? The same is true for religion... religion is institutionalized spirituality.” But Smith also recognizes: “If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Oxford entrance exam questions

I believe we covered most of these at James and Ali's wedding.

Oxford entrance exam questions

Monty Hall- the Mind Blowing Sequel

I have two kids. One is a girl born on Friday. What is the probability I have two girls?

To avoid spoilers do not look at the comments.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cincy points to a cloud that looks like a puffy god, but not on Sunday

Dave took Renée, Michael, myself, Kara, and two other friends to a walk-off victory with Doumit's home run in the 10th on Sunday. They were the best seats ever. On Monday, this was the result:

If he is acknowledging that he participates in 'Dasein' but that the engagement is beyond his ability and knowledge, it is a welcome sign; but if he is pointing to an invisible super being who has helped him achieve victory, I think he needs to do some more reflection.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Enegren Brewing

After talking to everyone at the wedding, there seemed to be a bit of interest in Joe's brewery. They have a blog that will tell you everything you want to know about their business.
Enegren Brewing
You gotta love their "brewniforms".

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Transgressions, Punishment, and Forgiveness

Indiana Congressman Mark Souder announced today he will resign his seat after it became known that he had an affair with a staffer. I don't know Mark Souder and know nothing of the hard and, hopefully, beneficial work he did. But I did read his resignation statement (see the end of the article).

Two things struck me about this statement:

This is one of the most dangerous statements anyone can make. I find it ironic that it appears in an apology.

There is a line from Middlemarch by George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) that goes like this:
"...[transgressions] may be held with intense satisfaction when the depth of our sinning is but a measure for the depth of forgiveness, and a clenching proof that we are peculiar instruments of divine intention."

There are regional differences

...on the Korean servers, the Zerg seem to need to be somewhat nerfed, as that race is dominating. In the US, the Zerg seem to need a little help.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On Truth

Errol Morris' transcript of his commencement address at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.


Truth. It has become fashionable nowadays to speak of the subjectivity or the relativity of truth. I find such talk ridiculous at best. Let’s go back to Randall Dale Adams. He found himself within days of being executed in “Old Sparky,” the electric chair in Walls Unit, Huntsville Texas.

There is nothing post-modern about the electric chair. It takes a living human being and turns him into a piece of meat. Imagine you – you the young journalists of tomorrow – being strapped into an electric chair for a crime you didn’t commit. Would you take comfort from a witness telling you that it really doesn’t make any difference whether you are guilty or innocent?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Unless you're African, some of your ancestors were Neanderthals. Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans. This goes a long way in explaining complaints I've heard from women over the years about men they've dated. It also suggests that GEICO needs to re-vist its ad campaign.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Interesting World of Misspelling

I tend to misspell the url address of this blog by not hitting the S. As a result every time I am treated to the interesting and delightful world of I seem to be missing the S more and more often.

After a year and a half after discovering the site was updated today after my post (must have been because of my post), the original site is now (Just in case you still need a doomsday clock or as the website states, "If YOU have ANY concern about your future on earth + eternity, it is critical you read this page.")

News Wrangle for the day after Cinco de Mayo

Stories about 'bad people doing good' or 'good people doing bad' are interesting to me. See Penn Hills doctor gets jail time for fraud.

What is wrong with this picture?

Is is a good thing that these people are paying our property taxes?

Plus, they could start paying more of our taxes, if we tax soft drinks (which, I admit, seems, at first blush, a great idea).

Lastly, any thoughts on this:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

untethered from reality

It all started with Julian Sanchez, Research Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, hardly an advocate for the left. In the first of several posts, he reflects on David Frum’s recent ouster from the American Enterprise Institute, and the less formal excommunication of Andrew Sullivan from the conservative movement. See "Frum, Cocktail Parties, and the Threat of Doubt." Some of this strict enforcement of orthodoxy, Sanchez concedes, is simply people following the money. But he's also worried about a trend, as he sees it, in the conservative movement toward "epistemic closure." He compares conservatism's intolerance of dissent to China's efforts to censor the internet. Nothing can be allowed to challenge its closed world.

Sanchez then elaborates on his theme with "Epistemic Closure, Technology, and the End of Distance." Here, he suggests that, while group think and confirmation bias are present among every clique to some degree, today these phenomena are not left-and-right symmetrical, although it's easy enough to point out this sort of thing on the left. Sanchez goes on to blame the conservative circling of the wagons on the collapse of geographic closure. To use his example, it's no longer possible to live in a geographically contained world where a ban against gay couples attending a prom -- so self-evidently justified to the local community -- will go unchallenged from the wider world.

Finally, Sanchez posts "A Coda on Closure" wherein he explains what he meant by "epistemic closure," after confessing that it really wasn't the right phrase anyway. It's not so much that the right is incapable of new ideas, that it's advocates are particularly closed-minded, or that they are not aware of other points of view. What he meant is that the conservative analysis is more and more impervious to actual facts -- in his words, the right has "become worryingly untethered from reality."

His quick review of the crazy yet unshakable beliefs from the right: "the obsession with ACORN or the idea that the “Climategate” e-mails were some kind of game changer in the larger AGW [Anthropogenic Global Warming] debate." And again: "Bill Ayers’ potential authorship of Obama’s memoir, the looming threat of death panels, the president’s crypto-Islamic background and allegiances, his attempt to create a “private army” via the health care bill, his desire to see America come to ruin, the imagined racism of Sonia Sotomayor." No need to even mention the birther people. And now, just hot off the press, we have Fox news, former Bush officials and Rush Limbaugh making veiled accusations of sabotage of the BP oil rig -- maybe by the administration.

Since then, the web has come alive with various responses from all sides. One chronicle of the debate is here: " 'Epistemic Closure'? Those Are Fighting Words." Even my people, the philosophers, weigh in claiming that Sanchez misused a technical philosophical term. See "More From the Frontlines of the Epistemic Closure Debate." (John Quiggin, an economist at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested, instead, the use of the word “agnotology," coined by the historian Robert Proctor “to describe study of the manufacture of ignorance. ”)

Finally, where I came in: Marc Ambinder's post in the Atlantic website "Have Conservatives Gone Mad?" Ambinder argues that, if you want to read genuinely cogent criticism of this administration, look leftward. The Republican base has abandoned all pretense at serious analysis and, instead, "seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking, and that therapy is a substitute for thinking." And by the way, it seems clear that Ambinder means to answer his title question in the affirmative.