Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Men: More Trouble

The article that dares to ask the question, What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? See "The End of Men: Women are dominating society as never before."

What are spies, now that we have terrorists?

Sometimes I think Jon Stewart has the easiest job in the world—make comedy out of the news. My favorite today is the breaking spy ring story.
Here are a couple of excerpts from FBI agent Maria Ricci:

In Forest Hills train station in Pennsylvania,
"[They] converged on a staircase, carrying all-but identical orange bags. Toward the middle of the stairs, as they passed one another, Metsos quickly handed Russian government offical his orange bag and the Russian government official quickly handed Metsos his orange bag," Ricci writes. "Metsos then continued ascending the stairs and Russian Government official continued descending the stairs."
Ricci said the orange bag contained money.
Here's another passage,
The two women would identifyeach other with the following exchange: "Excuse me, but haven't we met in California last summer?" "No, I think it was The Hamptons".

Afterwards, Chapman would go to a public city map and stick a postage stamp on its margin. That sign, the FBI agent told Chapman, would show her handler that the meeting had gone well.
Clearly, these purported Russian 'spies' have watched too many American movies from the late 30's. It reminds me of those anachronistic groups where everyone dresses up in medieval costumes to bop each other with maces while saying "Whilst" and "Thou."

Do the Russian taxpayers know their government is paying people to gather cultural and political information in this manner?
Do the U.S. taxpayers know their government is paying people to gather evidence against these people?

Well, now they do…so stop wasting our tax money! Normally we call these people lobbyists. I guess the crime was they did not register as such.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Incredible video in article


I remember last spring break down in Florida watching a shuttle take off and streak across the sky and the video in this article reminded me of that. I think what this teacher did was incredible with his students but I always feel bad that lower track students won't be able to participate. What they were doing would take a certain level of maturity and knowledge.

What would you think if steam was coming off your head?


Stumbled on this forum looking for athletic pictures of steam coming off people's heads (don't ask there really is no reason.) Thought it was funny how quickly the posts turned to talking about human combustion.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

keeping one's soul intact

There is a movement afoot to start a chapter of the Knights of Columbus in our local church. I no more want to join the Knights of Columbus than I would the John Birch Society or Hell’s Angels. Here we have an all male imitation Masonic brotherhood complete with weird uniforms and secret ceremonies. They also follow a brand of Christianity that I find particularly distasteful, one that reduces the entire Christian message to two simple but absolute commands: criminalize abortion and ban gay marriage (matters about which Jesus had remarkably little to say). The word is out that the Knights of Columbus donated more than $1.4 million to Proposition 8, making it the proposition’s largest financial supporter.

But, here's the problem. The Knights won’t start a new chapter unless at least 30 guys sign up. At last count, we still needed 7. So, the pressure is being ratcheted up for every able bodied man to sign. After every Mass I am approached by someone and asked, have I signed?

Once every so often I get the sense that I’ve wandered onto the set of some movie. When I first took Ellen up to her college nestled in upstate New York’s wine country, I thought, this is “Sideways!” Lately, however, it’s been “A Man for All Seasons.” For example, the latest argument to convince me to sign up for the Knights of Columbus was this: even if you don’t want to be a member, just sign up so that we can reach 30. You don’t have to actually participate, but we’ll get our chapter. It’s like the Duke of Norfolk asking Thomas More to sign the Oath of Supremacy for fellowship’s sake. And, I’ve been tempted to make More’s answer:

And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

OK, there’s a lot less at stake here, but I’m thinking Thomas More, and hope to be able to hold out until the bitter end. Not only will I keep my soul in tact, but the world will no doubt be a better place without another chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

(Of course, I might be persuaded to join the Sons of Knute, which, according to Garrison Keiler, is a fraternal organization for Norwegian Lutherans who couldn’t get into the Knights of Columbus. From my brief research, the Knutes gave absolutely zero financial support to Prop 8.)


Postscript: There’s one other small point here, and that is our cultural acceptance of dishonesty. It’s like people expect you to lie. The people at church with little more than a shrug seem to think they ask nothing extraordinary of me when they request me to make a false statement on their behalf. I have seen this sort of attitude elsewhere. Again, Thomas More had this to say, and here he speaks to his daughter, Meg: “When a man takes an oath, Meg, he's holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then—he needn't hope to find himself again.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

International Relations

International Relations theory on...Zombies.

Traditional zombie narratives in film and fiction are quick to get to the apocalypse. The theoretical approaches presented here, however, suggest that in the real world there would be a vigorous policy response to the menace of the living dead.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Badminton Tournament

Trying to set up a Badminton Tournament for this Saturday the 6/26 for all interested (this Tournament determines team ranks for July). Around 11:30 am, food, Blue Moon, and Champ prizes will be provide. Not to freak you out but I am the guy in yellow on the right.

Riddle Contest please take a gander

So.... I think I've figured the riddle out, and apparently all my notes show up on google searches so I've decided to replace my post with this.

Two roads diverge in yellow wood and yadda yadda yadda I went left.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dismal Science

By far the most understandable and, seemingly, intelligent analysis of the recent economic crisis was This American Life with NPR's economist Adam Davidson. The shows were so successful that Adam Davidson created the web site Planet Money to further explain, or at least make the public aware of, economic issues.

Recently the press has reported that huge mineral reserves of copper, iron, gold, and lithium have been discovered in Afghanistan. This could be a 'gold mine' for the Afghan economy. Just a second, a 'gold mine' is not what its always cracked up to be. Listen to the podcast and please comment on your reaction. I have a couple of thoughts myself I will share.

Even the Pierogies can't win with the Pirates

Punishment for Pittsburgh Pierogi

The Wire Toy Story

For those of you who watch The Wire and for the opening of Toy Story 3. Can you figure out what each Toy Story character portrays from The Wire? No spoilers for Toy Story 3 in this video.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fourth of July Pandering

A lot of people like to co-opt our founding fathers, but I think this might be the most shameless attempt yet. I want more commercials like this.

Religion beats soccer in upset

I have to thank my mother for the heads up on this one.

(There are so many comments I could make here. I think I'll go with:
Apparently this variant of the gospels was "good news"...but not for dad.)

The Amazing Technology of the World Cup

Watching the World Cup in 3-D has gotten a lot of hype but I think the technology of peering into players minds is far cooler.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Citizen Scientists Helping to Save the Gulf

One of my professors at UMass helped to develop this app. I thought it was a pretty cool (and hopefully effective) way for people to help in some way in the Gulf:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

and for all you Jeopardy (or computer) fans

Not so elementary, Watson.

world cup and more

Martin's high school soccer coach is in S. Africa to catch the cup and more. Here's part of his initial blog:

"So here is my current sticking point in my search for truth. Existentialism and pluralism seem to be the dominating philosophies of our day. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel their pull. With the exposure we have to different philosophies, beliefs, religions and cultures, how can we possibly say that anything is right or wrong? It feels like we are disrespecting others and their experiences. The problem is we have no way then of establishing right and wrong and everything is acceptable." All I can say is this guy makes for an interesting sports banquet.

Philosophy and soccer go hand and hand (poor word choice). There's Sartre deeply profound remark: "Au football, tout est compliqué par la presence de l'équipe adverse." (in soccer, everything's complicated by the presence of the other team) And Camus noted,"Tout ce que je sais de plus sûr à propos de la moralité et des obligations des hommes, c'est au football que je le dois." (The most certain things I learned about morality and duty I owe to soccer) Camus played keeper for a junior club in Algeria.

Go clockmakers!!!!

Afghanistan War-American's New Leader in Longest

Afghanistan War has become America's new longest war beating Vietnam on June 7th. Shared thread between political parties, media and the public is mostly indifference. Maybe because the Afghan War is seen as more justified than Iraq or the lack of draft/low impact on American daily life-

One might think that this emotional isolationism would bring demands for military retrenchment. But ironically, the public’s boredom and disillusionment with international affairs actually makes it easier for the Obama administration to sustain U.S. deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Richard Nixon realized when he ended the draft in 1973, and thus sucked the oxygen out of the anti-Vietnam movement, it’s easier to prosecute a war when that war doesn’t directly affect the vast majority of Americans.

Monopoly Shortest Game

Monopoly Shortest Game Explanation

Monday, June 14, 2010

Leidenfrost Effect

Since I spend my days at work sticking my hand in liquid nitrogen (-219C, -321F) I found the Leidenfrost Effect, the effect that protects my hands from extreme temperature, pretty cool. Here is a demonstration with liquid nitrogen. The video below is the mythbusters jamming their hands into molten lead unharmed because of the effect. Not really busting a myth because it is already a scientific fact but still cool. Starts at 1:55.

Update-The Leidenfrost effect also allows you to pre-heat a skillet and add ingredients without sticking to the pan. Good kitchen tip.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unreading the Gospels

If the ongoing Church sex scandals, the frequent endorsement of the wrong side of the culture wars, the smug self-righteousness and the unending flow of nonsense have you seriously questioning why you should continue to associate yourself with Christianity, you might want to peruse Adam Gopnik’s recent piece in The New Yorker, “What Did Jesus Do?” In the article, Gopnik, an author, staff writer for The New Yorker and secular Jew, ostensibly reviews a number of recent books about Jesus, but spins it into a meditation on the man himself. (Note to son Tom: one of the books mentioned in the article is Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch.)

Mostly, for Gopnik, Jesus is a hard man to pin down. He’s a “fierce apocalyptic preacher,” but also a “wise philosophical teacher who professes love for his neighbor.” Gopnik describes Jesus as a Greek cynic with a contempt for material prosperity. But he is also a “wise rabbi.” He’s intelligent with “an ironic dueling wit.” He’s no Buddha, and has a short temper; he’s irritable and impatient, particularly with his own disciples (“Do you have eyes but fail to see?”). Jesus is “verbally spry and even a little shifty. He likes defiant, enigmatic paradoxes and pregnant parables that never quite close. …” Thus, for example, he avoids self-incrimination by suggesting that we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s – a truism that says almost nothing but gets him out of a jam.

Gopnik suggests that, if you need a more contemporary example to get a sense of Jesus' approach to things -- with his unusual combination of harsh judgment and human compassion -- think Malcolm X. In fact, Gopnik calls Alex Haley Malcolm's St. Paul (long on doctrine and short on details) and Spike Lee his St. Mark (30 years later the human portrait and universalist message).

According to Gopnik, “Jesus’ morality has a brash, sideways indifference to conventional ideas of goodness” and has “a disdain for the props of piety.” For Jesus, the son who wastes his inheritance gets a feast; the woman taken in adultery is worthier than her onlookers, reflective Mary is better than the hardworking Martha. Prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders.

There is a richness here that familiarity tends to lose sight of. Was this what Gopnik is suggesting by his subtitle, "Reading and unreading the Gospels?" Perhaps here is the only real heresy – to reduce Jesus down to some simple formula which confirms your narrow view of things, to conventionalize an unconventional life. Jesus ends up being a culture warrior for the televangelists, a legalist for Catholics, and a moral example for humanists.

Gopnik sees that people like himself – outsiders – can make a unique contribution to this discussion: “With so many words over so long a time, perhaps passersby can still hear tones inaudible to the more passionate participants. Somebody seems to have hoped so, once.” Sometimes it takes a secular Jew to remind Christians why they bother to show up for church each Sunday.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tea Party Poll

University of Washington Poll on the Tea Party in Washington State. Not just about taxes- see third poll.

Wakeup Calls

NASA has a tradition of Houston picking wake-up music for the astronauts. The astronauts state that the songs become the signature reminder of the mission years later back on Earth. Which would be awesome if it is Ride of the Valkyries, not some much if its Barry Manilow.

Also every piece of music for the rovers pretty much relate to something going on during the mission.

Rover- Opportunity
"Sol 38:Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival in honor of the confirmation that liquid water once flowed through the rocks at Meridiani Planum."

"Sol 39: Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival in honor of the eclipse caused by the Martian moon Deimos."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Real Iron Man

Amazing, I love science.

“I don’t care what you call it.”

Timothy Egan, in an immensely entertaining piece, reminds us why we all hope that Sarah Palin hangs around for a long time: The Palin Brand.

Just for starters, here's a sample:

In the midst of one of the most precipitous political crashes in the Mountain West, Sarah Palin made a mad dash into Boise on Friday, urging the election of a man who had plagiarized his campaign speech from Barack Obama, had been rebuked by the military for misusing the Marine uniform and had called the American territory of Puerto Rico a separate country.

And why not? Vaughn Ward, the Republican congressional candidate from Idaho, has the dubious character trifecta of the Palin brand: bone-headed, defiant and willfully ignorant. When told that Puerto Rico was not a country, he said, “I don’t care what you call it.”

Consolation for those who think evolution diminishes mankind's role in the universe

I have seen the next great evolutionary movement and it is orchestrated by man:
Noxious, invasive plants (weeds) which have adapted their stem and leaf structure to look like lovely, innocent flowers.