Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Delinquency Research

This is another of those "Duh!" moments in scientific research, along the lines of the studies that showed us that men and women are not the same. LifeSite News reported yesterday on a study linking early sex with delinquency.

Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also show higher rates of delinquency in later years, new research shows. A national study of more than 7,000 youth found that adolescents who had sex early showed a 20 percent increase in delinquent acts one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurred at the average age for their school.

In contrast, those teens who waited longer than average to have sex had delinquency rates 50 percent lower a year later compared to average teens. And those trends continued up to six years.

This doesn't surprise me. Kids who get into trouble will get into trouble in all sorts of ways. Of course, those on the left in the sex-for-all camp probably don't think of sex as "trouble," but for a twelve-year old, sex is Trouble.

There's a family not too far down the street from me with an older daughter and two younger sons. The daughter (who I haven't seen in a while), at about 13 or 14, was a pretty blonde who walked with a swagger that said, "Don't mess with me." She'd hang out with the older goth-style kids in the neighborhood. Her brothers, about 8 and 10, would play with the kids next door to me. The youngest was still pretty nice, but the older boy was a potty-mouthed little punk of a kid who was always yelling and bossing the other kids around.

One afternoon, I saw their dad hauling the older boy by one hand, with the younger boy tagging along, while the dad explained to someone on his cell phone about a medical emergency they'd had and how it wasn't his fault, and the dad looked wasted by hard living and hard drinking or hard drugging.

That's it, really. I have impressions of a family based on snippets of observation and the experience of half a lifetime, and those impressions say this family is trouble. The girl, who has either run away or gone to live with her mom, will have sex early and get into trouble. The older son will definitely get into trouble, whether that includes sex or not, and the younger son will have a lot to overcome in order to stay out of trouble himself. It doesn't take a research study to see the signs.

And at the same time, the study showed that kids who behave themselves will find all kinds of ways to behave.

This study is a correlational study. It shows a link between two factors: the age of first sexual experience and the degree of delinquency. Like the link between ice cream consumption and sunburn rates, neither one causes the other. Instead, both are caused by a third factor (which the study was not set up to identify). In my opinion, the factor that causes both juvenile problems is a troubled child. And most of the time, troubled children don't show up in a vacuum. Troubled children come from troubled (abusive, belittling, divorced...) parents.

By strengthening the family, we strengthen our children to avoid these problems, and our nation is improved as a result. But it isn't easy--or simple (I have no idea how to help the family down the street), and while we may hope the researchers can find a solution rather than just stating the obvious, I'm not going to be holding my breath.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar-Winning Gore

Work sure gets in the way of blogging sometimes! And today has to be quick, too.

It came as no surprise that Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, won the Acadamy Award for best "documentary." For Hollywood, if it's gay, if it's green, or if it goes after mainstream America, it wins.

The Sierra Club is ecstatic, as reported yesterday by Reuters.

"The funny thing about the Oscars is, they're very intimate -- people watch them in their living rooms," [executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl] Pope said in a telephone interview. "Global warming has seemed abstract, distant, something 'for people who know more than I do.'

"I think what (the Oscar victory) really does is it puts this issue into people's living rooms," he said. "While the climatology is really complicated, they're going to see that the solutions are pretty common-sense, and people will talk about them and get excited."

I think Pope needs to make a correction: Sierra Clubbers will talk about them and get excited.

As for the rest of us, Al Gore is more interesting than his movie and its "common sense" solutions. He's the picture of hypocrisy on the whole green, global warming issue. WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that Gore's home in Tennessee uses twenty (20) times more electricity than normal people.

"My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis," Gore said after taking the stage [at the Academy Awards show]. "It's not a political issue, it's a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."

Gore then followed with, "...And you know what: It is not as hard as you might think. We have a long way to go. But all of us can do something in our own lives to make a difference."

Last August alone, according to [Drew] Johnson' group [the Tennessee Center for Policy Research], Gore burned through 22,619 kilowatt-hours of electricity, more than twice the amount in one month that an average American family uses in an entire year.

Gore's average monthly electric bill, the think tank says, is $1,359.

Responding to critics, Gore has described the lifestyle he and his wife Tipper live as "carbon neutral," meaning he tries to offset any energy usage, including plane flights and car trips, by "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere."

So Al Gore is allowed to waste energy like crazy, because he pays businesses that are willing to reduce emissions. He's rich. He can do whatever he wants, while he tells everyone else to behave. Sheesh!

Whatever the color of hypocrisy is, paint Al Gore in a vivid hue.


Michelle Malkin linked today to TigerHawk's post on "Chickengreens" (that would be Al Gore), which pointed to this excellent post at WhizBang. In it, the WhizBang post compares the green-ness of Gore's house to President Bush's house. Guess who wins?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

My daughter and I just got back from seeing Amazing Grace. It's hard to know where to start.

It seems difficult for period films to capture the times they're depicting--especially when it involves the stiff British upper class--while at the same time making the characters seem real to modern audiences. The previews for Marie Antionette looked too much like a bunch of modern kids dressing up in fancy outfits and pretending (badly) to be French aristocracy. Other movies try, like The Man in the Iron Mask, but some of the actors (Leonardo diCaprio) just aren't up to the task.

In Amazing Grace, Ioan Gruffudd, a Welsh man with an equally Welsh name that's impossible to pronounce by any normal English speaker (pronounced: Yo-an Griffith), was the heart and soul of the film. He was the living, breathing, passionate William Wilberforce. And each performance by the supporting players was up to the same excellent level.

There was life in these people, and most of it wasn't the fiery rhetoric of the House of Commons. A glance and a private smile between Wilberforce's brother (played by "Young Aubrey Montague" from Chariots of Fire) and the brother's wife. A snort after a shared joke over dinner. A comfortable conversation, on wet grass, between Wilberforce and Richard the Butler. Little moments that formed a foundation for the larger moments of the film.

What struck me most about William Wilberforce the man, was the way he saw and treated all people as fellow human beings. From the lowliest half a man, to his butler, to the slaves he knew were traded and sold, to him all of them were worthy of life and dignity. But it was his lot in life to fight for over two decades against men who cared only for their own pampered lives and for what use other people were to them.

Amazing Grace is beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and superbly cast. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I applauded with the rest of the audience. I recommend you see it. I'll be seeing it again very soon.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Waiting for Wilberforce

My daughter and I went to see Amazing Grace at the movie theater a couple towns over, because theater we usually go to isn't showing the movie. We got to the theater about 6:30 for the 7:00 show, but it was sold out, and neither one of us was up to waiting for the 10:00 show. So we got our tickets for tomorrow's 1 pm show and came back home.

Even though I was disappointed at missing the movie tonight, I wasn't disappointed too much, because it means Hollywood will be sent a message: America wants to see top quality films that tell a positive story.

Most of the time, if Christians are shown at all, they're depicted as loons or other Undesirables. They're often the bad guy, or they're judgmental, legalistic creeps. Hollywood can't seem to make a movie about faith without injecting their own cynical derision into the story.

But Amazing Grace promises something different. It promises to tell the story of one man's twenty-six year battle to end the slave trade in England--a battle driven by faith.

I had hoped to have a movie review posted tonight, but it can wait. Because I must wait.

More to come...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scientists Prepare for Global Warming Catastrophe

This is a little dated, but I haven't seen much mention of it, so here it is.

Agence France-Presse reported February 8, 2007, on the latest attempts by global warming alarmists to save the planet.

An Arctic "doomsday vault" aimed at providing mankind with food in case of a global catastrophe will be designed to sustain the effects of climate change, the project's builders said as they unveiled the architectural plans.

The top-security repository, carved into the permafrost of a mountain in the remote Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole, will preserve some three million batches of seeds from all known varieties of the planet's crops.

The seed samples, such as wheat and potatoes, will be stored in two chambers located deep inside a mountain, accessed by a 120-meter (395-foot) tunnel. The tunnel and vaults will be excavated by boring and blasting techniques and the rock walls sprayed with concrete.

The vault is situated about 130 meters (426 feet) above current sea level. It would not flood if Greenland's ice sheet melts, which some estimate would increase sea levels by seven meters (23 feet).

It is also expected to be safe if the ices of Antarctica completely melt, which experts say could increase sea levels by 61 meters (200 feet).

So, if Antarctica melts twice, it would still be safe. That's good. The only thing is that Antarctic ice is getting thicker.

And what kind of environmental damage are these scientists doing, with all their blasting and drilling and pouring concrete? They get mad when Republicans suggest drilling for oil in ANWR, but they're willing to drive all over the permafrost, putting in roads for heavy equipment, frightening all the wildlife in the area with all the explosions and jack-hammering. And for what? Because maybe, someday, in a thousand years, Antarctica might melt or Greenland might melt, and Malibu might get washed away?

If Greenland melts, we can plant crops there. We can move to Canada and raise cattle around Hudson Bay. We can do a lot of things, just not in the same places we do them now.

If they want to build this catastrophe repository, fine, as long as they shut up about the environmental damage drilling in ANWR might cause. But we don't really need to save all the seeds just because of global warming. We're grownups. We can adapt.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hillary Criticizes Troops' Armor

Two-faced Hillary Clinton is at it again.

Michelle Malkin's column in today's WorldNetDaily flays Hillary's latest campaign video attacking the President over the armoring of our troops in Iraq.

In her latest campaign video, Hillary attacks the Bush administration for sending soldiers off to battle unprotected: "Promises just aren't enough anymore. After almost four years, longer than we were in World War II, our troops still don't have all the body armor and armored vehicles and other equipment they need. It's a disgrace."

Whenever leftists need to show they really, really do care more about the troops than their political opponents, they pull out this armor card. A Rumsfeld-bashing reporter bragged about coaching a soldier into spotlighting the armor gap two years ago. And last year, ignoring rank-and-file soldiers' own observations about the trade-offs between weight and mobility, Hillary excoriated the Bush administration as "incompetent" for not weighing down the troops with extra body armor. Now, the Army is being pummeled again by vultures and opportunists with no clue about the complexities of military logistics.

But the Army reminds its critics that it began the war on terror "with equipment shortages totaling $56 billion from previous decades. In the last several years, the Army has transformed itself more than any other military in history and rapidly acquires ever-improving equipment on a scale not seen since World War II." In Iraq alone, officials report, "the Army has gone from a low of 400 up-armored Humvees to nearly 15,000 up-armored Humvees patrolling neighborhoods, protecting troops and mitigating risk from most types of enemy munitions. As of this date, the Army has produced enough Frag Kit No. 5 Retrofit kits to outfit every Humvee in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of these kits are being flown into theater every month and they are being installed in theater, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure soldiers have the best protection available."

T.F. Boggs, a sergeant in the Army Reserves who recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq, summed it up: "We have come so far since the early days of the war that the armor issue is a joke. Only those who don't have a clue about the reality of the war in Iraq make it an issue."

But what Michelle Malkin didn't mention was Hillary's statement last week. Reuters reported Saturday that Hillary called for a 90-day deadline for starting a withdrawal from Iraq.

"Now it's time to say the redeployment should start in 90 days or the Congress will revoke authorization for this war," the New York senator said in a video on her campaign Web site, repeating a point included in a bill she introduced on Friday.

To put it politely, Hillary is giving mixed signals. Really, what's the point of up-armoring the troops in Iraq, if they're going to be leaving in 90 days? And how will the military pay for all that new armor that Hillary wants, if Congress cuts off funding for the war? It doesn't make sense.

But that isn't news to anyone who's been paying attention. The Far Left (which Hillary is pandering to) isn't about sense, or logic, or thoughts of future consequences. Those people are about feelings. "Our children in Iraq don't have enough armor. Awwww. Give them armor." As if our troops are underage and not grown adults. "Bring them home. Real soon."

Trying to make sense of what Hillary Clinton has to say about the war is too painful. I'd rather try to memorize the properties of salts in the human body, or understand the effects of buffers on pH levels. These things are hard, but unlike Hillary, understanding them is at least possible.


When I got on the elevator at lunchtime, another man in there was saying to his friend, "... and he just got back from Montana."

Being the buttinski that I am about that, I said, "Montana? Where?"

He said, "Kalispell. Or Whitefish," and I said, "I love Kalispell." And that was the end of it.

My Grandma and Grandpa lived in Kalispell when I was growing up. The other Grandma and Grandpa lived there too, but this is about my mom's parents.

Grandma and Grandpa used to live in Dearborn, Michigan, where Grandpa worked for Ford (funny, I remember that he always drove GM products). When my mom was nearing high school age, Grandpa's doctor told him that if he didn't move to someplace with clean air, he would die young. Since Grandma had lots of relatives in Montana, that's where they decided to go.

Grandpa bought an acre just outside Kalispell on Highway 2E and built a two bedroom house on it himself. Then he got a job helping build the Hungry Horse Dam. He told us grandkids a few stories about building the dam, but the only one I remember is the one about the Big Swede, when it was time to remove all the supporting timbers after the concrete had cured. But I need to use my hands when I tell that story, so it will have to wait until my mom and I are on our trip and we meet you.

After the dam was finished, Grandpa got a job at The Plant up in Whitefish or Columbia Falls. I have no idea what company it was or what he did there, just that he worked at The Plant. He carpooled with some other guys to work, and Grandma (who had a passive-aggressive streak) always served dinner at 5:00. If it was Grandpa's turn to drive the carpool, meaning he didn't get home until 5:15, he ate dinner cold. Dinnertime was 5:00. Period.

There was a pig farm next door (I think Grandma & Grandpa's house was upwind, because I never smelled the farm), and one year when we were visiting, the farmers' granddaughter was there, so we went over to play with her. We didn't spend much time looking at the pigs, because we got to climb into the hayloft in the barn, and being high up above everything was better than pigs.

That might be the same year my brother and I went fishing. There was a creek that ran through the pig farm and along the back boundary of my grandparents' property. My brother and I found a couple sticks and tied string around them, with an open safety pin as the hook, then we headed up the creek to the little bridge on the pig farm. There we sat, dangling our hooks in the water, watching and feeling for the bite of a fish that never came. While we sat there, we saw a couple fish swimming along the edge of the creek, but they must not have been interested in a bare safety pin. When we got tired of sitting there, we headed back to the house.

After my dad retired from the Navy, we moved to Missoula, about two hours from Kalispell, so we saw my grandparents a lot more. Sometimes, on our way to Glacier National Park, we'd stop at their house, which was on the way. And other times, we went just to see them.

Grandma loved to play cards, so she'd play Rummy (not Gin) with the three of us. She taught us Pinochle and Cribbage, and for a break from Rummy, we'd play one of those. If one of us kids started to beat her, she'd declare, "I'll fix your little tugboat!" and usually she would.

Grandpa used to watch cartoons with us on Saturday mornings when we were there. He laughed more than the three of us put together. Watching cartoons was more fun with Grandpa than without him.

But that was then. These days, for the Hollywood crowd, Kalispell is the outdated town they fly into on their way to the chic ski resorts in Whitefish or Columbia Falls. They don't linger there very long.

But for me, Kalispell is an oasis. It's a place where I had love and joy and freedom from the worries of school, the place where our trips to Glacier felt as though they started. It's a treasure I carry in my heart, and I get to take it out and gaze at it now and then, when someone on an elevator happens to say, "... and he just got back from Montana."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Signs At Work

Signs have been going up at work lately. Oh, there are a couple that have been up for a long time in the breakroom. One announces the dates and times of refrigerator cleaning. The other one is on the ice maker and warns not to leave the door ajar, lest the ice cubes become one massive block of ice fit for nothing more than being hefted into the sink to slowly melt (and give people like me a bit of fun with water and ice).

The new signs, though they start with, "please," are a bit more pugnacious. No doubt they've been created by one of the admins, who have more ready access to fancy colored paper and color printers, and who usually have a more proprietary view of our workplace.

Please ensure door closes behind you.

This one showed up a few weeks ago on the door from the elevator into the work area (our floor requires a badge for entry). It annoyed me, and I was sorely tempted to add a retort like, "Please ensure the door is repaired, so it will close by itself." But I thought better of it, because the kind of people who put up signs like this are the kind who would seek and destroy the transgressors, without seeing the least bit of humor in it (and without getting the door repaired).

I got used to the sign and learned to ignore it. But today, new signs showed up in the Women's restroom:

Please do not leave inappropriate personal hygiene items in the stalls. Clean up after yourself.

The first sentence was printed in red, and the second sentence in black. It's posted on the wall and on the door of each stall in the restroom.

This raises the question, what personal hygiene items are appropriate to leave in the stalls? There's no telling. Only the humorless would leave signs like this one.

Again, though, I have to keep my mouth shut. Sigh!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bling Water

ABC News reported Saturday about the latest trend in bottled water.

Americans spent more than $10 billion on bottled water last year. Now, a new generation of luxury bottled water, with upscale packaging and price tags to match, is flooding the marketplace.

Bling H2O is one of the new high-end breeds. Its bottle, covered in Swarovski crystals, contains spring water from Tennessee.

"People are paying $40, $55, $60, $75 a bottle for the water, depending on where you purchase it in the hospitality industry," said Kevin Boyd, Bling H2O's creator. "It's definitely worth it. It's premium water, in premium packaging, that merits a premium price tag."

At work I keep a water bottle on my desk. It started out as Wal-Mart's flavored bubble-water (strawberry flavor), which I drank, and I use it for the bottle now. My work supplies piped-in "bottled" or filtered water, but I fill up my water bottle from the tap.

New co-workers are horrified at the sight, and they kindly point out that I could get my water from over there at the "good" water dispenser, as though I missed that bit of insight in the four years I've worked here. I give them my standard reply, "If I start to like bottled water, then I'll have to start paying for my water."

But $75 for a rhinestone-studded bottle of water (excuse me, Swarovski crystal-studded bottle)? Not on your life.

Besides, bottled water just tastes wrong, as though there's something missing. It's like they stripped out all the minerals that are good for your body and left you with nothing but distilled water. No thanks.

Now, the tap water in Southern California is nothing to write home about. We have hard water, so there's an abundance of minerals, but on the whole it tastes fine to me. Missoula, Montana, where I went to high school and a year of college, has excellent tap water. It comes out of the faucet ice-cold, even in the summer.

When we were in Poland this past September, our translator/guide raved about the glories of his hometown's tap water, and he was right. Milanówek (pronounced: meel-ah-NOO-veck) had the finest water of all the places we went. I might even be tempted to buy bottles of it if they packaged it and sold it here.

But not for $75, or even $40.

ABC News checked to see if people can really tell the difference.

"Good Morning America Weekend" asked a group of self-proclaimed water connoisseurs to do a blind taste test.

The 16 tasters were given glasses of three different waters: a glacier water from Canada priced at $28.50 for under a liter, Poland Spring, which retails for about $1, and plain tap water.

They sipped, savored, and guzzled, and the majority — 13 out of 16 tasters — picked the high-priced glacier water as their favorite.

To see if the average Joe could tell the difference, "GMA Weekend" asked its crew to take the same blind taste test. Seven out of 10 tasters couldn't pin point the luxury water.

Dr. Mel Suffet of the UCLA School of Public Health, who has studied bottled water, said high-end waters are no better for consumers than cheaper brands, or even water from the tap.

He's the man. I am vindicated. Think of all the money won't have to spend...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Medical News

Today's WorldNetDaily has links to several news articles about recent developments in medicine.

Heart Repair:

The Independent (UK) reported today about new research in repairing damaged hearts.

Millions of people suffering from heart disease have been given new hope by research which shows that damaged organs may be capable of healing themselves.

The discovery could lead to injections being given into the bloodstream or, in emergency cases, directly into the heart muscle itself. So far the technique has only been tested on rats and mice but, if it is proved to work in humans, it could be developed into a treatment in "years rather than decades", according to Paul Riley, who led the study.

Treating a damaged heart following a heart attack is difficult because a section of heart muscle dies and the tissue has a limited ability to respond. The team have found that cells in the outer layer of the heart are similar to stem cells, and have the capacity to develop into any kind of new tissue or structure in the heart. Called progenitor cells, they can be stimulated by a protein, Thymosin-beta4, to move into the heart muscle and form new blood vessels. With new blood vessels to carry oxygen and nutrients, the damaged heart muscle can grow new tissue and repair itself.

This is good news to a lot of people, and "years rather than decades" makes the news even better.

Brain Repair:

BBC News (UK) reported yesterday on a new discovery in human brains that may hold hope for people with Alzheimer's.

Researchers have discovered a type of brain cell that continuously regenerates in humans.

A pool of "resting cells" migrate to create new nerve cells in the part of the brain which deals with smell.

In many species, it was known that a tube filled with brain fluid enabled these cells to travel to the olfactory bulb - the region of the brain that registers smells - turning into nerve cells as they went.

But until now, this system had not been shown in humans.

Using several techniques, including a powerful electron microscope, the team identified the tube, and showed it contained stem cells as well as cells which were gradually turning into nerve cells as they travelled along.

Dr Mark Baxter, Wellcome Trust senior research fellow at Oxford University, said: "This study is exciting because it reveals a group of brain cells in the adult human brain that are continuously regenerating.

"This opens another direction by which we may discover ways to repair human brains that are damaged from injury or diseases, and underscores the importance of animal research in guiding biomedical research in humans."

This is more great news, especially since, like the heart repair, it doesn't involve embryonic stem cells or even transplants from other people.

Bionic Eye:

The Telegraph (UK) reported today on a bionic eye device being developed in America.

A bionic eye that can restore sight to the blind could be on the market within two years, scientists said yesterday.

The first six patients to try the revolutionary devices have learnt how to detect light, distinguish between objects and perceive direction of motion.

American scientists were given approval this week to test a more advanced version of the electronic retinal implant on up to 75 subjects.

"We have successfully implanted six patients in the trial," he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Francisco. "We expected that all they would be able to do would be to differentiate between light and dark.

"But we were amazed to find that they can tell the difference between objects such as a plate, a knife and a cup, and tell which way people are moving. If the new trial hits its milestones, the second generation implant could be commercially available in two years."

The device, manufactured by the California-based company Second Sight Medical Products, comes in two parts. A tiny camera in the lens or on the bridge of a pair of lightweight glasses captures images in real time.

This information is transmitted to a radio receiver implanted behind the patient's ear which converts it to electrical signals that are sent to a grid of electrodes implanted in the retina.

These electrodes stimulate retinal nerve cells to produce electrical impulses which send signals to the brain so that the patient can see spots of light occurring in different patterns.

A couple years ago I was at the wedding of a couple from church. During the reception, one of the women at our table, who had macular degeneration but could still see tolerably well, suddenly went completely blind. As fast as that. Her husband took her right away to the doctor, who told here there was nothing that could be done.

Maybe soon that doctor's message will be different. It will be pricey for a while ($25,000 - $30,000), but like all things technological, the price may come down over time.

A Final Question:

Why is all the interesting medical news--even about American advances--coming to us from the UK?

Maybe the US news outlets are too busy reporting on Anna Nicole Smith to look at medical developments that might actually help their readers...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sort of a Day Off

We get three Personal Days off every calendar year where I work, and they fall under the category of Use It Or Lose It. So I used one to take today off, but then I had to bring my work laptop home to finish up some work that wasn't ready until today. And I've probably already spent half a day doing work.

My Top Three plans for today were:

1. Sleep. At least eight hours. I haven't got more than about five hours of sleep each night all week, what with class and working late all the time. Got that.

2. Go to the muffler shop near home, where I saw that they do tow hitches. I wanted an estimate on getting my car ready to be towed. The big RV dealer in our area had estimated about $6,000, and when I turned white with my eyes bugging out, they came down to $4,500. I guess their first estimate included gilding the car. For the second price, they'll only coat it with silver. The muffler shop's estimate was around $1,300 for the fancier (and easier for a couple women to handle) package. No gold. No silver. Not even copper. It sounds much better than the RV shop.

3. Make more flashcards for Anatomy class. I'm falling behind on studying for the same reason I've been falling behind on my sleep. I still need to do that today.

For the long weekend, my friend in San Diego and I are supposed to get together tomorrow and do something. No idea what we'll do. Sunday, I have nursery duty at church during the third service. All the rest of the time will be spent studying the names of cranial bones, trying to memorize tissue samples, and trying to learn enough chemistry that I don't flunk our first exam this Thursday.

Now that you know about my wild-living ways, how about you? What are your plans for the holiday weekend?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lefty Skewers 24

Environmentalist David Roberts posted at GristMill yesterday. His post is titled, "24 Sucks." Along with the comments at the end, this is a superb example of the height of Leftist thinking. He begins this way:

For the first few seasons of 24, I kept trying to get into it -- I'd watch the first three or four episodes and give up. I dropped by for an episode or two this season, and it confirmed my initial impression, which is:

24 reflects a warped, adolescent view of violence and human nature. It reeks of macho fantasies, born of insecurity, entitlement, and above all fear. No problem arises on the show that cannot be solved with more force, more brutality. Anyone attempting to mitigate that brutality is an effete, naive bureaucrat. In the world of 24, torture is always necessary, and it always works.

It is a show for a nation of terrified crybabies who want Daddy to keep them safe, and it both reflects and accelerates the degradation of our national character. It's a genuinely malign force.

Keep in mind, I don't watch 24. I don't know what channel or what night it's on. Laura Ingraham loves the show, and so does Hugh Hewitt. Based on Roberts's assessment, 24 must be a right-winger's show. But the Left doesn't seem satisfied to let the Right have a show to watch. Instead of politely ignoring a show that doesn't appeal to them, the Left must demonize that show, as in, "It's a genuinely malign force."

As for "a nation of terrified crybabies who want Daddy to keep them safe," that sounds suspiciously like those on the Left who want "Daddy," in the form of the UN or the Democrat Party, to keep them safe from Global Warming, smokers, meat-eaters, Christians, and the American military.

Roberts quotes Matt Yglesias with this: almost childlike faith in the competence, honesty, and efficacy of the federal bureaucracy insofar as that bureaucracy is tasked with dishing out lethal force that they would never in a million years ascribe to, say, the people in charge of the Endangered Species Act.

Funny, but you could turn that sentence around and have it be true about the Left. Like this:

" almost childlike faith in the competence, honesty, and efficacy of the federal bureaucracy insofar as that bureaucracy is the people in charge of the Endangered Species Act, that they would never in a million years ascribe to, say, those people tasked with dishing out lethal force."

Self-blinders must be standard-issue for Lefties.

Roberts has this in his conclusion:

The horror of it all is that the lessons of history could not be clearer: force backfires. Violence sparks more violence. Brutality degrades both the brutal and brutalized.

The horror is that Roberts has not learned the lessons of history. Force stopped Hitler. For good. Force stopped Japanese imperialism. For good. And it was the occupation of the American military in those places, coupled with nation-building, that got Germany and Japan their stable governments with strong economies.

Down in the comments, Mike F has this to say:

One thing I'd like to point out is that Jack Bauer is simply Dirty Harry updated for the post 9/11 era. In the 1970s, the enemy wasn't Islamic terrorism but street thugs whose crimes were abetted, if not encouraged, by bleeding heart judges, defense lawyers and lawmakers. A spate of movies appeared during the 1970s and early 1980s that celebrated vigilantes like Harry who cared more about keeping the streets safe than protecting criminals' civil liberties. (emphasis added)

I guess Mike F sums up the difference between the Right and the Left with that last statement. And that's why the Left should just change the channel when 24 comes on. Heaven knows the Right has already perfected the act of channel-changing over objectionable programs.

But obviously the Left isn't content to leave a few crumbs on TV for the Right to watch. They want to expunge all shows that aren't to their taste, because those shows are "genuinely malign."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Valentine's Day Killjoys

Sometimes I think I should just stop reading the news, it gets so ridiculous. But I make the sacrifice, so you can be as disgusted as I am.

The Telegraph (UK) reported Saturday about the dangers of Valentine's bouquets.

The Valentine's Day bouquet — the gift that every woman in Britain will be waiting for next week — has become the latest bête noire among environmental campaigners.

Latest Government figures show that the flowers that make up the average bunch have flown 33,800 miles to reach Britain.

Environmentalists warned that "flower miles" could have serious implications on climate change in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes.

"Serious implications." Not minor ones.

Vicky Hird, of Friends of the Earth, said: "We don't want to be killjoys because receiving flowers can be lovely but why not grow your own gift?"

Yes, they do want to be killjoys. Environmentalists don't want you to travel for "frivolous" reasons. They don't want you to drive in comfortable cars. And now they don't want you to surprise your wife with a bouquet of flowers.

Ms. Hird doesn't seem to realize that if a husband starts growing roses (red ones) in the back yard, his wife might figure out what he's doing, and the surprise would be ruined. Besides, how many British men know how to time their rose-growing so the flowers are just right for Valentine's Day? It takes a professional for that.

And if husbands and boyfriends cave in to the pressure by environmentalists and give chocolates instead, how long would it take before the environmentalist decry the greenhouse gases produced by shipping chocolate? It becomes never-ending.

Appeasement is never the answer. Fight back! Stop the killjoys. Send your sweetheart some flowers for Valentine's Day.

This Is Just Creepy

For starters, I love my little dog Abby. I take care of her. I give her the eyedrops she needs twice a day. And after she's had a bath, I might even let her wear her dress. But I can't imagine ever going this far for a pet--not even Abby:

ThisIsLondon (UK) reported Friday about a service for pet owners.

Wherever animal lover Sue Rogers goes, her two dogs and a cat go with her.

Which is no mean feat considering they have all been dead for several years.

Miss Rogers, 44, has had the ashes of her three pets transformed into a £3,200 diamond ring.

LifeGem UK [is] a company which makes diamonds from the remains of humans and pets.

They're synthetic diamonds, of course, manufactured over a period of time.

Scientists in the U.S. took a small amount of carbon from each set of ashes and heated it to 3,000C in a crucible.

Other chemicals were added to encourage the carbon atoms to attract each other, producing a rough diamond within two weeks. This was cut, polished and certified before being sent back to England where it was set in a gold band.

"I am delighted with my ring as it means I can have my pets with me at all times," said Miss Rogers, who owns a bingo hall.

But you don't have to stop with your late pets. A late spouse works just as well.

"We can turn any animal or combination of animals into a diamond as long as they have a skeleton or hair. I don't think we would be able to do a pet goldfish but we can do rabbits, cats, dogs, horses and of course humans."

Of course...

Global Warming Again

The topic of global warming to me is like rotgut whiskey to an alcoholic. I can't resist.

The TimesOnline (UK) reported yesterday on some new research into global warming, and it doesn't point in the same direction all the doomsday alarmists are pointing.

When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate change due for publication in a few months’ time. They declared that most of the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.

The small print explains “very likely” as meaning that the experts who made the judgment felt 90% sure about it. More positively, a 10% uncertainty in any theory is a wide open breach for any latterday Galileo or Einstein to storm through with a better idea. That is how science really works.

Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as this winter’s billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages. The early arrival of migrant birds in spring provides colourful evidence for a recent warming of the northern lands. But did anyone tell you that in east Antarctica the Adélie penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their spring nesting sites around nine days later than they did 50 years ago? While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.

Which leaves the question: What is really driving the climate around the world?

The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.

That levelling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago. (emphasis added)

And we shouldn't forget the even-more-distant past:

Climate history and related archeology give solid support to the solar hypothesis. The 20th-century episode, or Modern Warming, was just the latest in a long string of similar events produced by a hyperactive sun, of which the last was the Medieval Warming.

The Chinese population doubled then, while in Europe the Vikings and cathedral-builders prospered. Fascinating relics of earlier episodes come from the Swiss Alps, with the rediscovery in 2003 of a long-forgotten pass used intermittently whenever the world was warm.

To recap the approved, alarmist view of the global climate, there are two main concerns:

1. The globe is warming, and it's all human-caused.

2. Warming of the globe would be a complete disaster (followed by, "We're from the government, and we're here to help.").

But a 10-year-old theory by Henrik Svensmark of Copenhagen, which was confirmed by experimentation in the summer of 2005, shows how the sun's activity has a direct effect on the earth's climate.

[Svensmark] saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

Where does all that leave the impact of greenhouse gases? Their effects are likely to be a good deal less than advertised, but nobody can really say until the implications of the new theory of climate change are more fully worked out.

The reappraisal starts with Antarctica, where those contradictory temperature trends are directly predicted by Svensmark’s scenario, because the snow there is whiter than the cloud-tops. Meanwhile humility in face of Nature’s marvels seems more appropriate than arrogant assertions that we can forecast and even control a climate ruled by the sun and the stars.

There's much more in the article, and it's a refreshing change from the standard, "We're doomed!" reporting we usually get. Still, I'm realistic enough to know that the arrogant assertions about mankind's ability to control the climate won't be stopping anytime soon.

License Plate

Most vanity license plates are all about the owner. She's 2 HOT 4 U, or he's a BIG SHOT, or something like that. My divorce attorney's Jaguar plates said "Divorce 4 U", however she needed to spell it to make it fit.

This morning, though, I saw a vanity plate that wasn't as much about the owner as it was intended for the reader. It said simply:


Good advice.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


The only pants I have that fit well are my jeans. Two pair. All my other pants are too big, because I've lost just enough weight to notice.

Back in early September (when it was still hot here), I bought three pair of corduroy pants to wear in the winter. As I remember, I got them at Penney's. Now that they're the droopiest pants I have, I went back to Penney's to get a smaller size, but the salesgirl just gave me a blank look when I asked.

"There might be something on that clearance rack over there," she told me. There wasn't.

I should have known, though. It's February. Everyone is supposed to buy a swimsuit and some sundresses now, because that's all they have at the store. It's frustrating the way they sell winter clothes in August and summer clothes in February, as though you know what will look good four months from the time you bought them.

So now I'm stuck with a bad choice for my work clothes (we only get to wear jeans to work on Fridays and rainy days). I can either keep wearing the baggy pants (my dresses are mostly for summer), or I can try to take them in. I'm good at sewing, but corduroy is very exacting--the mistakes will show. It will be a measure-twice-cut-once assignment, should I choose to accept it, and between work and memorizing histology slides for Anatomy class, I'm not sure I have the time to devote to it right now.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Reading Your Mind

Great Scott! They're reading your mind!

The Guardian (UK) reported today about some research in the area of brain scans.

A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person's brain and read their intentions before they act.

The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.

During the study, the researchers asked volunteers to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers they were later shown on a screen.

Before the numbers flashed up, they were given a brain scan using a technique called functional magnetic imaging resonance. The researchers then used a software that had been designed to spot subtle differences in brain activity to predict the person's intentions with 70% accuracy.

The study revealed signatures of activity in a marble-sized part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that changed when a person intended to add the numbers or subtract them.

I have to admit this is pretty cool. But it's not quite as cool as they're making it sound. The researchers are looking to the future, when they hope to be able to recognize lots of different thought patterns.

The benevolent use of the mind-reading imaging is for helping disabled people use their thoughts to use computers or steer wheelchairs or do other things that help them overcome their disabilities. If the researchers can pull that off, then I'm all for it.

But right now they're wrong 30% of the time, so they need to refine their work just a bit. And they've only looked at either/or decisions (should I subtract or add?). And they're relying on honesty in their research subjects. What if the 30% were renegades who decided to multiply? What if some of the subtracters told the researchers they had decided to add?

The research builds on a series of recent studies in which brain imaging has been used to identify tell-tale activity linked to lying, violent behaviour and racial prejudice.

How skewed are the results going to be when the research--especially in areas of "negative" emotions--depends on honest answers from the subjects?

To be fair, the researchers are already looking at the possible ethical questions associated with the future of this line of study.

The latest work reveals the dramatic pace at which neuroscience is progressing, prompting the researchers to call for an urgent debate into the ethical issues surrounding future uses for the technology. If brain-reading can be refined, it could quickly be adopted to assist interrogations of criminals and terrorists, and even usher in a "Minority Report" era (as portrayed in the Steven Spielberg science fiction film of that name), where judgments are handed down before the law is broken on the strength of an incriminating brain scan.

"These techniques are emerging and we need an ethical debate about the implications, so that one day we're not surprised and overwhelmed and caught on the wrong foot by what they can do. These things are going to come to us in the next few years and we should really be prepared," Professor [John-Dylan] Haynes told the Guardian.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Environmental News

Lonely Planet

The environment (the non-global-warming-hysteria type) has been in the news lately, and I might have missed some of it if it hadn't been about Lonely Planet.

One year I had one of those little square page-a-day calendars, and it was from Lonely Planet, which prompted me to visit their website to investigate all the obscure countries they talked about. In fact, that's their speicialty: the out-of-the-way places that haven't been trampled by billions of tourist feet yet. I still go there when I need to know where in the world the Seychelles or the Maldives are (off the east coast of Africa and near the southern tip of India respectively, both in the Indian Ocean).

But then on Tuesday, the Independent (UK) published an article about Lonely Planet's founders whining about other travelers.

The founders of Lonely Planet have condemned "frivolous" British travellers who fly to European cities with no real sense of purpose.

Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who started the global guidebook company after a pioneering trip across Asia 35 years ago, were speaking at the annual travel industry event, The Independent Conversation.

"The sheer amount of frivolous travel is a problem," said Tony Wheeler.

"Air travel is huge now, but where it's bad is out of Britain because of all these short-haul flights," said Maureen Wheeler. She cited in particular "people flying to Tallinn, to Prague for a weekend. They're not interested in the history, the background. They want to know where's the hip hotel? There's no curiosity there. It's just, 'Let's go somewhere new because we can.' The environment can't cope with that."

Let me get this straight: The environment is only harmed when people lack curiosity. But when tourists are more interested in visiting a museum than a nightclub, then the environment is not harmed.

Sometimes, smart people are just plain stupid.

Environmental Crime

Financial Times (UK) reported yesterday on a recent decision by the European Union's European Commision.

For eurosceptics, the European Court of Justice ruling in September 2005 [essentially declaring sovereignty] was like giving a child a loaded gun. It opened the way for the European Union to designate a new class of pan-European crimes, and how they should be punished.

In Britain there was an outcry. In future decisions taken in Brussels could be applied to the British courts, denying parliament the right to determine what constituted a crime and levels of sentencing.

The [European] Commission's decision this week to create common criminal rules for environmental crimes is seen by some as a sign that Brussels will take full advantage of the court ruling to stealthily advance EU powers.

The EU bureaucracy has the same ambitions for Europe that the UN has for the world. And they will use the environment (or anything else they think might work) as a wedge to grab control--sovereignty--over every country they can. Especially the US.

A Thing of Beauty

Yes, Altoids have come out with Dark Chocolate Dipped Mints. This tin has the Peppermint flavor. Ooohhh!!!

Beware, though, because they have also dipped the Cinnamon flavor, and the tin looks almost the same. Be sure to read the flavor before purchasing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Palestinian State

WorldNetDaily reported today about a planned summit in the Middle East.

The Palestinians are expecting a summit slated for later this month mediated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lead to final status negotiations and the establishment of a Palestinian state, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told WND in an interview today.

"I seriously believe Israel and the Palestinians will use the summit to move in the direction of final status negotiations and a solution, because I think we are realizing the only way to create peace is a Palestinian state," Erekat said. (emphasis added)

Erekat is either lying like a rug, or he's looking at the longterm "peace" that will come for the Palestinians right after Israel is destroyed. Because that's the only way a Palestinian state will create peace.

Caroline Glick's column January 30, 2007, in Jewish World Review (HT: Hedgehog Blog) talks about the Palestinian state that already exists.

This state was officially founded in the summer of 2005, when Israel removed its military forces and civilian population from the Gaza Strip and so established the first wholly independent Palestinian state in history. Israel's destruction of four Israeli communities in Northern Samaria and curtailment of its military operations in the area set the conditions for statehood in that area as well.

And so it is that as statesmen and activists worldwide loudly proclaim their commitment to establishing the sovereign State of Palestine, they miss the fact that Palestine exists. And it is a nightmare.

In the State of Palestine 88 percent of the public feels insecure. Perhaps the other 12 percent are members of the multitude of regular and irregular militias. For in the State of Palestine the ratio of police/militiamen/men-under-arms to civilians is higher than in any other country on earth.

In the State of Palestine, two-year-olds are killed and no one cares. Children are woken up in the middle of the night and murdered in front of their parents. Worshipers in mosques are gunned down by terrorists who attend competing mosques. And no one cares. No international human rights groups publish reports calling for an end to the slaughter. No UN body condemns anyone or sends a fact-finding mission to investigate the murders.

In the State of Palestine, women are stripped naked and forced to march in the streets to humiliate their husbands. Ambulances are stopped on the way to hospitals and wounded are shot in cold blood. Terrorists enter operating rooms in hospitals and unplug patients from life-support machines.

In the State of Palestine, people are kidnapped from their homes in broad daylight and in front of the television cameras. This is the case because the kidnappers themselves are cameramen. Indeed, their commanders often run television stations. And because terror commanders run television stations in the State of Palestine, it should not be surprising that they bomb the competition's television stations.

SO IT WAS that last week, terrorists from this group or that group bombed Al Arabiya television station in Gaza. And so it is that Hamas attacks Fatah radio announcers and closes down their radio station claiming that they use their microphones to incite murder. Because indeed, they are inciting murder. What would one expect for terrorists to do when placed in charge of a radio station?

I have not stopped being dismayed by President Bush and Secretary of State Rice over their approach to the Israel/Palestinian situation. As Glick said, they continue to "loudly proclaim their commitment to establishing the sovereign State of Palestine." But their proclamations don't seem to be based on any of the facts on the ground.

Fatah is no less a terrorist organization than when it was the PLO run by the murderer, Yasser Arafat. Hamas may be even worse. There will not be peace until both organizations have been destroyed and the Arab people of the "Palestinian" territories start choosing peace-loving leadership for themselves. Until then, we should help Israel seal off Gaza, and then leave the Palestinians alone and let them destroy themselves.

Any other action on our part will be futile.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

9/11 Conspiracy

George Monbiot's column in today's Guardian (UK) is a critique of the "documentary," Loose Change.

There is a virus sweeping the world. It infects opponents of the Bush government, sucks their brains out through their eyes and turns them into gibbering idiots. First cultivated in a laboratory in the US, the strain reached these shores a few months ago. In the past fortnight, it has become an epidemic. Scarcely a day now passes without someone possessed by this sickness, eyes rolling, lips flecked with foam, trying to infect me.

The disease is called Loose Change. It is a film made by three young men that airs most of the standard conspiracy theories about the attacks of September 11 2001. Unlike the other 9/11 conspiracy films, Loose Change is sharp and swift, with a thumping soundtrack, slick graphics and a calm and authoritative voiceover. Its makers claim that it has now been watched by 100 million people.

A guy at work, the same guy who attended the hackers' convention last year, lent his copy of Loose Change to my officemate, who lent it to me. I could only watch some of it, because it was too over-the-edge.

Here's Monbiot's summary of the film:

The Pentagon, the film maintains, was not hit by a commercial airliner. There was "no discernible trace" of a plane found in the wreckage, and the entrance and exit holes in the building were far too small. It was hit by a cruise missile. The twin towers were brought down by means of "a carefully planned controlled demolition". You can see the small puffs of smoke caused by explosives just below the cascading sections. All other hypotheses are implausible: the fire was not hot enough to melt steel and the towers fell too quickly. Building 7 was destroyed by the same means a few hours later.

Flight 93 did not crash, but was redirected to Cleveland airport, where the passengers were taken into a Nasa building and never seen again. Their voices had been cloned by the Los Alamos laboratories and used to make fake calls to their relatives. The footage of Osama bin Laden, claiming responsibility for the attacks, was faked. The US government carried out this great crime for four reasons: to help Larry Silverstein, who leased the towers, to collect his insurance money; to assist insider traders betting on falling airline stocks; to steal the gold in the basement; and to grant George Bush new executive powers, so that he could carry out his plans for world domination.

Part of the fun of reading the column is reading the comments that have been posted. It's hard to believe there are that many people who are eager to believe pure evil on the part of the Bush Administration while dismissing any evil in the hearts of murderous jihadists (oh, wait, there's no such thing).

One guy (tonbridge, February 6, 2007 08:05 AM) even has a list of five points explaining why the Jews caused 9/11 and are the biggest menace to mankind (my words, not his--his are worse), even blaming the Jews for the Nazi Holocaust as an extra bonus feature.

Another comment, though, summarizes well the pathology behind the Conspiracy True Believers:

If people can be persuaded to believe this stuff then it restores faith in the central power and everybody can rest easy again knowing that yes, it was very unpleasant but, actually folks, we were in control all along! It wasn't a vicious and, to our culture, incomprehensible act by people beyond our control, it was the government showing how clever it is. Sadly the conspiracy theorists' hunger is fed by the ambiguities and chaos generated by such a cataclysmic incident and while debate continues over details focus is turned away from the underlying vulnerability that everyone is feeling.

That's it. It's more comforting to believe that the government--evil as it is--is in charge, than to believe that it's all out of control and we're all at risk, anytime and anywhere.

My hat's off to those who are willing to face the reality of the threat to our existence.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dream Trip

There's a photography contest at Condé Nast Traveler's website, and I have several photos I want to enter. I want to win. It doesn't have to be the grand prize (though that would be great), but any of the official prizes would do. It's not because I want the prize so much as I want the validation that I'm good at photography.

So I started to enter my photo of the rose in barbed wire from Stutthof, but part of the registration process is that you have to tell them what your dream trip is, so they can give it to you if you win (plus, it's 10% of the contest scoring).

I'm stumped.

I never thought there'd be a time when I wouldn't know where I wanted to go, but I don't. Right now, this trip with my mom is my dream trip, and I wouldn't want some fancy travel magazine to mess it up. So I'm going to have to come up with someplace else to go.

I suppose I could grab a place out of the air just for the sake of entering the contest, but what if I win? It could happen. And then I'd have to go wherever I picked.

So many places that I'd like to go are dangerous these days. I'd love to see the Holy Land, but not now. With Muslim immigration, much of Europe is seething, and I can't be sure when or where something will blow.

I doubt if Condé Nast Traveler would send me to Ghana on a missions trip, and at this point, I don't really feel led to go there.

So I'm starting to think about Scotland. I could see the Outer Hebrides and see the Isle of Skye again, this time hopefully without a gale storm. The magazine could supply me with a nice bicycle and put me up in Bed & Breakfast lodging throughout the Highlands and Islands.

Or maybe I could go back to France (avoiding the banlieux of Paris, where rock-throwing, fire-starting, rioting "disaffected youths" live) and do a canal barge trip that lets me cross a canal-bridge and see Carcasonne and see again some of the places that hold meaning for Christians. I'd have to practice up on my French, though.

And of course, I'd need a traveling companion. But that just gives me yet another decision to make. Should it be my daughter? My son? My sister? My mom? Any choice leaves other people out in the cold. This dream trip planning is tough.

I'll have to figure it out, though, because I can't not enter the contest.

GPS Is Here

My new GPS system arrived Thursday. It's a Garmin StreetPilot i5, only 3 inches across at the base. Costco had it on sale online in January, so I checked out the product reviews, and they were good, so I ordered it.

Most of the reviews said they expected the screen to be too small but were surprised at how readable it is. One guy, however, complained about it and gave it a really low rating. His complaint was that the suction cup didn't stay on the windshield. Somebody else replied to him that if he were to moisten the suction cup first, it would stick just fine.

This morning a group of us got together for breakfast at a restaurant I'd never been to before, so I gave my StreetPilot a try. The display shows the direction you're going as straight up, and the map shifts as the road turns, so you're always going "up." The nice lady's voice (I haven't named her yet) says things like, "In point five miles, turn left then turn right." She only gives two turns when you've got a second turn immediately after the first, so you know what lane to get in.

On the bottom of the screen, the left corner shows your estimated arrival time, and the right corner shows the distance until the next turn (or destination, if that's next).

Then, because I always seem to get turned around when I'm coming out of parking lots and end up going the wrong way, I used the "Go Home" feature. Last night I told it where home is, so today after breakfast, it told me I needed to make a left turn from the parking lot. Hot dog! I'm doing great now!

Once I got to an intersection I recognized, I gave my little Street Pilot a challenge. She told me to go straight for 5.2 miles, but I turned left instead to go the back way. She said, "Recalculating," and then told me to turn right, just as I started the turn. She took me back home from there the same way I usually go.

I am happy as a clam (and everybody knows how happy they are). I already told my mom when I ordered it, and she was as relieved as I was to have some help for our coming trip.

I imagine I'll be using my Street Pilot a few times between now and when it's time to leave, and then I'll use her to get me and my little dog Abby to my mom's house. Little by little, we're getting ready.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Charles Krauthammer on Iraq

Charles Krauthammer's column in tomorrow's TownHall (HT: Sparks from the Anvil) addresses the media criticism of our war efforts in Iraq.

This week the internecine warfare in Iraq, already bewildering -- Sunni vs. Shiite, Kurd vs. Arab, jihadist vs. infidel, with various Iranians, Syrians and assorted freelancers thrown into the maelstrom -- went bizarre. In one of the biggest battles of the war, Iraqi troops reinforced by Americans wiped out a heavily armed, well-entrenched millenarian Shiite sect preparing to take over Najaf, kill the moderate Shiite clergy (including Grand Ayatollah Sistani) and proclaim its leader the returned messiah.

The battle was a success -- 263 extremists killed, 502 captured. But the sight of the U.S. caught within a Shiite-Shiite fight within the larger Shiite-Sunni civil war can only lead to further discouragement of Americans, already deeply dismayed at the notion of being caught in the middle of endless civil strife.

Here's the key paragraph on the media reaction:

Iraqis were given their freedom and yet many have chosen civil war. Among all these religious prejudices, ancient wounds, social resentments and tribal antagonisms, who gets the blame for the rivers of blood? You can always count on some to find the blame in America. "We did not give them a republic," insists Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria. "We gave them a civil war."

Krauthammer's response to this kind of stupidity is perfect, but you'll have to read it for yourself. I wouldn't want to pare down his ire.

There is something viscerally satisfying about reading a column that sums up the essence of a situation, and Krauthammer's column provides just that kind of satisfaction. He concludes with this:

We have made a lot of mistakes in Iraq. But when Arabs kill Arabs and Shiites kill Shiites and Sunnis kill all in a spasm of violence that is blind and furious and has roots in hatreds born long before America was even a republic, to place the blame on the one player, the one country, the one military that has done more than any other to try to separate the combatants and bring conciliation is simply perverse.

It infantilizes Arabs. It demonizes Americans. It willfully overlooks the plainest of facts: Iraq is their country. We midwifed their freedom. They chose civil war.

Read the whole thing.

Young Boys Grow Breasts

NewScientist (UK) reported yesterday on a disturbing condition.

Three young boys grew breast tissue after exposure to lotions and shampoos containing lavender or tea tree oil, researchers say.

It is not uncommon for boys to develop breast tissue during puberty or just after, but the boys affected by the plant oils were aged four, seven and 10.

In follow-up lab tests on breast cells, they confirmed that the oils act both as oestrogen mimics, and as suppressors of masculinising hormone signals. “These are definitely the first substances to show a combination of oestrogen mimicry and anti-androgenic activity,” says [Derek] Henley [of the US National Institute of Health Sciences labs in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, US].

The boys were otherwise normal, and lost the breast tissue within months of discontinuing use of the products.

This is just one example of "natural ingredients" being less than benign.

It drives me nuts when I hear someone touting Dr. Feelgood's Magic Elixer of some sort or other on the radio, and they claim, "And it's All Natural!" As if that's good.

Hemlock is all natural. Ask Socrates if he recommends it.

Arsenic is all natural. Cyanide is all natural. People, we've got to be careful about what we consume or spread all over ourselves. It looks like lavender oil and tea tree oil should be off limits for pre-pubescent children.

But maybe they'd be good for women who want to improve their endowments without plastic surgery....