Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trouble in the Ivory Coast

The NY Times reports on the recent political unease in the Ivory Coast. The current ruler lost an election last month, yet he has decided not to give up his power. Seems like Mr. Gbagbo really likes his Presidential perks as he defies the will of the majority of his people.

The neighboring countries are none-too-pleased, but are reluctant to use violence to remove him.

It is sad that a country of 10 million people must suffer this little man with too-much power.

btw, if you read the article, "autarchy" is the ability to be self-sufficient. This is different from "autocracy", which is the rule (of a city or state) by one person.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Saints

As a Protestant, I'm sometimes baffled at the practices of friends of Roman Catholic persuasion. The Anchoress, while looking back at her chosen saint of 2010 and looking forward to her chosen saint of 2011, includes a curious link. The link is to a website that randomly generates the name of a saint - just for you. Mine turned out to be St. Isidore, the Farmer. Interestingly, he's the Patron Saint against the death of children. He's also the Patron Saint of many other things/people/places.

So, are you curious to know who your saint will be for the coming year?

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Response to EJ Dionne

Mr. Dionne wrote an article today for one of my favorite News/Opinion websites: RealClearPolitics. He wants to remind us all that we should not "spin" the Civil War. It was about slavery first, second, and third.

My response:

The reason that the Civil War was fought was different than the reason that the Southern States left the Union.

I agree that a primary reason for the Southern States' departure was the difficulty in consensus among the States about slavery. While there were other major issues such as taxes and the role of the Federal Government (sound familiar?), "slavery" is rightly seen as a good representative "reason for secession".

The two sides fought for differing reasons, however. The South fought to put reality to their declarations - they wanted self-determination and independence from the other States (think Federal Government). The North (again, think Federal Government) fought to deny independence to the Southern States.

Make no mistake, Lincoln - if he is to be trusted - tried to arrest the exodus of States by declaring in his First Inaugural Address, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

He also stated to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also so that."

Further, when some counties of Virginia broke away from that State, Lincoln welcomed them into the US as a slave state as West Virginia.

If Lincoln was fighting to free the slaves, he did so not on principle, but as a means to his primary end - maintain dominion over the Southern States.

I've learned that the history of slavery in the US is more complex that I originally thought. I've learned that blacks in the South sometimes owned slaves - sometimes many slaves. I've learned that whites were sometimes slaves - though not at the time of the Civil War. Complexity brings about differing opinions that ought not be derided simply as "spin". The Civil War was fought for reasons good and bad, but it is not as clear cut an issue as Mr Dionne states.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Mites and the Bees

People have, in recent years, noticed a decline in the Honeybee populations. This is regrettable because it makes the honey more expensive. Some have suggested that the trouble is caused by the ever increasing number of radio waves that we shove through the air.

This article suggests that one major source of trouble is Varroa Mites - and they might be controllable soon. It involves tinkering with their genetic code so the mites would "self-destruct". From what I can figure, it's like having an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks itself. While this is all very interesting, and hopefully the bees will win their wars, I'm pretty nervous about playing with the genetic codes of little bugs. What if they grow to be 10x their size as an unforeseen and unintended consequence?

(the red bug on the bee is the mite - on the picture above)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guess the title for the list

The following is a list of 25 countries (in order). These came from this article. Give your guess for the title in the comments.

GDP per capita
% GDP for food
% food exports
Sri Lanka
Hong Kong
Dominican Republic

The title: Nations most at risk for a food shortage.
(triple-click the word "Nations" in the line above for the answer, but first put your guess in the comments)

150 Years Ago Today

The s(S)tate of South Carolina voted to leave the Union. Here's how it is reported: "We, the people of the State of South Carolina in convention assembled, do declare and ordain ... that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'the United States of America,' is hereby dissolved," and SC left the country to go it alone again.

Finding out what actually happened to cause the War between the States has been a pursuit of mine over the last 11 years. At times, I've really studied hard, while other times, not so much. I'm very surprised by how much myth and misinformation is out there - and I believed. While many of the myths revolve around Abraham Lincoln, there are myths aplenty for all sides.

For the misinformation around secession, it was universally believed up until 1860 that this was legal for a state to do. A couple New England states had voted on articles of secession during the War of 1812. Other states had threatened to do the same. But it is my understanding that when it all came down to brass tacks, the Nothern States (headed by Lincoln) could not afford the expense of having South Carolina withdraw their economy. It would impact the Treasury too greatly.

But aren't most wars about money? And why would I be surprised at finding this out? Many states followed SC to their independence. This happened over the next several months - 150 years ago.

Americans' Beliefs about the Universe's Origins

40% of Americans still believe in a "Young Earth". (Think this: the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Think this: Adam and Eve living in a literal Garden of Eden.)

This represents some of the findings of a new poll conducted by Gallup. The remaining opinions were: A God-guided evolution (38%), and a godless evolution (16%). No word on the remaining 6% - maybe they believe that the universe is imaginary!

I remember back in my Teacher Training days, in my Science Education class when I presented on this subject. I pleaded with my fellow teacher-wanna-bees not to be prejudiced against the Young Earth Creationists. While I myself am not in that camp, I was at one time, and I remember the confusion and heartache of the worldviews in collision. That can be hard to take for a teenager. It wasn't received well. One tried to tie a Creationist mindset to the mindset of a Nazi. I made him regret that comment. Science teachers can be very intolerant of competing perspectives on truth. By extension, so can scientists.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holy Astronomical Collision Batman

For the first time in many hundred years, a Lunar Eclipse will match up with the Winter Solstice. (Those who write horoscopes must be going nuts!) Starting Tuesday, just after midnight, the moon will start to hide in the shadow of the Earth - full moon to no moon. It will take a few hours for the hiding to the Peek-a-boo on the other side to complete. And whatever else is happening, it promises to be cold in MN. So find a warm spot inside the house or car with some people or things to keep you awake, and you may well be able to see this "once-in-four-hundred-year event". Then, of course, you could otherwise try and get a good night's sleep.

I wonder if there is a lottery drawing on Tuesday, I read that that was supposed to be my lucky day!

More here, but you'll have to slog through a short interview with a Wiccan.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I don't know if you can see the graph on the right very well. The title is Revenues. In purple: Private Contributions 28%, in blue: Health Center Income 37%, in green: Government Grants 33%, in red: other 2%. Source.

This is the revenue stream recently reported by Planned Parenthood for their year 2008-2009.

$363.2 million is the amount received in government grants - and it represents a full third of all the funds they took in for their year. A full $55.8 million was spent on "Public Policy & Others" (think political lobbying). (p.29)

If you read through the report, there are many references to politicians who have supported and / or contributed to PP. To me, it begs this question: Why are they so involved with government's (think "taxpayer's", think "your") money if they want government to stay out of their lives and choices?

More reading and commentary: here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

7 Desires

In finding the previous video ("Where's the Line to See Jesus?"), I came across a Christian substitute for YouTube. They call it Godtube. Of course, I looked for Mark Heard videos. He was an early advocate for MTV and made a music video when it first came on the TV. (I don't think he'd like where it has ended up....)

Anyway, my search found a man that I know. He is Mark Lasaar. He gives a long presentation about the new book that he and his wife wrote. If you have a spare half-hour, it is worth the listen.

Celebrating Christmas

I'm not thrilled with Christian Music Videos. Just give me the song.

But I heard a song in the car this morning - and it is the only way I could really post about it.

I was witnessed to a few days ago by some JWs (Jehovah's Witnesses). I love talking with them (seriously, I do). The latest of their AWAKE magazines rails against Christmas. So that was the issue for discussion. Of course, we had plenty in common - against consumerism and the advertising. They went further and attacked the roots of planned celebrations altogether. Strangely, I defended our practice of celebrating Christmas - by trying to illustrate that Christmas at our house was really focused on the birth of Jesus first and foremost. Now, I have to put my hand to the plow and make sure it happens that way as best I can. I have some ideas, but would welcome suggestions.

  1. Sing Christmas songs as a family
  2. Read the Bible / Nativity stories

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis a crying shame

I'm not one who much relishes visiting relics. Heck, I didn't get misty-eyed trooping around Israel for a month. (Walking the same paths that Jesus and David walked - oh well.)

The other day, in the United Kingdom, someone hacked down a thorn bush that was thought to be especially holy. As the story goes, Joseph of Arimethia brought not only the Holy Grail, but Jesus' staff to this spot in Glastonbury. Joseph stuck the staff into the ground and the staff became the thorn bush that has attracted visitors and pilgrims ever since. There was a time when Oliver Cromwell (400 years ago) had the bush cut down, but it was not destroyed - and was eventually replanted.

It's too bad that the perpetrators had to destroy such a thing so important to so many others.

(Still no definitive word about the grail. But some people have been looking. Here and here.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grace

Happy Birthday to you, Grace. You're one year old today. Enjoy you're day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How can we win?

Some fighters boastfully declare that they can defeat their foe with one arm tied behind their backs. As our troops are fighting in Afghanistan, it seems that the people on our side are trying to tie both arms behind the back. From the Washington Examiner, the military has instituted a "Catch and Release" policy for Taliban fighters - the opponents. Makes me wonder what we are doing there? And why are we fighting if not to win?

I'm glad science is looking into this . . .

It has just been brought to light an important study in the Social Sciences. A study in human behavior out of Sweden as it relates to Chess. Yes, chess.

You can view the abstract and download the study here.

Basically, it says that the study concluded that male chess players took riskier strategies when playing against attractive female players. The reverse was not, in fact, the case. That came out of nowhere - completely unexpected.

I do wonder if these conclusions may be applied to Cribbage.

Who do you think funded this landmark and important study?