25 July 2012

24 July 2012

Across the universe

Hopefully, this is a trend. I came across two articles today--one claiming that a Dutch entrepreneur plans to begin sending humans on a one-way trip to Mars in 2023, and another claiming that NASA plans to send humans on a one-way mission in a large and slower ship. If we're ever going to live on and colonize other planets, this sort of bold thinking is sorely needed.

23 July 2012

NK shake-up

The recent Chosun Ilbo report that former Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Ri Yong Ho and his bodyguards had a firefight with soldiers accompanying Korean People's Army General Politburo Director Choe Ryong Hae when Choe went to dismiss Ri is quite alarming if true. Choe has climbed quickly in the North Korean military ranks in recent years. 

15 July 2012

Obama should apologize: Romney is certainly a job creator

BEIJING (The Borowitz Report) – After a brutal week in which he was booed by the NAACP and grilled by the media, Republican presidential choice Mitt Romney got some support from an unlikely place today: Beijing.

Manufacturing workers from across China flooded downtown Beijing to show their gratitude for Mr. Romney’s robust record of job creation in China while at the helm of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

While Mr. Romney’s feats of outsourcing have taken a political toll at home, they have made him a national hero in China, according to workers like Qiu Huang, who attended the rally.

“I owe my job to Mitt Romney, and so do many of my friends and family members,” he said. “His record as a job creator, in China at least, is second to none.”

Mr. Qiu said that if Mr. Romney ran for President of China, “he’d win in a landslide – he wouldn’t even need those billionaire brothers to buy ads for him.”

But the Chinese worker was surprised to learn that Mr. Romney had spent the better part of the week denying that he still worked at Bain during the company’s frenzy of outsourcing jobs to China.

“Why would you deny doing a great thing like that?” he asked. “That would be like denying you gave people healthcare.”

11 July 2012

Fathers and Sons

I just finished Turgenev's Fathers and Sons. While I generally love Russian literature, I must confess that this wasn't my favorite. As the title suggests, the short novel is partly a reflection on generational differences. The most memorable character, Bazarov, is a nihilist who seeks to radically challenge all views. Part of my difficulty warming to the book probably stems from the cultural and language gap. The significance of much of the interaction between upper-class Russians from the period is lost on me, and the translator clearly had a hard time conveying all the plays on words and use of dialect to mark social standing. In the end, I still prefer the iconoclastic characters in Camus' The Stranger, in Zorba the Greek, and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The characters in those three books were more fleshed out and sparked deeper philosophical reflections.

The God Delusion

I recently read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Dawkins presents a cogent argument against religion in general (primarily with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in mind). Unlike many books written for a general readership, Dawkins refers to a wide scope of relevant scholarship, citing and discussing particular studies in a number of cases. The book's a must read for anybody interested in understanding the atheist position.

8 July 2012

To Rome with Love

A few days ago, I watched Woody Allen's latest film--To Rome with Love. The film is a grand farce, of a very fractured sort, featuring great star power and the beautiful backdrop of Rome. The film didn't strike me as funny. If I hadn't seen it in the theater with other people and had been watching it at home on TV, I definitely wouldn't have survived to the end. This is something of a disappointment after Midnight in Paris.

2 July 2012

Conservative educational values alas

The Republican Party of Texas’s 2012 platform has a plank on education that reads:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

The first statement's an explicit statement of conservative orthodoxy. Of course, if you can't challenge fixed beliefs and the beliefs of the older generation, you pretty much can't have science or learning of any type. The next time I review a paper for a peer-reviewed journal, I'll have to try that one--"I don't think the paper should be published since it challenges our fixed beliefs and doesn't accord with what we all believed to be true three decades ago."