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Showing posts from March, 2014

A Bit of Philosophy: What is the Truth?

I heard a story once about a man in a psychiatric ward who thought he was Napoleon.  One day, the man told the doctors that he was cured.  So the doctors hooked  him up to a polygraph and asked him if he was Napoleon.  The man answered no, but the machine said he was lying. While I like the story for the general humor of the situation, I think it brings up a valuable point about humans: If someone wants to believe something enough, he can convince himself it's the truth regardless of reality. Think about it a minute.  There is a group of people who believe the earth is flat, contrary to an overabundance of scientific evidence to the contrary.  You can visit the Flat Earth Society  and visit the International Flat Earth Society's forums (website still coming).  Despite evidence to the contrary, people also believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, going so far as to present what is supposed to be a logical "proof"  to back up their belief.  A rec

Wordless Wednesday: For Teachers Everywhere...

Freaky Friday News: March 21, 2014

New Happiness Study: Google Got it Right Last month, the University of Warwick released a study called "Happiness and Productivity".  In the study, they set about gathering evidence to either confirm or deny the belief that happier employees are more productive employees.  Not surprising, it turns out that happy employees are on average 12% more productive than neutral employees, while unhappy employees are less productive.  Or as Google so succinctly put it: We want to make your life better and easier. Here’s the secret sauce to our benefits and perks: It’s all about removing barriers so Googlers can focus on the things they love, both inside and outside of work. We’re constantly searching for unique ways to improve the health and happiness of our Googlers Fred Phelps is Dead, but Bigotry Lives on! Susanne Atanus Fred Phelps Sr. from the Westboro Baptist Church died this week at the age of 84.  But fear not, his particular brand of bigotry continues to ha

The Legacy of Fred Phelps Sr.

Update: Added link to the Patriot Guard Riders website. News emerged this past week from Kansas - Fred Phelps Sr. of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) fame is dying. After 66 years serving as a minister, 58 years leading his own primitive Baptist church, 23 years of leading public protests, acting as one of the subjects of 2 BBC programs ( The Most Hated Family in America , 2007, and America's Most Hated Family in Crisis , 2011), parodied by Kevin Smith ( Red State ), and disbarred from practicing law, Phelps now lays dying in a hospice bed, excommunicated from his church and repudiated from some family members.  The excommunication came last August, when Phelps wanted to offer more kindness to church members and the church elders disagreed.  The repudiation is ongoing, as some of Phelps' children left the fold to heal from years of alleged violence and beatings. (Alleged only because no one has pressed charges.) Yet this man, who enthusiastically spewed hatred and angry

Budapest Memorandums of Security Assurances, 1994

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had the third largest stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons in the world.  The country had more nuclear weapons that Britain, France, and China - combined!  To foster peace and help the world recover from the Cold war, the U.S., Russia, and United Kingdom got together in 1994 with Ukraine to hammer out a deal that dismantled Ukraine's nuclear weapons in exchange for some protections for Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.  These protections included acknowledgement and respect of each country's borders as stated in the first two provisions of the Budapest Memorandums of Security Assurances: 1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukrain

A Little Brag about Homemade Stew

Blue Butterfly, back when she was 8 Last week a wonderful thing happened at home.  It was the end of a long day, and I didn't feel like cooking.  But dinner waits for no one, so I headed for the kitchen intent on finding something to make.  Low and behold, my lovely daughter, Blue Butterfly, volunteered to make dinner.  She said, "Don't worry, Mom. I'll just throw something together." What she threw together was a wonderful, vegetable stew with three types of beans, corn, tomatoes, and a pinch of curry!  It smelled amazing, tasted amazing, and overall made a wonderful meal!  Not only that, but I have leftovers to eat for lunch. Mmmmm, mmmmm, good!

Reality Mirrors Movies in Ukraine

In 1997, New Line Cinema released the movie "Wag the Dog".   The movie begins with scandal as an unnamed American president gets caught in a compromising situation 11 days before the next presidential election.  One of the president's advisers calls in a spin doctor, who arranges for a fake war on television to keep everyone attention off the real world scandal and focused on fantasy nonsense.  The movie title comes from this joke:             Why does the dog wag its tail?       Because the dog is smarter than the tail.       If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog. I couldn't help but compare the situation with Russia, Ukraine, and Crimea to this movie.  Ukraine wants to join NATO in an effort to better their economy and get all the benefits of a better economy (such as more stability).  But Russia doesn't want to lose an ally, so Putin sends troops into Crimea under the false pretense of hostility towards Russian nationals.  Putin thinks he'

Review: "Half-Off Ragnarok" by Seanan McGuire

Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire My rating: 5 of 5 stars "Half-Off Ragnarok", as the third book in the InCryptid series, held certain expectations for me, in terms of characters and universe. Seanan McGuire not only delivered on those expectations, she knocked it out of the ballpark. The book begins a few months after the last book ended, with Alex Price, Verity's brother, as the main character. Alex is working at the local zoo, officially studying frogs and reptiles in the local swamps, and unofficially basilisks and other cryptids. He's trying to get a love life with a visiting Australian researcher, Shelby Tanner, while living with his grandparents to help take care of his cousin, Sarah, who is recovering from blowing out her telepathic abilities. Luckily, Alex's administrative assistant, a gorgon named Dee, helps feed the animals and remind Alex of his dates with Shelby. McGuire sets up this tangled mess of responsibilities for Alex, and then p

Genetics and Babies: The Future is Here

Last week, newspapers reported that the U.S. and British government are considering allowing scientists to create 3-parent babies using parts of eggs from two women and the sperm from one man.  The scientists want to cure mitochondrial diseases.  The governments worry about Frankenstein babies and the rise of eugenics. As for us regular people?  I think we need a bit more information. First, let's talk about mitochondrial disease.  Mitochondrial disease is a disease of mitochondria.  Mitochondria are small units within every cell of the human body, except red blood cells, and are responsible for converting food into energy for the cell to use.  Think of mitochondria as the batteries for a cell.  Simple enough. What happens when there is a problem with a person's mitochondria?   Diabetes mellitus and deafness (DAD) , Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) , Leigh syndrome , myoneurogenic gastrointestinal encephalopathy , myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibers ,..