31 January 2009

Blog Hiatus Round-up

[The following are a grab bag of things from the last week or so that occurred during my blog hiatus, in no particular order.]

Ron Bailey points out that Slate is timidly discovering that Genetic Engineering might actually be good for the environment! Gee, ya think? As someone who cares about (1) Science, (2) feeding people, and (3) the general health of the planet, I think it's absolutely gobsmacking that the environmental movement has lined up against GE. On the other hand, it gives me a retort every time someone complains about stem cell research and how "conservatives hate science." Both liberals and conservatives obstruct science when it suits them.

Oh, speaking of misguided environmentalism, Bailey also points out that forests around the world are regrowing thanks to economic progress and property rights. I'd venture that over half of my K-5 science education was about saving the rainforests. (Another 25% was saving the Chesapeake.) At no point did anyone suggest that people might be made too rich to want to spend their time mucking about clearing tress and ploughing under them.

In other news, The Bacon Explosion! This has been making the rounds of the blogoland at a furious pace, but I can't pass it up. Essentially it's a torpedo-shaped meat dish consisting of bacon, wrapped in sausage, wrapped in bacon. Special Lady Friend actually thought of a way to incorporate more pork product in this beast: eat it using a fork and knife whittled down from the bones of ribs you've already eaten. Genius!

Jim Manzi makes a David Hume joke, which is strictly awesome. (For more on Hume, one of my favorite philosophers, see this great Marketplace of Ideas podcast featuring Simon Blackburn, whose own book, Think, is also recommended by SB7.) Manzi follows up with a post about financing video cameras at Best Buy, which is also worth a read.

Another philosophy joke:

Fellow Marylander Michael Steele is now the RNC chairman. I admittedly don't know much about him, but he always seemed to be a classy guy when he was our Lt Gov. He's no libertarian, but he's about as libertarian as you can expect from an RNC Chairman, so I'm pretty pleased. For example, he's said he doesn't support a federal law banning gay marriage and that the matter should be left to the states. (Point, Steele.) On the other hand he's said that if elected RNC chair he would support such a law. (Boo. However, I think you pretty much have to say that to even have a chance of being elected, sort of like how you need to own and gun and go to church and tell people you're not a huge fan of Darwin. Most regrettable, but true.) On the gripping hand, he's also said that the whole matter is way down at the bottom of the list of important issues. (Again, point Steele.) I think one of the GOP's biggest problems is that they've tried to make a huge issue out of gay marriage when most of the population just doesn't care that much. Even if you moderately oppose gay marriage the GOP just comes across looking spiteful and bitter about the whole thing. Ditto immigration. They've got to unhitch from those wagons if they want to make it over the pass.

For the record, here's James Forsyth's take on Steele.

Oh, and can everyone please stop writing these breathless "Will the GOP ever recover?" articles? And stop writing blog posts claiming that this map shows the GOP is doomed:

Fewer voters have self-identified with the GOP than the Democrats for the vast majority of the last 50 years. In many ways, the 1994-2006 run that the Republicans had was an aberration and not some new state of nature. Please have some historical perspective when considering the future of political affiliation in America.

This is not appropriate for work or polite company, but I've had it in my head since inauguration, so you all can deal with it. (And hey, if it was published on Reason's blog, it can't be all bad.)

Brian Dunbar offers a great backhanded complement to Barack Obama — He's no Jimmy Carter:
Conservation ...
The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.'

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”
... it's for the rest of us.

I myself don't give a rip what a person does with their thermostat - if you pay for it, crank that puppy. But if you're gonna try to scold me into wearing a sweater
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,"
and then going home and strolling around in shirt sleeves .. well that's lame. And in this case I suspect I'm paying to heat that drafty old barn on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At least there is this: Jimmy Carter turned down the thermostat and wore a sweater. President Obama, in this respect, is no Jimmy Carter.
While we're on the topic, let me say this for the benefit of people like me sharing office space with those from more tropic climates: you can warm yourself up by turning up the heat or wearing warmer clothes. Past a certain point I can' cool down by wearing fewer clothes, but only by turning down the heat. If we turn the thermostat down you can always put on a sweater and warm up. If you insist on turning the thermostat up, my only recourse is to take off my shirt when I get to work. I'm sure nobody wants that.

My Colombian and Vietnamese labmates do not seem to recognize this principle, nor did my Puerto Rican roommate, or (curiously) my Ligurian Grandmother.

The Slate article I linked above about how "Conservatives hate science" is foolish, but it did include this demoralizing snippet:
When asked in 2007 to name scientific "role models," the results were dismal. Forty-four percent of Americans couldn't come up with a name at all, and among those few who did, their top answers were either not scientists or not alive: Bill Gates, Al Gore, Albert Einstein.
Gah! The full results are just as disheartening, especially when you consider that people claimed to be more knowledgable about science than about sports, movies or celebrities. They know not what they do not know.

Here's a short but interesting interview with Bishop Paul Hinder, OFM Cap, the head of the Vicariate Apostolic of Arabia (comprising Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Yemen). An excerpt:
Your “clientele” consists of foreign workers who live for the most part in poor conditions in work camps: Catholics from the Philippines or India or Sri Lanka. Are you allowed to hold mass in these camps?

Officially, I am not allowed, even if it is occasionally tolerated. In most Arab countries, we are only permitted to hold mass in places that have been put at our disposition by the government. It has become standard practice to propose camps, mosques, athletic fields, and cinemas. But there are no churches or temples, even though non-Muslims are often the majority in the camps. For many foreign workers, that is a problem, since most do not have enough money to be able to afford transportation to a service elsewhere. For me it is incomprehensible that precisely those who place so much emphasis on faith in God, and who criticize the West for becoming unreligious, render it difficult for others to hold religious services.

1 comment:

  1. My Colombian and Vietnamese labmates

    I have oodles of sympathy for them. I flew directly into a Maryland winter from Southern California and was knocked .. on .. my .. butt.