30 August 2008

Anemoi Thuellai

Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise is calling on liberal filmmaker Michael Moore to apologize after he said Friday that the timing of Hurricane Gustav is “proof that there is a God in heaven,” since the storm approaching the Gulf Coast could disrupt next week’s Republican National Convention.

Evidently God only sends storms to attack gays and infidels, not Republicans. (God must have a really difficult time figuring out what to do with all the gay Republicans.)

28 August 2008

Furniture goes green

Not the sort of chair one sees at Walmart, eh?

26 August 2008

The demise of our smart cousins

A recent academic article argues that Neanderthals were just as smart as Homo Sapiens. The authors apparently conclude (according to the news story) that the Homo Sapiens' switch to a different, but no more effecient, type of stone cutting tool gave them greater group identity and allowed them to push out their Neanderthal cousins. Sounds pretty "flaky" to me. Wouldn't it make more sense to conclude that they looked different and therefore killed their cousins off due to racism--in this case, real racism since the Neanderthals would have truly been genetically different.

Citation of original article: Metin I. Eren, Aaron Greenspan, C. Garth Sampson. Are Upper Paleolithic blade cores more productive than Middle Paleolithic discoidal cores? A replication experiment. Journal of Human Evolution.

Budowsky article

Brent Budowsky has a good article on Consortium News about the McCain campaigns turn towards hatefilled rhetoric. The sad thing is that this sort of slander-mongering makes it impossible to hear straight talk about the candidates' stance on policy.

23 August 2008


How many houses McCain owns is an issue? We've truly become a tabloid nation. Who cares? We should be focusing on the issues of energy, world population growth, immigration pressures due to global warming, and Shrub's War. Most everything else is senseless fluff--even when it does criticize the candidate that I oppose.

21 August 2008


New evidence is appearing that the Chinese government was complicit in a cover-up regarding underaged gymnists. I personally don't give a rat's ass about the Olympics with all the nationalist fervor over gold medal counts and the like. But I'd agree with those who feel that the legacy of these Olympics may very well be the Chinese penchant for propaganda and manipulation of the media at all costs.

20 August 2008

Red Beard

I recently watched the 1965 Japanese classic Red Beard (あかひげ) by Kurosawa (黒澤). The film tells a touching story about an arrogant new doctor who chaffs at being sent to a poor rural clinic but gradually develops a deep respect for the head doctor ("Red Beard") and decides to stay on. While watching the film, it occurred to me that Red Beard is an excellent example of the Confucian ideal--a deeply moral person who is acutely aware of the individuals and community around him and seeks, in subtle ways, to restore harmony and justice. In some parts of the movie, Red Beard even demonstrates that uniquely Confucian trait of expressing grave disappointment in his own failures while asking even his disciples to reprove him when he falls short.

15 August 2008

The dirty dozen

The Environmental Working Group has ranked veggies and fruits by the amount of pesticide residue each contains.

The group's "dirty dozen" are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes (imported), pears, spinach, and potatoes.

The "cleanest 12" are onions, avocados, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mangos, sweet peas (frozen), asparagus, kiwis, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and eggplants.

I've also read that peanuts and strawberries are also to be avoided because of molds.

14 August 2008

Costume of choice

From a recent Zizek interview:

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?

A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me.

11 August 2008

Es lamazia!

I was initially concerned about the Russian invasion of pro-American Georgia, but I see that our trusty president is on top of matters:

8 August 2008

Hwang Woo-suk

South Korea has done the right thing in not allowing the disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk to resume his research into cloned human embryonic stem cells. Beyond his squandering of public money, he has violated crucially important standards of integrity and trust that every academic researcher should abide by.

5 August 2008

A question to all those knowers of Truth

I have a question for fundamentalist Christians and true believers of all stripes: How is that you happen to know the truth and no one else does? I can think of several possible answers:

(1) You are more sincere. This answer is appealing. Even so, I think if any of us are honest and actually get out and meet people who see the world differently than we do, we'll come across many people who are completely sincere. There are, after all, people who have devoted their lives to their particular path at tremendous sacrifice. Yet all of these sincere people do not happen to share the same set of beliefs.

(2) You are more intelligent. This answer doesn't get very far. Since there exist people on the far right tip of the intelligence bell curve in most religious traditions and among athiests, this response only works for those who are beyond Einstein or Hawkins' level of intelligence.

(3) Truth is given to people as a form of grace from some higher power. This answer makes sense. I'm reminded of Koranic passages describing how Allah clouded people's eyes so that they wouldn't see the truth. It is, of course, extremely unappealing. If truth is bestowed on us from above, there's no reason to discuss it in a public forum. Truth, in this bizarre scenario, isn't something public. You either have the high-speed fiber optic connection to the holiest of holies or you don't, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to get your own house wired. In such a bizarro world, there's also no need to go out and try to convince others. Since God (or Satan, or Descarte's demon) has clouded the eyes of other people, they'll never know the truth. Of course, there's also no way to know exactly who's eyes have been clouded, but we shouldn't dwell on this fact for too long lest we end up jumping from dogmatism into full-blown skepticism.

(4) Of course, we could adopt the view of science and conclude that truth is knowable and public, that is does make sense to discuss matters, and that a meaningful consensus is possible. The ability to reach truth would then have something to do with intelligence and sincerity. The fact that scientists from around the globe are perfectly able to come to complete agreement about pretty much all of the facts that aren't on the current horizon of human knowledge is certainly remarkable compared to the so-called facts of religion. To give religion its due, I don't think that most fields of science address some key issues that must be addressed, such as what it means to live a beautiful and fullfilled life, but these issues, much like scientific issues, can still be addressed through discussion and agreement of sorts can be reached. I think Snoopy has it right in the following comic:

2 August 2008

The World in a Nutshell

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Americas, both north and south
8 Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

70 would be non-white
30 would be white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.

80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 (yes, only 1) would own a computer