Saturday, January 31, 2009

Acidity Threatens Ocean Life
Yes, we knew this already. CO2 saturation is raising the acidity levels in the ocean, threatening coral reef systems, shellfish populations, and indeed the entire ecology of the sea. But a new report from ocean scientists worldwide says it's getting worse, and moving faster, than we thought.
[T]he new report’s blunt language and international backing give its assessment unusual force. It called for “urgent action” to sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

“Severe damages are imminent,” the group said Friday in a statement summing up its deliberations at a symposium in Monaco last October.
You can read the Monaco Report here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Kids Today
We love our myths. Read here and then here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Experts Over Actresses
(Via Kevin Drum) An executive with the group Autism Speaks is tired of her group's refusal to, as she sees it, listen to evidence about vaccines and autism. So she's quitting, and has some things to say, including that the public would be better served paying more attention to scientists and less attention to Jenny McCarthy.
In general, I disagree with a policy that says, "Despite what this study shows, more studies should be done." At some point, you have to say, "This question has been asked and answered and it's time to move on." We need to be able to say, "Yes, we are now satisfied that the earth is round."
There are more than a dozen studies that show no causal link between the MMR [measles-mumps-rubella] vaccine and autism, and thimerosal [a mercury-containing vaccine preservative] and autism. Over and over, the science has shown no causal link between vaccines and autism. My feeling is that if there was an unlimited pot of money at the NIH [National Institutes of Health] from which to fund autism science then it would be fine to say let's study it more. But we don't have that.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Question For the Locals
What does Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper have in common with the odious Republicans Marsha Blackburn, John Boehner and Zach Wamp? See for yourself.

Far from some barely blue conservative area, Nashville is a firmly Democratic city, and deserves better.
I Ask Again
After seeing the map attached to this set of data... Why do we care what Republicans think? I mean, I know it's polite to ask their opinion and all, but there is work to be done, right?
Stimulus Bill Curiosity
Why do we care what Republicans think, again? Just wondering.

This piece in the Times has a pretty good rundown of the bill, including this note that has the ring of truth.
By my count, the current package has just one major flaw. It could do a lot more to change how the government spends its money. It doesn’t have nearly the amount of the fresh, reformist thinking as Mr. Obama’s campaign speeches and proposals did. Instead, the bill is mostly a stew of spending on existing programs, whatever their warts may be.

I understand that this approach reflects the realities of political negotiations. It even has some economic merits: it may help speed the flow of money out the door. But it still is a missed opportunity in a few instances.
Namely, infrastructure, which I don't really understand missing. It is the part of the promised stimulus that makes the most sense to the layperson like me - fixing stuff and creating jobs and laying the groundwork for a more green economy, with modern electric grids and building weatherizing, etc. Why would we cut back on that?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The first call he made to a foreign leader as President was to Palestinan President Abbas. Yesterday, President Obama gave his first sit-down interview since assuming the office. He chose to award the honor to an Arab TV network, ahead of a promised speech in a Muslim capital within 100 days. That's some serious ambition - and serious cajones - on display.

The message of his interview? We respect you.

You can read a transcript here, or watch below, but sound is a little weak.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

So It's Come To This
I guess this had to happen eventually. They Might Be Giants is now booking two shows, one for kids and one for their aging parents. When they inevitably switch and make the kids' show the later one in the evening, I'm out.

In case you hadn't heard, Prince is issuing not 1, not 2, but 3 new albums this year. Why? Who knows. But you gotta hand it to the guy in the area of self-importance if nothing else. Check out the website devoted to the first, Lotus Flow3r.

Book Critic Finalists
National Book Critics Circle Finalists have been announced. These are the books that will later tempt you with the reassuring "national finalist" seal on the paperback cover when you're browsing at Border's.

SAG Winners
The Screen Actors Guild heralds: Meryl Streep, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, the cast of Slumdog, among others.

Weekend Box Office

1. Mall Cop
2. Underworld
3. Gran Torino
4. Hotel for Dogs
5. Slumdog Millionaire

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unfortunate Associations
Milli Vanill, Ashlee Simpson, Yo-Yo Ma?
I'm Ba-ack
After about 2 full weeks of travel, and trying to cram class in between, things may be able to settle down now. Expect the more regular irregular posting schedule. So where to point in my first post? How about Oscar nominations? That's not a bad place to start. Thrilled that Man on Wire is nominated for Best Documentary. I've seen more of the Documentaries than the features. Also thrilled that there are only 3 songs in that category this year, meaning we will only have to sit through 3 in the award ceremony. But, shocked that Bruce Springsteen's tune for The Wrestler didn't make it, after winning The Golden Globe. What gives?

You surprised or glad about anything?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More on the inauguration experience later - not the greatest for some (sorry Deb!!), but pretty incredible over all. It would be an understatement to say that the morning crowds - me included - had some trouble navigating the barricaded streets to make it to the mall. With no 2 million strong crowd experiences to compare, I don't know whether the city did a great job or not. I do know that many who were supposed to be there - even with tickets - weren't able to negotiate the lines and delays in time to make it, and there were definitely a few moments where I didn't think I would make it in either. Luckily got a jumbo-tron in sight just in time, right next to the Washington Monument.

But, I digress. I have been writing this morning - my concerns about Rick Warren's inaugural invocation, which I'm even more annoyed by after getting my thoughts out. Check it out, if that sort of thing interests you. Am I making too much of it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

News You Can Use
Stevie T asks for Inauguration news here at the blog, and I deliver. I can report that never before have so many port-o-potties been collected in one place, surely the most per square mile in human history.
A Prayer We Can Believe In
Bishop Gene Robinson delivered the invocation at yesterday's inaugural concert-event. It's worth a read, if you might be into that kind of thing. In addition, if you missed the concert on HBO, it is online (not sure for how long) here. Can't say that there were many particularly outstanding performances, but it's not really about that. A fun event to attend.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Blogging
I'm in DC! Most of you already know that. The town is buzzing, and you would never know the economy is in bad shape here. There are merchants all over the streets and in the mall, selling Obama posters, shirts, hats, caps, pins, pens, bobbleheads, calendars, tote bags, coffee mugs, beach towels, America-shaped wall-hangings, and that's just the stuff I bought. Pictures to come, if I can figure out how to do that. So, who's skipping work to watch the festivities Tuesday.

[UPDATE: Make that 300,001 people! A good show, and tons of people. A little bit cold.]

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bush Legacy, Part 2 - Deep Thought Edition
I see that Governor Blagojevich has already been impeached, headed to the State Senate for trial. It occurs to me that whatever his ego-driven misjudgments, mismanagements, and crimes, they pale in comparison to those of Bush and Cheney. We will be paying the price for their unethical, incompetent, unconstitutional actions for a long time. But instead of impeaching them, we re-elected them. The ultimate IOKIYAR.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan
Read Obama's speech today.
The Bush Legacy
NPR's All Things Considered ran a Bush retrospective piece that would have left my head in my hands if I wasn't driving when I heard it. It's worth a listen, if for no other reason than.... we can never forget what a Republican presidency is like. Also First Read has some statistics that will have you marveling at the horror of the last 8 years.

[UPDATE: Heckuva job, Bush!]

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Lipstick Economy?
On news radio just now, the head of an infomercial company - whose business is apparently booming - told me something to the effect of: It's well-established that in rough economic times, sales of lipstick go way up. He was not only suggesting that's true, he clearly indicated that everyone knows it's true. Personally, my lipstick expenses have (so far) stayed flat through the bad economy, and since I don't feel like looking it up, I figure my loyal readers, who are very wise (despite that) can tell me...should I believe him? Do you? Why would it be?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What Kind of Competition Makes You Try Harder?
This is pretty fascinating. If you think you are competing against a smaller number of people, you perform better - or at least faster - than if you perceive the field to be large.
Participants were told they were competing against either 10 or 100 other participants and that those scoring in the top 20 percent in completion time would receive $5. The short quiz contained four general knowledge multiple-choice questions (e.g. "Who is the Secretary General of the UN?") and four true-false statements (e.g., "Michigan is shaped like a shoe").

Once the first experimenter gave participants the packets and instructions, the second experimenter, blind to the experimental condition, informed participants he would begin timing them with a stopwatch.
Those that were told they were in the group of 10 performed on average 10% faster (29 secs vs. 33 secs) than those told they were in the group of 100. Did that make them less accurate? Not sure. Is it the specifics of this experiment? Or is there really something to this idea that if you think you are competing against a smaller field, you will try harder - even if your goal is percentile placement (so it shouldn't matter how many people you are against)?
Changing My Mind
I have been on board with the Burris shutout in the Senate. It's outrageous that we should have to allow an appointment go through when the Governor is being investigated for *improperly shopping that very appointment*. At the same time, I wouldn't have guessed even Blago could find a Democrat so intent on disrupting what should be a triumphant day for a new Congress that has some pretty serious business to address. I guess I just no longer think keeping him out is worth the trouble. Plus, I'm not convinced it's even legal to do so.

Let's let him in. Turn the cameras off of this fool, and make him face a vote in 2010 and hope for the best. In the meantime, there's kind of a couple of wars and a depression to deal with.

Monday, January 05, 2009

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Patrick Halling is a violin player, and he is pissed. Why? Because a few sessions he played *more than 40 years ago* still generate "thousands of dollars" in yearly income, but that gravy train will dry up as soon as the 50-year mark is reached. That is the current European Union limit for "contributing musicians".

As long as recordings are going to cost as much as they do, I think it's great that hard-working non-celebrity musicians get paid for their role. A session player is a skilled professional. But really, who still gets paid for a day's work you put in back in the 1960s?

Weekend Box Office
1. Marley and Me
2. Bedtime Stories
3. Benjamin Button
4. Valkyrie
5. Yes Man

Dramatic License
I saw Frost/Nixon over the weekend. Liked it quite a bit, though not sure if all the Best Picture talk is warranted. Blogs are abuzz over whether the film takes to many liberties with the truth, considering it concerns a very specific historical event that was not all that long ago. I usually give plenty of leeway on things like that. I mean, how do you gauge the "truth" of a monumental development in just 2 hours? If a made-up scene helps convey a larger reality, isn't that just as important in a depiction as the precision of detail? I usually think so, or at least that such a concern complicates the discussion. Still, even I was a little turned off by the couple of things pivotal to the film that I learned just didn't happen in real life. At this point, though, really not sure what I think about if this matters. Do we care about these things?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Pipe Dreams
Since my own personal finance plans involve winning the Powerball lottery, I can identify with Israeli leadership's strategy in Gaza, though I had hoped theirs was based on more than the moonshot described in today's NYTimes.
In a highly optimistic scenario for Israel and the United States, a clear victory for Israel would make it easier for Egypt, Jordan and countries farther afield to declare common cause against Islamic militancy and its main sponsor in the region, Iran.
A two-state treaty could follow, and then perhaps peace between Israel and Syria, leaving Iran isolated behind the buffer of a newly democratic and peaceful, if not particularly friendly, Iraq.
Of course, one small problem is that convincing military victories by Western powers over Middle Eastern adversaries never "make it easier" for those countries to "declare common cause against Islamic militancy". Just the opposite - it inflames the region, increases popular support for extremists, and makes perilous those countries' internal resistance to such groups. But hey maybe this one time citizens watching their communities decimated by bombs will decide to blame their own leaders and not the folks doing the bombing.

On my way now to touch the hot stove and see if maybe this time it won't hurt.

[UPDATE: Ouch.]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Why Now?
The Israeli-Palestinian mess is obviously way beyond my depth. So my less-informed questions and speculations are probably stupid. But I'm surprised that nobody seems to be asking "why now?" of the Israeli offensive, at least I haven't read that kind of discussion. Hamas has been lobbing rockets into the South for more than a year now, ever since taking over Gaza. Israel has had the area in an economic squeeze ever since, only letting humanitarian materials in. I know Hamas' rockets have increased somewhat recently, but basically Olmert could have used the same justification for bombing the hell out of them last month, or next month.

I can't help but wonder if they don't think they could get away with it once Obama is President? Why else the rush, but to get in some last-minute Bush-era bombing (and - looks like - a ground invasion as well)? I don't know that the new President could or would really do much different - remark on Israel's right to self-defense, condemnation of Hamas, ask that the bombing get over with asap. But maybe they're not so sure what he would do or say? Or, could they be trying to get it done now to save Obama the grief of dealing with it? Either way, it appears Israel is determined to radically overhaul the security situation there, and now.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!
Thanks to everyone who stops by Article 19. Makes me feel like I'm not yelling alone, and keeps me from feeling like I have to communicate with friends online by joining the abhorrent Facebook craze. Who's got resolutions? So far, I've got one: In 2009, I will try to continue staying away from the social network sites.