Archive for August, 2007

CNN: New Orleans is blameless

August 30, 2007

From “Tale of two cities: Biloxi and New Orleans“, with my italics and boldface:

“People need to realize that we’re rewriting the chapters. We’re in unchartered territory because no city has ever gone through what we’ve encountered over the last two years,” said New Orleans Councilman-at-Large Arnie Fielkow. “When you look at the cause of our situation, the massive failure of a flood protection system caused by the negligence of our federal government, we’re trying to pick up the pieces in a way that we can rebuild New Orleans to a better place than it was pre-Katrina.”

Naturally Arnie Fielkow, being a New Orleans Councilman, is biased in favor of the city government. He’s going to point fingers at the federal government and say it was their fault the levees broke. But when CNN prints his comments without even mentioning the possibility that some blame may lie with the city government, that’s lame. It’s not as if they were unplagued by any corruption or other shortcomings.

I expect this kind of stuff from Kanye West, not “the most trusted name in news”.


The frog people

August 25, 2007

I helped some biologist friends pack their moving truck today. In addition to their household stuff, they are transporting 400 live frogs 2,000 miles. The frogs were still at the lab when I was there.

Who says all Protestants ignore the Old Testament?

August 23, 2007

It’s not uncommon in my experience to find Protestants criticized for focusing more or less exclusively on the New Testament. But this article, entitled “Of Church and Steak,” (get it? we live in a theocracy headed by the ultra-pious George W. Bush, so it’s no wonder we can’t keep these things separate!), shows a “new breed” (ahem) of evangelical Christian: the kosher beef farmer. The North Dakota farmer profiled is named Scott Lively, and it’s all OT, all the time with him.

Mr. Lively adheres to a diet he believes Jesus followed. Like Mr. Wiesenfeld, he says the Bible prescribes that he use organic methods to respect the earth, treat his workers decently and treat the cattle that enter his slaughterhouse as humanely as possible.

“We learn everything from the Old Testament,” Mr. Lively said, “from keeping kosher to responsible capitalism.”

I reckon he means, “we learn everything about the cattle biz from the Old Testament,” since if he learned everything from it, he’d be Jewish instead of Christian. Even this, though, seems pushing it. This was the first I heard of capitalism in the ancient world, as well. Aside from loaves and fishes, and some wine, do we have any other record of Jesus’ diet? I can’t think of anything else, and beef is sounding kind of out of place, to my mind. Maybe I should check out The Maker’s Diet. (Or not.) Or listen a Joel Osteen sermon like “Living at your ideal weight.” (No longer available online, but it was last year. Who says that all Protestants pay attention to the Old OR New Testament?)

And if anybody has any idea where Lively gets the Biblical “prescription” to use organic methods, do tell!

High School Musical 2

August 20, 2007

The NY Times informs me that “For the time being at least, the movie has made a trio of fictional high school students named Troy, Gabriella and Sharpay as recognizably Disney as that 79-year-old mouse.”

I confess that this evening was the first I’d heard of Troy, Gabriella, (USE THE EXTRA COMMA) and Sharpay, or “High School Musical,” 1 or 2. Does that make me the exception that proves the rule, or does it mean that the Times author overestimates these characters’ fame?

Diversity: “The conversions were forced conversions.”

August 18, 2007

Diversity is a full-fledged social dogma these days: we’re all better off individually and collectively by being around an ethnically diverse and values-diverse group than we are if we limit ourselves to hanging out with our own kind. One of the great ironies of higher education is that it is supposed to be a place of free inquiry, where ideas stand or fall on their own merits; yet diversity is set up as the source of this freedom of inquiry, as its guarantor; diversity is therefore sacrosanct, shielded from all criticism, indeed, in some cases a shibboleth to academic advancement, and those who question it find themselves under a very real but unscientifically-justifiable social stigma.

Instead of setting up diversity as the source of free inquiry, why not set up Truth instead? Oneness, unity . . . instead of plurality and fragmentation?

While I’m not an enemy of any particular ethnic group, I’m certainly against many values that are not my own. Any benefit I get from being around people holding those values amounts to the extent to which they can help me understand and strengthen my own viewpoint. Diversity says it’s better if others don’t think like I do. I don’t see how this principle of institutionalized fragmentation can bode well for societies.

Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor, has done a huge study of diversity and found it doesn’t deliver on the grandiose promises that “diversity officers” across the nation (and world) have been making for it. Read this WSJ editorial discussing it. Here are a couple of highlights.

“Diverse communites may be yeasty and even creative . . .” (YEASTY. Nice.)

A quotation from the original study:

Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.

The editorial concludes that immigration is “inexorable” but that assimilation into the middle class is the best hope for fighting against the detrimental effects of “diverse” communities. The study suggests a model for assimilation:

Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It’s Christian evangelical megachurches. “In many large evangelical congregations,” he writes, “the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed.” This, too, is an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger “shared identity” of the church. A Harvard prof finds good in evangelical megachurches. Send this man a suit of body armor!

I would guess that the more doctrinally squishy of the megachurches would end up having less solid integration than the more doctrinally sound ones. But this sounds like a much-needed study to put this completely oversold and overblown concept of “diversity” into perspective. Now it’s time for universities to fire their Diversity VPs, dismantle their offices, and spend those millions of dollars on things that actually help students. Like hiring more real professors instead of armies of adjuncts.

Simpsons on Vanity

August 17, 2007

Here it is.

It’s really long (over 9,000 words), but has some great parts in it. Here’s one that is near the end:

Tim Long, co–executive producer, The Simpsons (1999–present): Mr. T [another guest] was telling me the scenes that happened in Rocky III, where he lost. The reason he lost was because his mother needed money for an operation, and so he was paid to take a dive. And I said, “Well, I don’t remember that in the movie.” And he just looks at me right in the eye and says, “Things you don’t see!”

I said to him, “I remember you put out a record called Mr. T’s Commandments.” And somehow he heard that as “Mr. T, please sing ‘Mr. T’s Commandments.'” So he sang me the whole song. And I just thought, If I’m killed by a sniper tonight, well, my life would have ended beautifully, because I have been sung to by Mr. T.

Words with anti-literal meanings

August 16, 2007

subpar: In golf, subpar indicates an above-average player. But in everything else, it means below average.

meteoric: As in “meteoric rise to fame.” Meteors may travel fast, but meteors fall to earth, not rise to the heavens.

I’m sure these are the commonest of commonplace observations on English language usage, but they both bugged me today.

Ganglion cyst chronicle, part 3, in which nothing is resolved

August 14, 2007

Was in and out of my appointment with the orthopedist this morning in 10 minutes. He told me everything the previous doctor told me, and one new thing: that I would have to go to a “real hospital” to get it removed. (I went to the university’s student health center thing, where they don’t do surgeries that involved.) The staff had made it sound like I was going to have this guy remove it this morning.

The conclusion of the matter is that I’ve decided to live with it. It will either stay as is, which entails minor annoyance, but not real pain; or go away by itself; or grow to the point where I need to do something about it.

iLife ’08 pitch

August 13, 2007

I usually count on Joe for this kind of post, but I had to go on the record to say that I just watched the (extremely long) video for Apple’s new iLife ’08 software, and was really, really impressed. The new iPhoto web galleries are super cool, and iMovie is now so versatile it should be illegal for an application of its price. And the photo books you can order are really very handsome, with dust jacket and glossy pages. As Borat would say, “In my country, uh, this is, uh, VERY NICE!”

Merv Griffin’s caption writer in critical condition

August 12, 2007


And this just in: Merv was 82.