Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Vancouver

Like many Olympic fans, I will experience withdrawal this week. It seems strange to think that will be the case, since I usually don't watch people racing around a rink on skates or sliding down a hill on a board. But every two years, I tune into whatever station is playing the Olympics, and I settle down on the couch with much pleasure. And every two years, I suffer through the week following the closing ceremony, thinking, Now what will I watch?

Lots of stories, some winsome and some controversial, from Vancouver. The shocking death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. Apolo Ohno becoming the most decorated American Winter Games athlete. Queen Yu-Na living up to the pressure placed upon her by her native country. Shaun White proving he's still the champ of the halfpipe. Joannie Rochette skating through the pain of losing her mother to capture the bronze medal. Vonn v. Mancuso and Plushenko v. Lysacek stealing the drama spotlight usually reserved for S. Korea v. Ohno. Steve Holcomb driving the "Night Train" to golden glory. Canada dominating in hockey, curling, and... speed-skating?!? The U.S.A. winning the medals race.

Thanks for putting on a great show, athletes! See you in Russia in 2014!

UPDATE: Fantastic set of pictures from the Games.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"It's like being in a play; I'm always in a play."

Temple Grandin, the subject of a recent HBO biopic, talked about living life among the "yakkity yaks."
Mostly, though, her advice is simple: It's about hard work. Young children need 20 or 30 hours a week of one-on-one time with a committed teacher or mentor. Money, Ms. Grandin says, should not be an obstacle. If you can't afford a professional teacher, find volunteers through your church or synagogue, she says. Parents need to teach 1950s-style social rules "like please and thank you, basic table manners, how to shop."

There have to be high expectations. She's worried about the "handicapped mentality" that she thinks is increasing. "When I see these kids with 150 IQ and their parents want to put them on Social Security [disability], it drives me nuts." These kids "will come up to the book table and start talking about 'my Aspergers.' Why don't you talk about becoming a chemist, or a computer programmer, or a botanist?"

She continues: "It's important to get these autistic kids out and exposed to stuff. You've got to fill up the database." Silicon Valley and the tech companies are like "heaven on earth for the geeks and the nerds. And I want to see more and more of these smart kids going into the tech industry and inventing things—that's what makes America great."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"With a more generous understanding of Genesis, evolution is not quite so abhorrent, because it does not insist upon rejecting the Bible..."

Joshua Sowin explains why he believes in evolution:

There are times in our lives when the scales fall from our eyes and we see something clearly for the first time. For me, it usually happens through reading books.

Looking back, the experience often seems instantaneous, but it always takes cultivation. Because of my experiences and reading I was at a place where it was possible for me to believe the earth was old. So when I picked up A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, I was in danger of reading it with an open mind.

As I read, my belief in a young earth crashed down. None of the arguments made sense anymore. There was too much evidence for an old earth. When did all those gigantic asteroids hit the earth (or the moon)? When did the mega-volcanoes (like Yellowstone) erupt? How could the fossil record be so consistently layered and dated? These sorts of questions finally led me to accept that the earth is around four and a half billion years old.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Twittering the Olympics

You knew people were going to do it.

A pregnant woman, due in 4 months, is playing in the 2010 Vancouver games

In this sport. Which, really, is the sport we can all imagine ourselves to compete in as an Olympian. Because we watch it and we think, Yeah, I could do that. I could wear crazy clothes, too. So if you want to go to the Olympics, here's how.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Sarah Palin needs help."

So says Nate Silver at 538.
There's something which, if you've ever been in the business of trying to sell consulting services, you've probably grown accustomed to. It's what I call the "consulting paradox". Namely, it's the idea that the people who are most in need of help are often the least aware of it. Indeed, the range of potential clients who (i) aren't smart enough to solve all their own problems and (ii) are smart enough to know it ... is generally very narrow.

Sarah Palin needs help. So does almost every politician -- but Palin needs it more than most. She is young. She is inexperienced. She's not especially well connected. She's strong-willed and a little impulsive.
But Steve M. argues that it's working:
The "mainstream" (???) media operation for which Palin works, along with the rest of the tea party movement and GOP noise machine, has utterly rewritten the narrative. Almost nothing done by a right-winger now is considered "extreme" or amateurish, because the entire political spectrum, except for lefties/liberals, now accepts the notion that tea party activism is in the American grain and is therefore a good thing, a necessary corrective to the real "extremism" -- which is what's coming out of the Obama White House. Obama's agenda, deficits, bailouts, etc., are "extreme" and therefore everything his critics do is not extreme, no matter how many racist signs are waved, how many guns are wielded, how many conspiracy theories and lies are bandied about.

And as for amateurism, that's not bad, it's charming. Palin's non-slickness may grate on our ears, but that's because we're overeducated urban slicksters, just like those Chicagoans in the Obama White House. The tea parties are wall-to-wall patriotic kitsch and incoherent hokum, but incoherent hokum is new and hip. It's even OK that Palin chose to be an amateur after being a political pro -- she dropped out inarticulately and in a clumsy way, which makes it genuine, and thus very much in keeping with the tea party spirit, which is now generally conceded to be wonderful.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"I'm someone who made mistakes in my life. And look where I am. If I let you down I'm sorry."

Scott Lee Cohen has withdrawn his name as the Democratic nominee for Illinois lieutenant governor.
For days, the pawn broker-turned Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor was dogged over allegations he abused anabolic steroids, went into fits of rage, sexually abused his then-wife, got behind in child support payments and held a knife to the throat of a former girlfriend who is a convicted prostitute.

But Cohen was never convicted of a crime and said he'd moved on from the transgressions of his past. And after spending a couple of million dollars of his own money on his campaign, he initially refused to step aside.

Democratic candidate for governor, Pat Quinn, called Cohen's decision "the right decision" for the party. "Now we can continue to focus our efforts on putting our economy back on track and working to bring good jobs to Illinois," Quinn said in a statement.

Super Bowl 44

I lived in and around Indianapolis in two different time periods, totalling eight years and 2 months, so you can imagine where my loyalties lie for this game. And, of course, I look to Stampede Blue for stats and analysis.

5 arguments for God's existence

William Lane Craig responds to Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion, which I've recently read.

ADDED: I believe Dawkins's basic arguments in The God Delusion can be whittled down to three.
  1. God doesn't exist because I don't like him. Especially the God of the Old Testament. Yuck.
  2. Question authority, especially religious "authority." Do this because I'm telling you to.
  3. Evolution is the answer to everything. I know it's the answer to everything because if it wasn't, we wouldn't have an answer. Or we wouldn't eventually find out the answer. Because it will eventually answer everything, it is the answer to everything. It is this way because I'm telling you it is this way.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Scott Lee Cohen... was arrested about four-and-a-half years ago and accused of holding a knife to a former live-in girlfriend's neck"

Cohen won the Democratic party's nomination for lieutenant governor of Illinois in Tuesday's primary. Yep, we sure know how to pick 'em here in this fine state.
Cohen -- who records show also had federal tax troubles that he says he has settled -- denied in a written statement that he ever hurt the ex-girlfriend or his family. Cohen disclosed his domestic violence arrest when he announced his candidacy, but the details about the knife and prostitution case didn't surface in the campaign, as Cohen was considered a longshot.

"It was a difficult time in my life. I was going through a divorce, and I fell in with the wrong crowd," Cohen said. "I was in a tumultuous relationship with the woman I was dating. We had a fight, but I never touched her."

He fell in with the wrong crowd. Is he talking about Chicago-style politicians?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nope! No non-thin non-whites this year!

Vanity Fair tells us once again - it's a yearly habit, after all - which thin white pretty-young-things are the "New Hollywood" darlings.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Lost," season 6

The end is near for Lost as it starts its sixth and final season tomorrow night. Many people are obsessed with Lost, and for good reason, for there's no other show on right now that tackles such issues as faith, science, time travel, philosophy, free will, and fate. And what other shows feature Taweret and Smokey? The show has had many mysteries both answered and unanswered (What's in the hatch? Why was that little boy taken by those scruffy-looking people? How can there be two Lockes - one alive, one dead? What has Claire been doing all this time?), and that's part of the appeal. I'm sure many people will be sad when Lost reaches its conclusion, but at least one person won't be.

Anyways, Lost has given us a great ride so far. Just like Alan, I can't wait to see how it all ends. If only to see whether Doc Jensen is right or not.