Archive

Archive for March, 2008

Maglev derailed

March 27, 2008 3 comments

This just in from the “Department of flying cars”… German plans for maglev derailed.  Apparently they were too expensive.  Can anyone explain to me what pressing issue is solved by maglev trains that is not solved by trains with wheels?  I mean, the wheel’s been around a long time for a reason.

“Who’s crazier now, Washington Times?”

March 25, 2008 6 comments

Allright, enough about Obama’s crazy ex-pastor.  You want crazy?  In The Revealer, “a daily review of religion & the press”, Read about a preacher with big-money connections to the Bush administration (and several other Washington pols) who makes Obama’s preacher look like the oracle of reason…

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Categories: Religion

Fitting back in

March 25, 2008 1 comment

Insights into round numbers and the changing shape of holes in families and society:

“…these numbers, round or otherwise are nonsense. They’re worse than meaningless. They allow us to care about this war on cue for some fraction of a news cycle. But by the time we’ve gone to the fridge, grabbed a beer, and slapped our fat asses back down on the sofa, things have moved on to the story of the drug-addled starlet’s custody fight with her 5th ex-husband. In six or seven months, when the number’s climbed to another round increment, the press will spare a few more minutes of air time and remind us to care again briefly. Between now and then, most of the deaths will be back below the fold on page A-39…”
- Zoologist Mike Dunford, Numbers and Tragedies, Statistics and Losses

There’s a lot more – go read!  Mike’s wife, a doctor, has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Update links:

Categories: defense, Politics

Gay scientists close to isolating “Christian gene”

March 24, 2008 Comments off

This has been making the rounds and it gave me a chuckle…

Categories: Humor, observations

Homer Simpson if he wasn’t a toon

March 24, 2008 Comments off
Categories: Humor, observations

Everybody sign up as “PZ Myers”

March 23, 2008 2 comments

It’s no secret I’m not exactly a charter member of the PZ Myers Fan Club.  But even I have to give him props for this: he signed up to go see a special screening of Ben Stein’s steaming pile of creationist propaganda1, Expelled, and before he could take a seat, they tossed him out!  Pretty funny since he appears in the movie, and the whiny theme of the movie is that “it’s just not faaaair” how creationism in its current guise is tossed out from biology classes.

The Expelled producers have been trying to spin this as tossing a gate crasher, but Myers wasn’t making trouble2 and he signed up to see the movie the same as everyone else there.  And they let in everyone else who came with him, including none other than mister “God Delusion” himself, Richard Dawkins…

That’s right, they let in Myers’ family (including his daughter Skatje, who reviewed the movie) and Richard Dawkins.  Who also appears in the movie so they couldn’t use the excuse that they didn’t know what he looks like.  Here’s a little hint, fellas; if you want to keep famous atheists out of your movie, don’t put them in your movie. 


Notes:

  1. One might complain that I have not seen the movie and cannot make this statement, but it does contain relentless scene interleaves between Darwin and modern evolutionary biologists and Hitler, WWII, and concentration camps.  That is, to put it in the mildest possible terms, not a scientific argument.

  2. Although Myers can be an absolutely perfect sh*t on his blog, I’ve never seen a report, anywhere, of him being anything but cordial and gentle in person. And I have heard him in a radio interview with a “creation scientist” where he kept his cool despite considerable provocation.  So the producer’s attempt to say he was ‘making a scene while trying to sneak in’ is simply not credible (to say nothing of not making any sense either).
  3. Read Skatje’s devastating review of Expelled
  4. And Richard Dawkins’ review (not to put too fine a point on it); Lying for Jesus
  5. Of course you knew it would go this way: Matt Nisbet of Framing Science thinks Dawkins & Myers should pipe down and let others be the voice of science for a while.  With the predictable two-word response from Myers.
  6. And if you really want to research the whole thing as a sociological phenomenon, Greg Laden has an updated compilation of the whole kerfluffle.
Categories: Media, Reviews

Bush on the romance of danger

March 21, 2008 16 comments

President Bush, speaking by video conference to military and civilian workers in Afghanistan:

“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

Tip ‘o the hat to Terry

Categories: defense, Politics

I get the coolest emails…

March 21, 2008 1 comment

WeeDram sends me an invitation to Do The Test.  This one is particularly meaningful to me:

Ted sent me a link to a specialty blog that graphs real-world phenomenological relationships:

Indexed. As my old high-school chum Carl once observed, a phenomenon is “anything that can be observed”.  It’s amazing the observations you can make with a 3×5 index card.  Or at least, that Jessica from the Index blog can make.

(Be sure to check out the Vatican’s 7 new flavors of sin!)

And from our “You Get What You Pay For” department, MrsDoF sends me this:

Categories: observations

“…Not this time!” - Obama talks about race

March 21, 2008 2 comments

There’s a certain quality to some people.  The first time I heard Jesse Jackson speak, I was wishing he’d shut up before he got to his third sentence, and he hadn’t even finished thanking the people who organized the event.

But Barack Obama is at the other end of that scale.  I’ve been following his career since Paul Simon (the Illinois senator, not the pop singer) sent a letter of support for him. I saw him maneuver through the Illinois legislature without getting devoured by that machine. I saw his cool handling of that raving maniac, Alan Keyes.  I’ve seen him say to crowds exactly what they did not want to hear, while deftly finding the thread of higher nature in his audience.  He doesn’t rattle easily, Barack Obama, and when he takes the oath of office, he’ll actually know what he’s talking about when he pledges to “…preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  He will never dismiss our constitution as “just a .. piece of paper.”

A couple weeks ago his pastor said some inflammatory things about race.  Now this should hardly be news; Republican candidates routinely have long relationships with preachers who believe certifiably nutty and destructive things, while Wright’s remarks contain more than a grain of uncomfortable truth.  But those few seconds of video have been reified from the life of a preacher we don’t even know, and trumpeted 24 hours a day on cable news and right-wing blogs as if they were the secret agenda of Obama himself.

On Tuesday Obama delivered his famous speech on race.  For too long race has just been a card one could play for political gain, a lever to pry out reason from discussion leaving only divisive emotions, a minefield across which white Americans, no matter how good their intentions, could see relationships explode from the slightest misstep.  Barack was having none of that; he spoke about race with stunning completeness and painful honesty, saying for the first time things I have wanted to hear someone say but until now nobody had the guts or the credibility.

I cannot improve on Jon Stewart’s perfect description: “At 11:00 am on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to the American people about race, as though they were adults”.


Notes:

  • Campaign site: Full text of speech

  • Chicago Tribune: The Obama I know: “Terrific listener goes wherever reason takes him”.  Outstanding editorial from one of Obama’s former colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School
  • Joe Irvin has insightful commentary about Obama and the voter around the speech
  • The discussion at Stupid Evil Bastard is, as always, not to be missed
  • Winston at Nobody Asked says;
    …He eloquently and effectively delivers with the same style as Dr. Martin Luther King, a passionate style that captivates an audience with deliberate, methodical rhythm and repetition. The effect is indeed powerful and convincing. Not all leaders have this ability, but all truly great leaders are masters of oratory. They use their talents to persuade and motivate people to dream, to hope, to achieve. Barack Obama is such a leader…

Categories: Politics

Faith healers, try to keep up…

March 20, 2008 1 comment

No horror movie could be more frightening than the real-life spectre behind Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).  At the charmingly-named “glass coffin” stage, the victim can think and feel pain, but cannot move or speak.  Death, coming slowly by fractions of an inch,  is by suffocation. It is not difficult to imagine what one’s thoughts might be, even if they cannot be spoken.

Now it may be possible to find out.  A Champaign, IL company has come up with a way to translate vocal nerve impulses into speech.  The device has a vocabulary of 150 words or phrases and will be ready by the end of the year. (Anyone tempted to dismiss academia as an impractical ‘ivory tower’ should reflect on the great engine of economic and scientific activity that is Champaign-Urbana, home of UIUC, by the way.)

Let’s see – we can make technology that reads books out loud for blind people, that operates bionic limbs by nerve impulses for amputees, hearing implants, artificial vision is in the works, and now speech for people who are totally paralyzed.  To say nothing of the prospect of curing ALS someday.  What’s that old saying; “Pray as if it were up to God but work as if it were up to you?”  One might even skip that first step, if one is so inclined.

Categories: Uncategorized