Saturday, September 07, 2002

Oh, wow:

"A man, a plan, a caret, a ban, a myriad, a sum, a lac, a liar, a hoop, a pint, a catalpa, a gas, an oil, a bird, a yell, a vat, a caw, a pax, a wag, a tax, a nay, a ram, a cap, a yam, a gay, a tsar, a wall, a car, a luger, a ward, a bin, a woman, a vassal, a wolf, a tuna, a nit, a pall, a fret, a watt, a bay, a daub, a tan, a cab, a datum, a gall, a hat, a fag, a zap, a say, a jaw, a lay, a wet, a gallop, a tug, a trot, a trap, a tram, a torr, a caper, a top, a tonk, a toll, a ball, a fair, a sax, a minim, a tenor, a bass, a passer, a capital, a rut, an amen, a ted, a cabal, a tang, a sun, an ass, a maw, a sag, a jam, a dam, a sub, a salt, an axon, a sail, an ad, a wadi, a radian, a room, a rood, a rip, a tad, a pariah, a revel, a reel, a reed, a pool, a plug, a pin, a peek, a parabola, a dog, a pat, a cud, a nu, a fan, a pal, a rum, a nod, an eta, a lag, an eel, a batik, a mug, a mot, a nap, a maxim, a mood, a leek, a grub, a gob, a gel, a drab, a citadel, a total, a cedar, a tap, a gag, a rat, a manor, a bar, a gal, a cola, a pap, a yaw, a tab, a raj, a gab, a nag, a pagan, a bag, a jar, a bat, a way, a papa, a local, a gar, a baron, a mat, a rag, a gap, a tar, a decal, a tot, a led, a tic, a bard, a leg, a bog, a burg, a keel, a doom, a mix, a map, an atom, a gum, a kit, a baleen, a gala, a ten, a don, a mural, a pan, a faun, a ducat, a pagoda, a lob, a rap, a keep, a nip, a gulp, a loop, a deer, a leer, a lever, a hair, a pad, a tapir, a door, a moor, an aid, a raid, a wad, an alias, an ox, an atlas, a bus, a madam, a jag, a saw, a mass, an anus, a gnat, a lab, a cadet, an em, a natural, a tip, a caress, a pass, a baronet, a minimax, a sari, a fall, a ballot, a knot, a pot, a rep, a carrot, a mart, a part, a tort, a gut, a poll, a gateway, a law, a jay, a sap, a zag, a fat, a hall, a gamut, a dab, a can, a tabu, a day, a batt, a waterfall, a patina, a nut, a flow, a lass, a van, a mow, a nib, a draw, a regular, a call, a war, a stay, a gam, a yap, a cam, a ray, an ax, a tag, a wax, a paw, a cat, a valley, a drib, a lion, a saga, a plat, a catnip, a pooh, a rail, a calamus, a dairyman, a bater, a canal -- Panama!"

Credit for this goes here (via Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden).

Friday, September 06, 2002

Thinking of Jaq: Bad Astronomy's review of 'Attack of the Clones'.

But, just to be fair, I'll add a movie I really like from the list: Contact.

(Not that Jaq's going to be upset. He can separate a story he likes from good physics, right Jaq?)
John 13 had a flat tire and had to go back to riding public transportation (Tuesday, Sept 3, permalink broken). He hated it. He hates the people on the train.

People are the reason why nothing public can be beautiful. Nothing beautiful could be maintained, and it is not worth spending the money on.

It struck me that this is indicative of John's thoroughgoing libertarianism. Everybody should fend for themselves, because spending money on other people, especially those outside your relational circle, is a waste.

This is safe economics. I doubt it could be proven that it's ultimately the best economics. I would think timely investment in others produces longterm good for everyone. Infrastructure is a good example of this (eg, roads, interstate highways).

In a lot of ways, I share John's feelings. I suffer with some misanthropy myself. But I don't accept it as a conclusion. All people, made in God's image, loved by God, are intrinsically, boundlessly valuable. There is a lot of waste. A lot of God's love is 'wasted', but He continues to pour it out on us.

Do I go from God's love to public transportation? I'm sure other things are involved, as well. But this is my conscious decision-making process, at least.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

It seems that whenever I start to feel a bit smug about how amazingly well-read I am, I come across something like this First Line Quiz and this Last Line Quiz that makes me realize how much reading I still have to do. I'm not going to say how many I didn't know. But it was, well, a lot. Sigh....
Argentina beats USA Basketball. I, for one, am thrilled. I love basketball, but I like it played well, and the NBA has been a showcase of bad basketball for years now. I'm sure a team with Shaq, Kobe, Duncan, etc. would win. But I'm equally sure that a day will come when no US team can count on an easy victory. And that's fine with me.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

That's nice, but Burger King's fries still taste better.

This week's issue of Time Magazine is, unsurprisingly, entirely devoted to 11 September 2001 and the effects one year hence of that day's events. The most fascinating essay in the issue, in my view, is this one about the changes in geopolitics that 9-11-01 signalled. The author, Philip Bobbitt, says that the world is not more dangerous now because of fundamentalist religions and jihads and so forth, but because of the shift in what constitutes a "state". Al-Qaeda, according to Bobbitt, is a "virtual state" and is therefore a dangerous entity not just on the basis of its political goals but by virtue of its very political reality as a state which knows no specific geographical location. Bobbitt is predicting a long and violent struggle that will take place over decades, rather than years or months. While I chafe when I hear Dick Cheney saying "This war will not be won in our lifetime" (mainly because I suspect that of being a justification for the continued existence of the military-industrial complex), Bobbitt draws a more interesting historical case for the long-term likelihood of war -- not that we want it or look forward to it, but that it is coming no matter what. Particularly chilling is this statement: War cannot be outlawed; like law, war is a function of the state, which was created to establish law and make war. This puts me in mind of the "Mister X" character in Oliver Stone's film JFK, who at one point says: The organizing principle of any society is for war. The authority of a state over its people resides in its war powers.

So, is war a necessary result of the existence of any state?

Apropos of the post and discussion last week about violence directed towards women and how best to stop it is this rather horrific item about "Honor Killings", where men who perceive that their wives have in some way dishonored them get to kill the women. Our world is really a horrible one, sometimes. (Warning: the photos in the slideshow at the link above are fairly disturbing.)

Cue Dueling Banjoes!

Re-evaluating the taboo of marriage between first cousins. Robin Bennett, a genetic counseler at the University of Washington says that the genetic defects thought to be more common in first-cousin marriages are overhyped and unproven.

Widely held beliefs about the risks of cousin unions are somewhat "gestalt," not based on hard data, she argues. And the taboo is in fact far from universal. First-cousin marriages are common or even preferred in many parts of the world. There are even 19 U.S. states that place no restrictions on them.

So, if science does, indeed, prove that there is little to no chance of genetic defects, should we permit first-cousin marriages across the board, or is the social taboo too ingrained for us as a society to fully accept it?
Vermeer and the Camera Oscura

John's post about pinhole sundials reminded me that when I was a teenager, my bedroom window sometimes acted as a lens. It projected a tiny, inverted image of the house across the street onto the wall above my desk. This phenomenon only occured on very bright afternoons when I had half the window shuttered. Under these conditions, the room became a camera oscura--essentially a pinhole camera the size of a room. It turns out that Vermeer may have used one in creating some of his paintings, which, if you've ever seen a Vermeer in person, seems reasonable.

Eclipses and Pinhole Sundials

Pinhole sundials are the sort of wonderful devices that one sometimes finds in a Renaissance era cathedral. The sundial works by focussing the sun's rays into a bright spot on the church floor and the movement of this spot marks the course of the day. The interesting aspect here is that the shape of the spot is not simply due to the shape of the hole it passes through, the hole is so small that it acts like a lens and what is actually being displayed is an inverted image of the sun itself. Just like what happens in a pinhole camera.
This all becomes more apparent when it is observed during a solar eclipse. More pictures....

Monday, September 02, 2002

Columbus Robbed? The Naming of a New World

This 1507 world map contains the first ever use of the word "America".

It's author, Martin Waldseemüller chose to name the newly discovered lands to the West not after Columbus (who had convinced himself that he had in fact reached Asia) but after Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian who had just charted a large part of the southern continent and demonstrated that what Columbus had discovered was not Asia at all but an entirely New World.

"Toward the South Pole are situated the southern part of Africa, recently discovered, and the islands of Zanzibar, Java Minor, and Seula. These regions [Europe, Asia, Africa] have been more extensively explored, and another or fourth part has been seen by the attached charts; in virtue of which I believe it very just that it should be named Amerige ["ge" in Greek meaning "land of"], after its discoverer, Americus, a man of sagacious mind; or let it be named America, since both Europa and Asia bear names of feminine form."

It's a little ironic that the territory of the country that now claims to have a monopoly over the name "America" does not actually appear on the map.
Back in the saddle finally and my first offering?

Cricket explained to Americans

"The situation between bowler and batsman has many variables not in baseball. Let me start with the bowler.

The bowler takes a running start. He can run from any direction, at any speed. The fact that he's running as he releases the ball not only adds to the speed of the ball, but also he can twist his whole body into the delivery and put a really wicked spin on the ball. You know how in baseball, the ball is replaced every time it's hit, or there's any suspicion that it is not perfectly round? Well in cricket they use the same ball for a very long time. The old rule was you used the same ball for the entire match, but that has been relaxed somewhat. Still the ball is only replaced about once a day or every other day, and as it gets lumpier, it flies and bounces more and more irregularly. And don't forget the bowler bowls the ball overhanded and it bounces off the ground. The ground in a cricket pitch should be smooth but of course ground isn't perfect, and combined with the spin the bowler puts on the ball and the fact that it's lumpy, it's an intriguing proposition for a batsman."