Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another Update on the Lakeshore Victim

This story from the Daily Northwestern:

Divers pulled a body out of Lake Michigan just north of the soccer and
field hockey fields on Northwestern's Evanston campus, officials said Friday.

A man kayaking observed a fully clothed body floating facedown in the lake, said
Samuel Hunter, division chief of training at Evanston Fire Department. The man
flagged down roller-bladers who called 911 at about 11 a.m.

The EFD dive team recovered the body of an Asian man about 50 to 100 yards off shore, Hunter said. The divers were in the lake for about eight minutes.

A university e-mail sent Saturday to the Evanston NU community identified the man as Hyuk Jin Choi, an NU chemistry graduate student from Dukyang Gu, South Korea. He had been a student at NU since fall 2004.

The water where the body was found was 8 feet deep with a temperature of about 59 degrees, Hunter said.

Hunter couldn't estimate how long the body was in the water, but based on observations, he said, "We don't think it was a long period of time."

Seven other suburban Chicago fire departments, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, sent divers to assist in the recovery, Hunter said. The response is standard procedure for such incidents.

Police are conducting a death investigation but had nothing to report as of Friday
afternoon, said Deputy Chief Joseph Bellino of the Evanston Police Department.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Grad Student Found Dead in Lake

It's a sad day at Northwestern. Here is the email I received from the University:
A Northwestern University graduate student was found dead in Lake Michigan at approximately 11 a.m. Friday. Hyuk Jin Choi, a graduate student in chemistry, was found in the lake by a person kayaking in the lake near Northwestern’s soccer field Friday. A cause of death has not yet been determined.

Choi was from Dukyang Gu, South Korea. He had been a student at Northwestern since fall 2004.

The University expresses its condolences and deepest sympathies to his family, fellow students and friends.

I certainly hope they find out what happens. If nothing else, I hope it was just an accident and no foul play was involved.

More info as it develops.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Body Found in Lake by NU

Well, this is disturbing:

Divers this morning were pulling a body out of Lake Michigan just off the Northwestern University campus in Evanston.

A call came in about 11 a.m. of a body in the lake off of the 2200 block of Campus Drive in Evanston, police said.

Northwestern University spokesman Alan Cubbage said university police responded and an Evanston Fire Department dive team went into the water to pull the body to shore.

"They're pulling it in right now," Cubbage said.

He said the operation was ongoing as of 11:30 a.m. and he had no information on the victim.

The Cook County medical examiner's office was notified of a fatality, but further details were not immediately available, an office spokesman said.

Evanston police were unavailable for comment.

More details as they are available.

This is the latest version of the story from the Chicago Tribune:
The body of a man was pulled from Lake Michigan this morning just off the Northwestern University campus in Evanston after a kayaker spotted it in about eight feet of water, officials said.

The kayaker was about 100 yards offshore near the 2200 block of North Campus Drive in the north suburb when he saw what appeared to be a body about 11 a.m., Evanston Fire Department Chief Samuel Hunter said.

"The water was relatively clear, and as he looked down he was able to see the body," Hunter said. The man signaled to two people who were in-line skating on the shoreline bicycle path, and they called 911, Hunter said.

A fire department dive team was called to the scene, and they pulled the body from the lake after being in the water only eight minutes, Hunter said. "We had a very good location on it," he said.

The body was that of an Asian man, possibly in his 30s, Hunter said. It appeared the body had been in the water "for quite some time," he said.

Hunter said the man was fully clothed and wearing shoes, and bore no obvious signs of trauma.

The Cook County medical examiner's office was notified of a fatality, but further details were not immediately available, an office spokesman said.

Evanston police Deputy Chief Joseph Bellino said the case was being handled as a death investigation. He had no immediate information on the victim's identity or whether he matched any recent missing person reports.

A New Level of Duh

Your tax dollars at work, folks:
Most states aren't doing enough to protect children from the diesel exhaust many of them inhale while riding or waiting for school buses, an environmental advocacy group said in a report Wednesday.

No state received an A grade in the Union of Concerned Scientists' National School Bus Report Card, although it noted that many are working to cut school bus emissions, which can contribute to asthma and other respiratory ailments.

"School buses can be a major source of pollution exposure for children," said Patricia Monahan, an analyst for the group.

If you've every actually been near a school bus, this is not news to you.
Several states are using alternative-fuel buses, replacing older buses with cleaner-burning models or retrofitting buses with devices that trap emissions. A considerably more low-tech method also can reduce children's exposure to bus pollution, especially as they wait in the parking lot for a ride home.

How about walking? Bus pollution goes way down that way.

Seriously though, if schools have enough money to spend on "alternative-fuel buses," then perhaps all this talk of "underfunded schools" is not quite what it seems.

It's true

Stupid Criminals

You've gotta love stupid criminals. They're an endless source of amusement.

Dumb: Robbing a convenience store. Dumber: Stealing only lottery tickets and snack cakes. Morons: Police follow trail of cake wrappers to the burglars apartment.

Dumb: Robbing a bank. Dumber: Bank is half a block from the police station. Stupid criminal: After receiving his money, robber sits down on bank couch and reads a magazine.

You can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Daily Disappointment

It's funny, really. I was just thinking today, "I haven't written about the Daily Northwestern in a long time. Did they stop being a bad newspaper? Well, not as bad, I guess. Or did I just stop paying attention?"

And then I chose to read today's paper. I'm still incensed by their choice of banal editorial columnists, such as today's offering by Mathias Muschal about whether it is worse to be killed by an octopus or to drown in lava.


In contrast, the statement from the editors today was regarding their corrections policy, and it's always good to see newspapers seeking to improve their product. Unfortunately, I still see a larger problem in an editorial policy that is both ambiguous and inconsistent.

So, the verdict at the end of the day is that the paper still needs help. Thankfully, the academic year is almost over. Maybe, come September, the paper will have cleaned up its act some.

Today's Required Reading

Quiet down, class. You assignment for today involves three articles, or "blog posts," which are highly informative.

First, from BigLizards:

The Lords of the District are offended that they may actually be required to suffer under the very laws they enacted for the peĆ³ns. How crass and vulgar! The "larger separation of powers principle" evidently also takes precedence over the people's business -- bills on immigration, confirmation of judges and the Director of the CIA, the war, taxes, energy exploration, and every other piece o'legislation that was let hang fire while Congress roared about laws that were a bit too universal.

The American people don't understand that. But even if you explained it to them, which do you think would concern them more: that Congressmen got their knickers in a twist over being searched (with a search warrant)? Or that Congressmen were taking massive bribes to conspire against the general welfare?

Next, from LaShawn Barber:

I’m just going to say this straight with no equivocation: The stripper who claimed she was raped by three white Duke lacrosse players lied. She had sex that day alright, but not with the three indicted white Duke lacrosse players. How do I know? Call it a hunch…based on mounting and overwhelming evidence that pokes humvee-size holes in her story and contradicts her claim to a stupefyingly obvious degree. No toxicology report yet, but if one exists, I bet I could guess the contents with amazing accuracy.

Next, from Michelle Malkin:

Like the amnesty bill of 1986, the current Senate proposal would place those who have resided illegally in the United States on a path to citizenship, provided they meet a similar set of conditions and pay a fine and back taxes. The illegal immigrant does not go to the back of the line but gets immediate legalized status, while law-abiding applicants wait in their home countries for years to even get here. And that's the line that counts. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and today's bill are both amnesties.

For further details see Hugh Hewitt, Wizbang!, and Freeman Hunt.

Finally, from Captain's Quarters:

Don't say we didn't sound the alarm early on pork-barrel politics and their destructive potential to GOP midterm hopes. The Washington Post has an article that shows how victims of Hurricane Katrina remain homeless while the Republicans in the Senate pork up the emergency relief bill with hundreds of millions of dollars for their corporate pals . . .

Class dismissed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

BigLizards on Guest-Workers

Dafyyd ab Hugh at the BigLizards blog has been an invaluable resource during the immigration debate, offering thoughtful arguments as things have progressed.

This recent post about the Guest Workers is quite interesting. Definitely worth a read.

Jesus taught what?

Sometimes you wonder where they get it from. As info on a speech by Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi, there is discussion of the views of Osho Rajneesh:
However, another Indian guru, Osho Rajneesh, who became famous in the 1970s and 80s for his fleet of Rolls Royces and huge ranch in Oregon, felt no need to be secretive. He persistently communicated his view that Jesus taught sacred sex as the path to Super-consciousness (becoming divine).

Oh really? I don't remember seeing that. Which version of the Bible is he reading?

Hat tip: Dr. Al Mohler

Workplace Blogging and other matters

My weekend silence was due to yet another trip back to the homeland, also known as St. Louis. I spent the weekend showing Ben, a Swiss undergrad, around town. It's really hard to see everything in a day and a half, but I'd like to think we saw some of the highlights: the Gateway Arch, The Science-Center/Planetarium, The Anhauser-Busch Brewery, Forest Park, and the Art Museum. A good time was had by all. Of course, the offer is open to any of my friends, international or otherwise, who would like to see St. Louis from somebody who knows the area (well, more or less).

I would recommend, if you know any international travellers, to show them the highlights of a city or area you know. Do your part for international relations!

In other news, you might see some increased "workplace" blogging from me this week. Sadly, my projects are stalled behind broken equipment, back-ordered reagents, and unresponsive Korean professors. I'm in the lab, hoping I eventually find something to do, but in the meantime I might just post a bit.

Unless you're Tom, in which case I never post from the lab and I'm always hard at work.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Islamic Theology vs. Culture

I begin this post with a caveat: I don't know very much about Islamic theology. The ideas I'm going to be working with here are sourced from a book on Christian theology. The author, Thomas Oden, only brought the concepts up so as to compare the Biblican theology against the Islamic theology, but that doesn't mean he stated things correctly. I'd be curious to hear a Muslim's perspective on it. But in the meantime, I'll go with what I have. That being said . . .

I was reading the other day about God's providence. Specifically, it was about the dichotomy between good and evil events that take place in the world, and the various scenarios that are proposed for them. If there is good, why is there evil? Does God cause evil, or allow it? Either way, why?

In the course of this, Oden compared the Christian God to Allah. Whereas God is the author of good but allows evil to occur that good may come of it, Allah is the author of all events both good and evil. (This is, of course, a simplification, even from what he wrote, but concise nonetheless.)

This brought me to a few thoughts, one being, if Allah is the author of all events, is man responsible for his sin? In Islamic theology, if God causes all events, does he cause human sin? If so, is he still responsible for his sin? It would be a cruel God who caused men to sin yet still held them accountable for their sins.

The other thought was, if Allah does cause both good and evil, can he be classified as good? Islam rejects the idea of a loving god. Is their god good? If he causes evil, I don't see how he can be called good. At best, he is simply neutral, and mankind must hope to fall within his good whims. But if you can't worship Allah because he is good, then that leaves worshipping him only because he is powerful. Rather than, "I worship you because you are good," it is, "I worship you because you have the power to send me to hell." Does Islam amount to power worship?

The title of the post comes in here: Thinking about Islamic cultures around the world, I wonder if they reflect my above analysis of their theology. Worship of power . . . do Islamic societies reflect such a theology? It seems to be so upon first thought, but it is perhaps too simple of an analysis.

Once again, a muslim's thoughts on this would be interesting. But mine are interesting thoughts all the same.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Return of the King!

I'm back, baby!

Not that I left. Well, sort of. But I'm back to blogging! Why the extended hiatus, you ask?

Well, I bought this game. It's freakin' awesome. Also, it looks freakin' awesome. My roommate has a 38" HDTV sitting in our living room. Compared to my 15" LCD monitor, well . . . it's not that I don't love my blog. I do.

It's just that I can't love my blog at 1080i, 1920x1080 resolution. I'm sorry . . . them's the breaks.

In any case, I have a lot of catching up to do. So . . . um . . . I'll come up with something witty and clever for you to read.

Not now. Later.

G4 on Porn

I was watching G4's show "Attack of the Show" tonight, and it turned out that they had a segment about porn. The show's hosts weren't really interested in addressing the ethics of porn; they were already decided on that. But they did discuss with a pornographer and a porn star whether porn had gone mainstream, and what they thought of this.

Of course, based on who they were asking, they were going to get one-dimensional answers. "Why do they hate us, blah blah blah." The pornographer had a more interesting answer, though. I taped the show, so I might provide a transcript at some point. The question was vague, so I couldn't tell if he was asked whether porn was good or bad, or whether it was good or bad that porn had gone mainstream. Either way, his answer was to avoid the question completely and talk about market forces, supply and demand, etc.

Interesting. While the supply and demand make perfect sense (and should cast shame on a nation that largely professes to be Christian), I find it more interesting that the pornographer couldn't bring himself to say that porn was good. I could leap to my own conclusions about the meaning of it, but even open-ended it says something.

Of course, everyone, guests and hosts alike, had to make the usual platitudes about porn being only for adults and not for children/minors (though I wonder how they feel about teens getting their hands on it). I'd like to hear/read someone of that mindset explain why porn is bad for children.

Of course, if you're interested in my opinion (and I know you are), feel free to read the paper I wrote for my ethics course on pornography.

New Smoking Ban

This is not a good year to be a smoker. Recently, both Evanston and Chicago enacted bans on smoking in restaurants and bars. Now, it appears that state law has banned smoking in college dorms.

Hmm . . . my instant analysis (instanalysis?):

No potential fires in the dorms. There's always some irresponsible moron who's this close to burning the entire building to the ground.

No more dorm rooms that smell like an ash tray. If you're a non-smoker, moving into these rooms is a punishment.

Now that they can't smoke in their rooms, they're going to smoke out by the doors. This results in "the cloud" hanging by the doors when you want to enter and leave. Very gross. Additionally, while they would clean it up in their rooms, most smokers, while outdoors, tend to flick their butts in any old direction. While I haven't seen as much of this at Northwestern, ISU's campus was disgusting by the doors and along sidewalks due to the insane number of butts.

Savvy students will still smoke in their rooms. While most universities place smoke detectors in every student's room (at least, in those places with smoking bans already), most dedicated smokers know a creative way or two around that. This is especially true of those who prefer illicit smokeables.

Overall? While I support the idea in general, we have Mommy Blagojevich stepping in to keep us safe from ourselves. It really should have been left to each school to decide this for itself, especially since most schools offer separate smoking/smoke-free dorms. But from him, I wouldn't have expected any different.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Staring Evil in the Face

I break my blog silence of late to share a chilling tale with you. I warn you, this story is graphic.

Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi journalist, was recently killed along with her camera man and sound man. Her crew were shot in the head. She, unfortunately, suffered a much worse fate:
We now know that it was not that swift for Bahjat. First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point — it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.

By the time filming begins, the condemned woman has been blindfolded with a white bandage. It is stained with blood that trickles from a wound on the left side of her head. She is moaning, although whether from the pain of what has already been done to her or from the fear of what is about to be inflicted is unclear.

. . .

A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat
from the middle, slicing from side to side.

Her cries — “Ah, ah, ah” — can be heard above the “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.

Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.

Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.

The voice of one of the Arab world’s most highly regarded and outspoken journalists has been silenced. She was 30.

According to the Mudville Gazette, her body was found with drill holes in her arms, stomach, and eyes, although it is unclear whether or not this happened before or after she died.

I realize that there are "sociopaths" in every society; people who fit the very definition of evil, taking perverse pleasure in causing suffering in others.

This goes far deeper than that. The conflict in Iraq seems to have brought these people out of the woodwork. From the slightly less macabre bombings of innocent people to the grotesque televised beheadings, we are confronted with people who have treated evil as if it were a legitimate political mouthpiece. These are not isolated incidents, either.

I share this story to make this point: In order to understand the stakes, we need to see clearly just who we are dealing with in this conflict. To those who wish we were never in Iraq, or want us to just leave right now . . . would you hand that nation over to such monsters? Does anybody deserve that?

Related Material: Ace on the Jihad against America . . . in 1786.

Well, it seems that, though Atwar Bahjat was killed, the video that supposedly depicts her death does not, in fact, depict her death. It's someone else.

I don't think this changes my original point, but it's worth noting.