Friday, October 27, 2006

On Quiet and Blogging

This has been a busy week, so the blogging has been light. Unfortunately, it will continue to be light over the weekend and the coming week due to my class schedule ramping up in difficulty.

On the bright side, by neglecting my blog I've been doing fabulously in my classes. Eh, I was never going to be a top-dog in the blogosphere anyhow.

Sporadic blogging in the near future. Regular schedule . . . eventually.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Happy Mole Day!

I nearly forgot! October 23 is Mole Day!

Go celebrate by experimenting with your favorite chemist.

Location, Location, Location

Sometimes, there are just no words sufficient to describe how horrible a crime is. Or how stupid the criminal is. Or a combination thereof. Consider the following:
A 44-year-old Saginaw man remains jailed today on charges of bestiality after he was seen engaged in sexual acts with a dead dog, Michigan State Police troopers said.

The man was arrested after police searched the area of Midland and Carter roads Friday for a man who ran away from a Bay County Animal Control officer. The entire incident was within view of a nearby day care center.

Troopers said a woman from the day care center called for animal control because there was a dead dog near the property which had been hit by a car several days earlier.

Before officers could arrive, the man showed up and began engaging in sexual acts with the dog, police said. The animal control officers also reported seeing the man involved in the sex act and as he approached the man, the man shoved him away and ran off.

Hat tip: Ace

Israeli Ambassador Attacked in Ireland

Well, his car was attacked, at least.

I never heard about this in the news, but it's utterly ridiculous. I'm a person who's made up his mind on most issues, but I can't help but wonder how people who are undecided think about such matters.

I've read a lot of stories by people who had one political opinion and subsequently changed it after seeing the behavior and attitudes of the people on their side. If you're generally pro-Palestinian, what goes through your mind when the people on "your side" attack ambassadors and protest outside synagogues? When you're against immigration enforcement and reform, what do you think when "your side" assaults speakers and prevents them from giving their speeches?

I realize it's foolish to characterize any political movement by the looney toons at the edge of spectrum, but they're certainly the most visible, and they certainly bring your, um, perspective into the highest focus. Even if that is in a caricaturized format.

Obama "open" to a Presidential bid

If you haven't heard it in the news, Barack Obama has been telling the media, in between the warm cocoa butter massages, that he's open to the possibility of a Presidential bid.

The conventional wisdom is that he's so popular now, so why not take advantage of it and just run for President.

I hear more from the arguments that Senators haven't made popular Presidential material in the last several decades because they have little to no executive experience. Still, I'm more convinced that he's too politically undeveloped to consider a Presidential bid. He's two years into his first term in the Senate. I won't discount that he was qualified to be a Senator, but also recall that his competition for the position was Alan Keyes.

Anyhow, most of the coverage the blogs are giving to this is divided between expressing why that would be a bad idea and lamenting the loving tongue baths the media seems to be stroking his ego with. Myself, I'm wondering whether or not the public at large would go for electing a political neophyte to office.

And of course, the requisite questions arise: Do they like him because he's black? Would he be elected just because he was black?

Things that don't need to be "pimped"

File this under "stupid."

The creator of this is one of two things: A diabolical genius, or an evil, evil person trying to drag our civilization past rock bottom.

Maybe I should buy some stock.

Theater or Theatre?

Posting was light over the weekend because I travelled up to Chicago to visit my friend Jen. The occasion was a short play she wrote being featured in the Stockyards 7th Annual Women's Performance Art Festival.

Her play was great; it was funny, creative, and poignant. Most of the other acts . . . well, they're trying. Good for them.

Some of the acts were interpretive dance. I'm not a big fan of this style of "performance art," and I've had some bad experiences sitting through it in the past. Thankfully there were other genres to break up the silliness.

Will be back to a regular posting schedule this week. Whatever "regular" is for this blog, at least.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Impeachment and Power

Captain Ed discusses some of the potential happenings that may occur should Democrats take back the House, including a look at who might become the new Speaker. This has left me to wonder.

If Democrats recapture the House, there is talk that they would begin impeachment proceedings against both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Never mind whether or not such proceedings would go anywhere. If the proceedings were to succeed, then the next President would be the new Speaker of the House.

Could all of this just be a naked power-grab by the Democrats? I hate to sound cynical, but I wouldn't just brush it off. Considering the way they enjoy circumventing the will of the people by having the judiciary act almost as a super-legislature, I would put it in the realm of possibility.

Regardless, there is a lot is riding on this coming election.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Political Gold

This guy, Tim Nieukirk, is a write-in candidate for IL Governor.

He'll get few votes, but this is pure comedy.

Dean reaches out to conservatives

Not really. Still, as far as satire pieces go, Iowahawk did a good job with this one.
That's why we would like to take this opportunity to start a dialog with you, the conservative "values voter," by addressing an issue of vital importance to all of us -- the growing Republican homo menace.
Heh. Funny.

(Hat tip: Ace)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

British student arrested for "racism"

Read the article. This entire story is stupid.

A girl was placed in a science class discussion group with students who were not speaking english. She asked to be put in another group so that she could actually figure out what was going on, and the teacher had a conniption. A week later, due to the teacher's complaint, the girl is arrested for racism.

There are so many elements here to lay blame on I don't even know where to begin. The school? The teacher? The police? The laws?

The bottom line is that things are looking bad in Britain. If this were an isolated incident I'd brush it off, but stories like this are coming out of the UK at ever increasing rates. Britain may be one of the first societies to self-implode due to insanity.

Activist Outs Gay Republican

Mike Rogers, a "gay liberal activist," apparently followed through with his threat to out gay republicans if they didn't do so themselves.

I suppose the philosophy there is that you can't be homosexual and a republican. Even if Rogers is lying, this kind of thing could ruin that politician's life and career.

Democrats and liberals . . . is this really an acceptable strategy?

(Hat tip: Ace)

Join the Army, Burn Marijuana Forests

Crazy, crazy story.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian troops fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan have stumbled across an unexpected and potent enemy -- almost impenetrable forests of 10-feet (three metre) high marijuana plants.

General Rick Hillier, chief of the Canadian defence staff, said on Thursday that Taliban fighters were using the forests as cover. In response, the crew of at least one armored car had camouflaged their vehicle with marijuana.

"The challenge is that marijuana plants absorb energy, heat very readily. It's very difficult to penetrate with thermal devices ... and as a result you really have to be careful that the Taliban don't dodge in and out of those marijuana forests," he said in a speech in Ottawa.

"We tried burning them with white phosphorous -- it didn't work. We tried burning them with diesel -- it didn't work. The plants are so full of water right now ... that we simply couldn't burn them," he said.

Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

"A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action," Hiller said dryly.

Those crazy Afghans and their drugs.

Terran Wobbles Causing Evolution

Well, actually the wobbles cause climate variations, which in turn spur evolution and extinction. According to the researcher, who specifically points out this cycle is on the order of millions of years but notes that other cycles can occur on smaller time scales.

They also give voice to a critic, who says that the sample size of species is too small to draw this conclusion, and that any noticed pattern is just a coincidence, noise in the data.

Which is exactly why I'm often skeptical of this variety of research. Interesting, yes, and you can draw reasonable conclusions. However, this isn't the kind of research where you can run multiple trials and verify your data. You're looking at historical aspects and data derived from biology/geology/astronomy etc. records. The questions there are usually focused on how you obtained the data and whether or not you're interpretting it correctly.

The only reason I keep skepticism of the research is that with such a limited sample set (we only have one Earth, after all), it's hard to determine whether or not someone is interpretting the data properly.

Oh well. I'm a biochemist. What would I know about orbital cycling and its effect on the climate and speciation?

Piercing Causes Pain

Say it ain't so!

Actually, I think tongue piercings are probably the stupidest piercing. Well, second stupidest. There are certainly more sensitive areas where I don't think I want to break any skin.

Let this article be a bit of advice for those who think nature intended for you to shove metal rods through your tender bits.

Clarity

I find the discussion, as it has taken place below, interesting. But I've been thinking, and I believe we might be chasing around in circles. I thought I'd open this up with a new thread (new threads = more traffic) with a question that I think might bring clarity to this discussion:

Why is it wrong to harm other people?

You could ask when, as well, but we'll stick to this for now. Have fun.

Update
Bumped to the top, because I want to see what everyone has to say.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tug of War: North Korea

Captain Ed discusses an Australian article in this post about how the Chinese government may be considering regime change in North Korea. It doesn't seem to be that China would go through military action to do this, but they have high enough stakes in preventing the sudden collapse of North Korea that it must be at least one of their considered options in stabilizing North Korea.

Not to bring back Cold War containment strategies, but I can't imagine that military action against North Korea isn't being considered by the administration. The current regime in North Korea was, until recently, crazy but mostly toothless. If it becomes a Chinese puppet, the South Koreans might find themselves rather uneasy, and understandably; it was the Chinese who helped the North Koreans in the original war.

Would the US go to war with North Korea? Not without the approval of the Chinese, and I doubt they'd let the US expand its hegemony in the region so easily. Japan already gives them cause for concern; another western foothold in the area might be more than they could bear.

Would the US go to war with China over North Korea? It's a possibility, though I'm hesitant to guess how much of one. With troops invested in Iraq, the military is going to be less interested in starting a full war elsewhere in the world, especially one as taxing as a war with China would be. Could the US win a war against China? Again, with troops in Iraq, it would be a much harder endeavor. We already have a military presence in South Korea, but not nearly enough to fight the full might of China. I hate to say it, but I imagine the only way to quickly and easily win a war against China would be the use of nuclear weapons, and I don't think anyone wants to open that Pandora's Box.

I ask whether or not the US would fight, but I imagine that South Korea would be a bigger instigator in this. I imagine their government having more to say about China taking over North Korea than the US would, but if South Korea went to war with China, we would be dragged into the fight almost immediately.

So, if it comes to it, does North Korea have the strategic significance that the US would fight China for it? Maybe. I can't say either way. I suppose we wait with baited breath to see what happens over the next several months.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Adventures in Teaching: The Interweb

One of the interesting things about being a TA is that I'm a teacher, but my students are nearly the same age as I am. This has the potential to lead to interesting situations. If it weren't for the title, you might think this was a story about students trying to romantically entice their teacher. No, this is far more amusing.

You see, I tried searching some of my students out on Facebook. Facebook pages have privacy settings where you can allow only your friends to view your page, preventing the public at large from getting a glimpse. Some of my students did not think to do this. What I found on their pages was . . . interesting. Here are some relevant screen-captures (click for full size):









The names and faces were blurred out for their protection. The net is full of weirdos, after all.

Here's some helpful advice girls: Be careful what you put on the internet. You never know who might end up reading it, such as somebody who grades all of your papers.

And to the rest of you students out there: If you're going to slam your teachers on the internet, you'd better be absolutely certain your teachers will never see it.

Muslim Scholars Respond to Pope

I thought this was interesting. Apparently, 38 Muslim scholars responded to Pope Benedict's calls for a reasoned dialogue by publishing a letter in Islamica Magazine.

Unfortunately, they only have a graphical version of the letter, no text. Still, it's a lengthy piece of work. If I get the time to read it in its entirety, I might share some of my thoughts on it.

North Korea vs. Iraq

Steve asked below about the difference between the government’s approach to foreign policy between North Korea and Iraq, and it’s a big enough question that I thought the response merited its own post. I’m by no means a policy expert, and smarter men than me have written about the subject. So, take this post in an “as I understand it” light.

First, let me say that if there were any country I would support military action against, North Korea would be the first. Kim Jong Il’s regime is horribly brutal. His policies have led to international isolation, starvation for his people, and government sponsored international crime. All aid, whether food or financial, only props up his regime. There is documented evidence of gulags in his country the likes of which we haven’t seen since Nazi Germany. If there are any people that need to be rescued from a sociopathic leader, it’s the North Koreans. For the curious, the Chosun Journal is a good resource on North Korean human rights.

That being said, the Bush administration chose a path of military action against Iraq and not North Korea. I’ve been asked to justify this. Here is how I understand it:

Terrorism
Iraq was a known financial backer of terrorism, both regionally and into parts beyond. There’s some evidence of a relationship with Al Qaeda, although there are disputes over how significant or developed that relationship was. Still, after 9/11, the issue of state (sponsored) terrorism, especially in the Middle East, was something the administration was not going to be ignoring anymore.

North Korea, on the other hand, has no ties that I’m aware of to any terrorist organizations. There have been some issues between Japan and North Korea on the issue of kidnapped citizens, but that is in a different ballpark.

Sanctions
North Korea had no economic sanctions on it that I’m aware of (until very recently). Most of their economic hardships relate to Kim Jong Il’s disastrous economic policies.

Iraq
was still under sanctions from the first Gulf War . . . sort of. Oil for Food was a joke. So many parties to it were corrupt, using it to get rich, while too little food and medical supplies made it to the Iraqi people. The sanctions were not well enforced, and the way the winds were blowing, it seemed that the UN would be lifting those sanctions by now if Saddam had not been displaced.

This is especially significant because Iraq is an oil producing nation while North Korea is not. That oil gave Saddam a lot of economic and strategic leverage that made him dangerous, all the more so if those sanctions had fallen.

WMD
This is the specific point of contention amongst most people when it comes to arguments about military action in Iraq instead of North Korea. “They both had WMDs!” or so the argument goes. What is the difference, then?

Saddam’s program for weapons of mass destruction was probably more advanced than Kim Jong Il’s when the War in Iraq began. We have been slowly finding stockpiles of chemical weapons, though the evidence indicates that what was in Iraq may have been removed before the war for safekeeping. Some of the more dangerous programs were set to restart at full speed as soon as the sanctions were lifted.

Saddam’s weapons program was a big threat because of his relationship to the terrorist networks. It’s unlikely Saddam would ever have been allowed to build missiles that could target the US, but that was never the concern. The bigger concern was Saddam passing off a chemical or biological weapon to a terrorist group. If I remember correctly, Saddam was the main suspect for the mail-borne anthrax attacks in the months following 9/11.

North Korea
’s nuclear program is a great concern, no doubt about it. We’re still uncertain whether or not the recent test was a nuclear weapon. There is some radiation detected, but I’m not sure if they can link it to the underground explosion or not. The size of the explosion indicates that it was either a fake nuke (a trick North Korea has pulled before) or a mistimed implosion trigger. If it was a successful test, then the bomb was so small as to be comparable to only conventional explosives.

North Korea has been working on ICBMs, but there is no indication of success there. While not a direct threat to America (yet), regional allies and interests are within the threat range, so the North Korean weapons program is a concern.

However, the lack of any relationship to terrorist networks (so far) makes the threat level smaller. We can only hope that Kim Jong Il isn’t so suicidally crazy that he would drop a nuke on Japan or South Korea and expect to survive the retaliation.

Ultimately, I would call the North Korean weapons program an attempt to prop up the current regime. In the future, Kim Jong Il may try to sell any weapons to terrorists in order to make money for his destitute country. It is most likely also an attempt to dissuade military action against his country. South Korea would think twice before warring with the North if there were nuclear weapons pointing at Seoul. For the time being, however, Kim Jong Il will most likely continue to use the program as he has in the past: As a blackmail-like bargaining chip to get the world to offer him aid in the form of money and food. It’s only been the recent developments which make the reality of a North Korean nuclear weapon seem closer to reality.

Regional Issues
This is where I think the major difference lies in the Bush administration’s approach to policy between Iraq and North Korea.

The US had a lot to gain from Saddam’s fall from power. If Iraq manages to survive, the presence of a(nother) stable democracy in the Middle East will prove invaluable to American interests in the region. With the recent prominence of Islamic terror, the removal of someone with ties to the networks and access to deadly weapons was very fortuitous.

The involvement of Iraq’s neighbors is also a factor. Iran and Iraq have always had tension between them. Syria and Saudi Arabia are not what you would call “US allies.” Jordan, while a US ally, was probably not in a position to offer a lot of support to US policies in the region. Turkey, while also a US ally, was always more interested in the activities of the Iraqi Kurds than Saddam himself.

All of this makes for a major distinction with North Korea. The US already has some staunch, and militarily significant, allies in the region in Japan and South Korea. These two nations have great interest in North Korea’s actions, given their respective relationships. China, while only an ally in the sense of being an economic partner, also has a strong interest in North Korea’s actions. It is the main backer to Kim Jong Il’s regime, and is probably not content to give him free reign in the region. If Kim Jong Il were to provoke war, China would undoubtedly be affected, and may even be drug into it, something I’m sure China doesn’t desire. This is the main reason why the multi-party talks are much more important than bilateral negotiations; the other nations have high stakes in the outcome.

While I’m sure a unified Korea, led by Seoul, would be strategically important to the US, the presence of strong allies in the region decreases the significance of North Korea. Until North Korean threats become more tangible to the US, I suspect that military action won’t be on the agenda. Not unless other factors, such as strikes against allies or the development of terror relationships, come into play.

I’m open to alternative explanations and interpretations of US actions in this area, but this is my best understanding of the situation.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fedspending.org Factoids

Ed Morrisey, of Captain's Quarters, was given early access to the FedSpending.org website, an interactive database of federal grants and contracts. A few weeks ago, he wasn't able to reveal any of the nuggets of information he had gleaned from it, but now that the site has gone public, he can reveal what he knew.

Over at his site, he has the answers to a teaser "quiz" he wrote from the early access. Interesting stuff. It's worth reading.

Friday, October 13, 2006

British Airways punishes employee

Her crime? Wearing a cross to work. Their claim: No visible jewelry. Her claim: Religious discrimination. Why? Muslims and Sikhs can wear visible signs of their faith, such as the veil, the turban, and the Sikh bangle.

Arguably, those religions are obligated to wear such adornment (although the veil is debateable in Islam), while crosses are optional in Christianity. Still, her argument has some merit. A turban is okay but a necklace isn't?

Britain has had issues with this kind of issue lately, and the natives seem to be getting fed up with policies that favor Islam and other religions over Christianity.

pWii-ordered!

It's official: I'm now the proud (semi)owner of a Nintendo Wii. Custody begins Nov. 19th. Excellent.

Also, apologies for the delay in posting lately. Part of the delay? We've a new cat in the family, so part of my time has been spent trying to acclimate it to its new surroundings.

Check it out:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

North Korean Humor

I don't have anything to say about North Korea setting off what may or may not be nuclear weapons that you probably haven't already heard in the last few days. So, let's take this opportunity to find humor in all of it. First, this political ad. I'd link the YouTube video, but it seems people don't like the video so it's being flagged.

Next, this comic from Least I Could Do:

BlogRolling Down?

BlogRolling, the site that manages my list of links on the side bar, seems to be experiencing some technical difficulties. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it looks like my BlogRoll will be down for an undetermined period of time.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Are Men of Science Scientific?

As I said, I'm going to be getting some blog-material out of these Bertrand Russell essays I'm reading right now. The first one I looked at was titled same as this blog post. Russell was writing about how men of science all too often have their own prejudices which get in the way of the supposedly objective stance that they ought to have.

His example was with the differences between men and women. Scientists thought that men were superior in terms of their brains. When it was found that male brains weighed more than female brains, this was considered their proof. When the argument turned around that elephant brains weigh more than human brains (in other words, so what?), they then argued that it was the ratio of brain weight to body weight . . . except this favored women. And so came more rationalizations, etc.

Society has a much different temperament these days (Russell wrote this particular essay in 1932), but here's the money quote:
But the alliance between politicians and pseudo-scientists is so strong that it will take a long time before such facts become commonly known. The general public cannot tell which among scientists is to be trusted and will therefore be wise to be very sceptical whenever they hear a man of science giving a confident opinion about a matter on which he has strong prejudices. Men of science are not supermen and are as liable to error as the rest of us.
It's a bit of general advice worth bearing in mind; that PhD next to your name doesn't shield you from uncritical thinking. I included the first sentence along with the quote because, whatever the issues where that he was writing about then, I'd say the relationship between scientific advocacy groups and politicians of any persuasion has become ever more complicated.
Think global warming. You have scientists on both sides of that divide spouting different facts and announcing either the salvation or doom of mankind. The truth of the matter may not emerge until this topic leaves the realm of politics.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Coming Soon

Picked up a few books at the library today. The first was The Satanic Verses, the book that earned Salman Rushdie a fatwah in Iran. I've been wanting to figure out for a while now what all the fuss was about, so today seemed as good a time as any.

The second was a collection of essays by Bertrand Russell. It was on the same shelf, so it picqued my interest. It should make for some interesting blog material. What I really find neat is that the essay was akin to the modern blog post. Short vignettes on some topic or another. I look forward to writing about it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Art Comes From Life

The ultimate in science geek art: Artwork of your sequenced DNA.

You submit them a sample. They sequence your DNA and turn it into art on a canvas. They'll also do your fingerprints.

Possibly best to avoid this if you're a criminal. Just throwing that out there.

Incidentally, Christmas is right around the corner *hint hint*.

Voter Fraud in MO?

Apparently, a GOTV and voter registration group in Missouri was actively campaigning for Democratic US Senate candidate Claire McCaskill.

In a bit of irony, they were also actively campaigning on a raise in minimum wage in Missouri. It's ironic because this emerged after the group in question started stiffing its workers on their minimum wage pay.

Nothing brings out political shenanigans like an election cycle.

Hat tip: Gateway Pundit

Bad Turn-Downs

Most of these are the standard type of turn-downs, of the "you're too good for me" variety. Others move towards the "better" excuses, in that they're particularly lame. The best?
"She told me she had to go buy the donuts for her Singles with STDs group. Point taken."
Ouch. Although I suppose I would rather hear a break-up/turn-down line where they make it sound like you're better off without them, rather than the other way around.

Still . . . ouch.

On Religion, Morality, and Government

One of our pastors today preached on Christians and civil law in Romans 13, which is always an interesting if controversial topic. However, the topic started me thinking.

Can a non-religious person act morally? Certainly. Can a religious person act immorally? Again, without a doubt. What, then, is significantly different? I would argue that a religious (i.e. Christian) person is less likely to act immorally. What does government have to do with this?

I think a good example might be the difference between western democracies and communist governments. All the communist governments I can think of work very hard to stamp out religion, or at least keep it hard-pressed under the government's thumb. This results in a society, or at least a government, that is mostly non-religious. The end result? Well, communist governments tend to be hopelessly corrupt, ruthlessly brutal, and ceaselessly paranoid. Is this a consequence of being non-religious or just communist? I suppose it's hard to say, given that the latter is always accompanied by the former.

This isn't to discount corruption in western democracies. There's a degree of corruption in every government, no question. I'd wager that communist governments end up being more corrupt than religiously neutral western democracies.

Not that that's a good argument for religion. I wouldn't find it convincing that the religious are 37% less corrupt than the non-religious (just making up numbers here). If you think about the philosphy, though, there's at least something worth grabbing onto here.

Plato wrote about a farmer who finds a ring that grants the wearer invisibility. With said invisibility, the farmer could commit any misdeed without fear of repurcussion. He could even, if he were clever enough, dethrone the king and set himself up as ruler. Plato wondered what it was that might prevent a man in such a position from acting out on the darker desires of human nature.

I think the religious person, thus, has the advantage there in that there is a moral system instituting a level of control in their life. Fail-proof, no, but it is there nonetheless to deter the religious man from doing whatever he can get away with. What deters the non-religious man from doing whatever he can get away with?

That's it. I'm just thinking out loud, so to speak.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

On Fundamentalism at Columbia

When Ace wrote about the brouhaha at Columbia the other day, he wrote something I found rather insightful:
Not all fundamentalism is religious in nature. The impulse to violence, driven by mannichean certainty, is present in many folks. Those who reject conventional religion still may have that primal urge to smite their diabolic foes. The urge is still there; it simply manifests itself through a non-religious (or actually a quasi-religious) belief system.
Cheers.

News Flood - Micellaneous

Given my lack of blogging lately, a number of news stories have piled up that I wanted to at least mention. So, I'll be doing a series of posts that are, for lack of a better term, a news dump. (Similar to a "data dump," that portion of a movie or TV show where the viewer is given a large amount of background information all at once)

This post is news that is just weird and goofy, or didn't fit into the other categories I selected. Enjoy!

Viewing God as male leads to domestic abuse
Of course, I don't expect anything different from the Episcopal Church, but it's still bizarre. The reasoning is poor at best, and it's just another symptom of a sickness in the church. Dr. Mohler wrote about it once. The essence was that liberal theologians were trying to break new ground by challenging core tenets and aspects of Christian theology, declaring that they were unsuitable as parts of Christian orthodoxy. However, it eventually progressed to the point where there was nothing left; with nothing left to challenge, there is nothing on which to base a faith. A church full of John Shelby Spongs . . . not a pretty picture.

Harvard committee recommends returning religion to curriculum

This I find interesting. Harvard did begin as a seminary, so I suppose it's only fitting. Still, knowing how many of the academics at Harvard feel about religion, I can only wonder what kind of classes will emerge from this kind of policy.

Moron recovering from 2-story escape
This is a hilarious story, once again highlighting how combining drugs with practical jokes means college students will always have great stories to share.

Hemmorhoid cream not for the face, according to makers
I didn't realize this was something they actually had a problem with. Thanks for the tip.

Teens learn hard way that nude beach has been overrun with perverts
Ah, Australia. I suppose one would expect perverts at a nude beach, but this seems out of control. Highlights: Girls are offered money for oral sex; upon fleeing, they encounter a man masturbating in the bushes; when they return to their car, a couple is copulating on it.

Youth asking for salary is stripped, paraded
Amazingly enough, he's not a grad student.

Slang of the 1920s
Well, this is just the bee's knees.

Prince offers strippers money to quit their jobs

Sounds like the guy is a feminist, really. I'm impressed.

Coolest. Teacher. Ever.
Unless you're against eating children. Then you might not like him.

Basement Arcade
This is the ultimate DIY home project. This guy transformed his basement into an 80s style arcade, including ambient music and sound effects piped in through speakers.

The pictures are amazing. I wish I could do it myself.

Friday, October 06, 2006

News Flood - Science

Why Do Humans Kiss?
I don't know exactly, but get me in on those controlled studies. Aw yeah.

Nobel Prizes
Nobel Prizes in my areas of interest, for: RNAi gene silencing and crystal structures of RNA polymerase-II in action.

IgNobel Prizes

Honoring the more, um, esoteric contributions to science, the IgNobels this year honored such projects as determining why woodpeckers don't get headaches and discovering that the best way to treat the hiccups is with a finger up the rectum.

Consequently, I will not be getting hiccups again. Ever.

Northwestern Lab Explosion
Apparently there was an explosion in one of the labs at Northwestern. Two were injured, but not seriously.

I miss all the fun stuff.

Quantum information teleported from light to matter
Hmm . . . quantum data transfer . . .
"Johnson, did you fax me that report?" "I both did and did not fax you the report, sir. We won't know one way or the other until you check the machine."

Weird.

Scientists to make human-rabbit hybrid
Showing that some people have no qualms about playing God, some scientists are set to fuse animal cells to rabbit eggs to get 99.9% human . . . er, embryos. Not sure what specie it will actually be.

Supposedly this is about stem cell breakthroughs. They don't really specify what this will teach them, but hey, anything for science, right?

News Flood - Speech

Schools punishing kids for what they say online
I understand the positions of the schools. Like so many other youthful squabbles, this kind of thing can spill into the halls, even if it originated outside the building. It's good to put a stop to it while you can.

Still, the admins had best keep a tight grasp on it. If it really does violate freedom of speech, such as punishing controversial religious/political views for being "disruptive to class," then the schools will have gone too far.

Columbia Students Attack Minuteman Founder
Quite the story. College Republicans invite the Minuteman founder to speak at the school, and protestors storm the stage and end up attacking the guy. Freedom of speech . . . when it's the right kind of speech, I guess.

Michelle Malkin
has the low-down, including video.

Banned by YouTube
Speaking of Michelle, some of her anti-jihadi videos were yanked by YouTube for being offensive. She thinks the charge is dubious.

If I understand correctly, the process for complaints on YouTube is such: You "flag" a video if it is inappropriate or offensive. If a video receives enough flags, the admins remove it, no review process needed. If a user has enough videos removed, their account is suspended. Again, no review process.

While I suppose that's the easiest method for a site as large as YouTube, it certainly seems like a bit more discretion would be advised for their admins, given the nature of the intertubes.

Further Thoughts - Animal Intelligence

I must say, it's refreshing to see the presence of actual debates on the blog. Sometimes it's nice to know I have more than one reader.

Still, I thought I'd toss out my final thoughts on the subject and then move on. Well, I'll move on. Everyone else can feel free to discuss it as you please.

My own approach to animal intelligence is largely experiential. I don't know much about the scientific studies regarding the field (animal ethology, apparently). Still, this article from wikipedia on animal cognition was somewhat helpful. What did I take away from it?

1) The people who actually study this are, apparently, divided. They can't seem to decide whether animal intelligence is just an illusion of mechanical responses that simply seem intelligent, or actual reasoning skills. They don't know if the cognitive processes are similar to ours or not. They argue over the proper way to interpret experimental results.

2) They still don't compare to humans. Not that I needed the article to tell me this, but it's nice to know. The fact of the matter is, however much intelligence you want to attribute to an animal, it will never, ever compare to that of a human being. We can argue over whether that is a difference in degree or type, a distinction Ryan was right to make. But the difference is there and it can't be ignored without a degree of intellectual dishonesty.

3) The argument has gotten away from my initial point. The initial idea was, "Why is human life more valuable than animal life?" I defended it with a reference to intelligence based on the inifinite potential that human intelligence represents. Whatever animal intelligence may produce, it offers us no benefits. Animal intelligence tends to produce only further survival for the animals. Human intelligence, on the other hand, produces all those things I defended as products of man's intelligence: society, culture, music, art, technology, science, medicine.

Thus why human life has more value than animal life. As I see it, the only real way to discount this is to render all accomplishments of civilization meaningless, a resort to nihilism.

And unless this discussion takes a turn that sparks my interest, that's all I have to say.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Speaking Truth to Power

You think you've seen dirty political ads before? I mean, really slinging on the dirt?

You've seen nothing, my friends.



I have no words. Just . . . wow.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Further Adventures of Blog-Out

Ha. If I had enough traffic, I'd find guest bloggers. In the meantime, I've enough assignments and exams this week that blogging will continue to be light. Such is the life of a grad student, I suppose. Especially one who ignored a weekend of grading papers to recuperate on the couch.

On the bright side, I caught up on about 4 weeks worth of cartoons and Stargate.

Possible blogging Tuesday night or Wednesday. I would advise against holding your breath.

In the meantime, something just for fun: I recently bought a slew of music off of iTunes on a whim (aside from the free music being given away through Facebook). They are, in no particular order:

Anberlin: Never Take Friendship Personal (album)
Anathallo: Luminous Luminescence in the Atlas Position (album), Floating World (album)
Thrice: The Artist in the Ambulance (album), The Illusion of Safety (album), Vheissu (album)

Lots of good stuff. Also, from the music being offered through Facebook, I really got a kick out of Junior Kickstart by The Go! Team. No pun intended.