Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For Republicans, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

For a Republican presidential candidate, doing the decent thing turns out to be a political liability.

Perry faces several problems along these lines. The first was his decision to grant in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants. Perry gets attacked regularly from the likes of Romney and Santorum, and boos from the audience whenever he defends the plan. Santorum -- in a statement that reveals a bit too much about his own bias -- suggested that the in-state tuition “was an attempt to attract the illegal vote – I mean, the Latino voters.” The argument is that the in-state tuition only encourages illegals to cross the border with their kids in tow so that eventually their sons and daughters will be able to get the lower tuition not available to them if they stayed in Mexico. (To be eligible for the lower tuition, an illegal must have resided in the state over three years.) Of course, taking steps to see that kids who came into this country through no choice of their own get an education and the chance to better themselves is simply not heartless enough for many Republicans.

Perry also gets criticized for his executive order (never implemented) that mandated girls in Texas get the HPV vaccine. Michele Bachmann characterized the mandate as “innocent little 12-year-old girls” being “forced to have a government injection through an executive order,” putting Texas more or less in the same category as Nazi Germany. And, in an act of incredible irresponsibility, Bachmann claimed, against all evidence, that HPV vaccines can cause “mental retardation.” Meanwhile, cervical cancer strikes about 12,000 women a year and kills about 4,000. The vaccine will prevent the viral strains that cause about 70 percent of those cancers.

Perry also catches heat for opposing the colossally stupid 1200-mile fence along the entire Texas-Mexico border. Santorum says Perry is weak on immigration because he opposes the fence. I suppose we need go no further than Robert Frost: "Good fences make good neighbors."

Romney has his own problems with being a decent human being. He has to defend his universal health care initiative requiring residents of Massachusetts to buy health insurance. The result of this legislation is that more than 98 percent of Massachusetts’ residents now have health insurance, including 99.8 percent of all children, making Massachusetts’ rate of uninsured the lowest in the country. The plan has not contained costs as intended, but 88% of medical doctors in Massachusetts say that health care in the state is as good or better since the plan has been in place. In another demonstration of her higher intelligence, Bachmann claimed in a debate that the Massachusetts plan violated the constitution – but, on further questioning, could not cite which provision it violated.

On the other hand, if you want to avoid the boos and get the Republican crowd cheering wildly, you only need remind them of Texas's death row executions. In the September 7 debate, when moderator Brian Williams began a question by telling Perry that his state “has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” sudden applause erupted throughout the audience.

Old time religion

I haven't seen any religious posts in a long time (Myk, where have you been?) so I thought I'd do one. This one's on Prayer (you still with me?)

I pray a lot. Grace, lot's of hail mary's and glory be's (Shorter the better.) I get rid of the "thy's" and "thous". It's just not normal. (I haven't asked anyone to "take thy turn", for instance, in a long time.)

My favorite payer is the Hail Mary--just the first part, it's short it's simple and I see it as in praise of Maureen and the kids. (Maureen being Irish for Mary.)(My one confession in Ireland I was told to say "Three Hail Maureen's" for my penance.) It goes like this "Hail Maureen, full of grace (she is), the Lord is with You (He is), blessed are you among women (once again, although prejudiced, I agree), and blessed is the fruit of your womb (How can I dispute that!)

Here's the thing, if each of us has a bit of god in us, then why not direct our prayers each other. At my best, when I look into someone's eyes, I see god, so why not pray to him or her. Isn't that the best way to pray?

Like the Act of Contrition (A prayer that I can't get out of my head. Not my second favorite prayer by any stretch, but my second most prayed prayer behind the "Hail Maureen".

"O my god (yes, it's you I'm talking to face to face, hand in hand, I can feel your breath on me, you and I are a part of a living god) I am heartly sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven (losing being with you) and the pains of hell (being without you), but most of all (it's not me I'm thinking of mostly) because it offends you my god (still feeling your breath on me, and the touch of your hand) you are all good and deserving 0f all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace (I am nothing without your grace, please confer your grace on me so that I can make it through) to confess my sins (being open and honest to you), to do penance (how can I make this up to you?) and to amend my life (only with the help of your grace). Amen."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

RE: Exciting Times

Regarding "Exciting Times" and neutrino speed findings, cartoonist counsels caution:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Exciting Times

Recently, two separate scientific possibilities may (merely may) rock our current view of the universe. I emphasize possibilities, because neither of these have been verified yet, but will be in the coming days or months.

The first is that there is a good chance that the predicted Higgs boson does not exist.
In just five months running the Large Hadron Collider, two teams have eliminated – at a 95 percent confidence level – most of the range of possible masses the Higgs could have, Vivek Sharma, a physics professor at UC San Diego, reported at the biannual Lepton-Photon conference held recently in Mumbai, India. “The Higgs, if it exists, is now trapped between 114 and 145 GeV (Giga-electron volts, a measure of mass),” he said.
If it turns out that the Higgs boson does not exist, it's back to the drawing boards, as the 'Standard Model' of how fundamental forces interact, which has been our best explanation for the last 40 years, depends on the existence of the Higgs boson.

Secondly, and this is more tentative, scientists may have discovered that neutrinos travel slightly faster than light, which as you know violates relativity.

These are exciting times, for there are no more exciting times than when science discovers that it is wrong in fundamental ways. It's our chance to be even more creative in explaining the universe. As Richard Feynman warned, "I think that nature's imagination is so much greater than man's, she's never going to let us relax."

Edit: As suspected, the discovery that neutrinos have been found to travel faster than the speed of light was announced today.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We need more voting

This also could be a quote of the day. The L.A. Times ran an article in their science section concerned about where debris from NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) will land on earth. In the article was the following:

A poll item on ABC News' website asked readers where they thought UARS would crash. Possible answers were "Harmlessly in the ocean," "In mountains or open plains," or "My house!" As of Wednesday afternoon, "My house!" was leading "In mountains or open plains" by a margin of 2 to 1.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Congrats to No. 1 ranked Maryland

After scoring the last goal in the history of Schenley H. S., Martin heads to Maryland where they immediately become the top ranked team in the country. Coincidence? We wonder.

Monday, September 12, 2011


1. Limitless is a movie where the protagonist achieves "four digit IQ" and decides the field best suited for his intelligence is playing the stock market. Huh?

2. On 9/11/2011 President Obama said, "These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear." I suppose he meant the "sit in your foxhole immobilized until you die of starvation" sort of fear and not the sort of fear that causes you to:
  • invade Iraq for fear of WMD's
  • invade Afghanistan 
  • form the Department of Homeland Security
  • bomb and shoot civilians by mistake
  • bomb and shoot our own soldiers by mistake 
  • change the way you react to white substances in the mail
  • change the way you board and handle baggage on airplanes
  • set up Guantanamo Bay detention camp and suspend civil rights
  • torture suspected terrorists 
  • mobilize thousands of policemen to check for car bombs this past week end
  • send F-16's to escort commercial flights where people go to the bathroom too often

Beer magnetism

Friday, September 9, 2011

Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk

In this surveillance video taken on Sept. 5, 2011 and released by the San Diego Police Dept, a suspect dressed like Gumby is seen telling a convenience store clerk he is being robbed, then fumbling inside the costume as if to pull a gun, dropping 27 cents and leaving. Police say the attempted robbery took place on Monday at a 7-Eleven in Rancho Penasquitos, California.

Deep in the rainforests of the Indian state of Meghalaya lie some of the most extraordinary pieces of civil engineering in the world. Here, in the depths of the forest, bridges aren't built - they're grown. Ancient tree vines and roots stretch across rivers and streams, creating a solid latticework structure that appears too fantastical to be real. The Cherrapunji region is considered to be one of the wettest places on the planet and this is the reason behind the unusual bridges. With Cherrapunji receiving around 15 metres of rain per year, a normal wooden bridge would quickly rot. This is why, 500 years ago, locals began to guide roots and vines from the native Ficus Elastica rubber tree across rivers using hollow bamboo until they became rooted on the opposite side.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Everything is amazing, but no one is happy

Ben Kuchera writes video game reviews for Ars-technica. Despite his profession, he seems somehow to have retained a reasonable tie to reality. On Labor Day he wrote a computer/video game version of Louis C. K.'s Everything is amazing, but no one is happy. Basically he describes the current gaming world as amazing in selection, quality and price, but covered with consumer complaints about minutiae. We love to complain, rant and troll.

OK, nice article, nice sentiment—but here is the kicker: there are nine pages(at last count) of comments, many of them complaining, ranting and trolling about his "terrible, dumb" article. Every once in awhile Ben will respond to the negative comments (his are identified with a red banner) with funny, vitriolic comments of his own.

You can read (or ignore) as much as you wish about the article and comments, but the reason for this post is to alert you to the ninth page of the comments where Ben writes a classic comment—it may be the Great American Comment™. (It's the second red bar comment down the page.) Enjoy!

[Note: As a minimum you should read the comment by AmericanCitizen a few comments up from Ben's]

Monday, September 5, 2011

ND successful in traditional home football opener

Notre Dame's traditional Friday night pep rally drew 15,000 fans. The team showed up in brand new matching warm up suits which I assume will be autographed and raffled to charity. The next morning the team changed wardrobes to matching sport coats and ties. A new tradition this year is a pin on each player's lapel indicating his residence dorm. All go to the traditional mass in Sacred Heart and then to the grotto to light a candle.

As tradition has it, they then board busses to take them to a spot where the players make the traditional walk to the stadium, past traditional murals and statues. Despite the new path taken in this year's traditional walk, no one got lost. Last year's new tradition of entering the stadium via the student section also went off without a hitch, and all team members arrived successfully in the locker room, which is decorated in traditional decor. Of course, the helmets had been painted gold per tradition and left to dry over night.

During the game the students must cheer in certain traditional ways with arm movements and step dancing. Actually most of these traditions were started in the last 20 years when students needed to focus on something besides winning football games. The players also must slap the traditional "Play like a champion today" sign whenever entering or leaving the locker room. After the game, per tradition, the players gather at the student section and hoist their helmets to sing the alma mater.

Amazingly, all traditions and superstitions were completed successfully before, during, and after the game. With such meticulous attention to tradition, rather than football, it should come as no surprise that the team lost to South Florida, 23-20, which also has become a tradition.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Walking in Memphis

Probably everybody already knows this story, and I’m just hopelessly out of the loop. But, I happened to hear the song “Walking in Memphis” on the radio the other day. Most likely, I’d heard it somewhere before, but this time it struck a chord, so to speak, and I now wanted to find out who the artist was. Well, it turns out that what I was listening to was a recent cover of an older song written by Marc Cohn back in the early 90’s.

Cohn wrote “Walking in Memphis” after traveling to Memphis in 1986 to check out Graceland. Cohn was a young 20-something Jewish aspiring singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio. He’d never been to Memphis before; in fact, he'd never traveled, really. While in Memphis, he also made sure that he saw an Al Green sermon, mentioned in the song.

But the weighty part of his trip took place out of Memphis along Highway 61 in the Mississippi Delta. He saw a sign that said "Hollywood," and discovered the Hollywood Cafe, a small diner and music joint in Tunica County, Mississippi. This is where Cohn smelled the catfish and encountered a black woman in her 70s named Muriel. Muriel was a gospel singer who played piano and sang at the Hollywood every Friday night. After watching Muriel play a variety of spirituals and Hoagy Carmichael songs for about 90 minutes, Cohn spoke with her during a break.

Cohn's mother had died when he was just 2 years old, and he lost his father at age 12. He spent a lot of time trying to get over his childhood grief and sense of loss, which often came out in his songs. Muriel, however, was one of those people who enter our lives unlooked-for yet have such profound effect that we wonder if, perhaps, they were sent. Cohn described his conversation with her in his 1992 interview with Q magazine, saying: “She was real curious, she seemed to have some kind of intuition about me, and I ended up telling her about my family, my parents, how I was a musician looking for a record deal, the whole thing. Then, it must have been about two in the morning, she asks me up to sing with her and we do about an hour, me and this lady I'd never met before, hardly a song I knew so she's yelling the words at me. Then at the end, as the applause is rising up, she leans over and whispers in my ear, she's whispering, ‘You've got to let go of your mother, child, she didn't mean to die, she's where she's got to be and you're where you have to be, child, it's time to move on.’”

The Hollywood Cafe is still there – you drive right past it to go to several of the casinos now located in Tunica. Muriel and Cohn kept in touch, and she attended his wedding in New York. Cohn saw her again when he took another trip down south and played her some of his new songs. Muriel died in 1990. Finally released in 1991, "Walking in Memphis" was a massive success and Cohn won the 1991 Grammy for Best New Artist Award.

Cohn has explained that this song is his journey to being baptized into the world of Blues music. He called it a “spiritual awakening.” Perhaps the song’s most memorable line is when Muriel asks Cohn whether he's a Christian and, caught up in the moment, he exclaims, "Ma'am, I am tonight."

A few additional points of interest: The lyric, "Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale" refers to Beale Street, an actual street in Memphis. Riley B. King became known as the "Beale Street Blues Boy" shortly after he first arrived in Memphis. Later, the nickname was shortened to B.B., and the rest is history.

The lyric, "Security didn't see him" is probably a comment on the story that Bruce Springsteen once successfully scaled the wall at Graceland, trying to deliver a song he wrote. Apparently, Elvis wasn't there.

The Hollywood Cafe

Marc and Muriel