Archive for March 2nd, 2009
Writer A. J. Jacobs embarked upon a one-year attempt to follow all of the rules in the Bible. To do so, he first wrote down every rule he spotted in the Bible (he came up with 700). Following those rules was difficult, however, especially when he didn’t quite understand them. For instance, where are the “corners” of one’s beard?
Though his talk is often humorous, Jacobs reveals some serious epiphanies he had along the way. For instance, he found that his behavior sometimes changed his thoughts (he found that visiting sick people made him more compassionate rather than the other way around). He learned to give thanks for the hundreds of things that went right every day, rather than focusing on the few things that went wrong. He learned to have reverence for many aspects of his life, even though he remained an agnostic through the whole experience. He also learned that he shouldn’t completely dismiss that which is irrational, and we all have irrational aspects of our lives (is blowing out birthday candles on a cake rational?).
You’ll enjoy Jacobs’ understated delivery and his respect for those who are different. His talk is well worth a viewing, no matter where you fall on the belief continuum.
Pregnant woman were out in droves to breakdance to draw attention to a good cause. It happened in London in September 2008. The stats say it all: every day 1,400 women die in labor and child birth. Here’s the video:
BTW, at the end of the video, you’ll hear that the women who were actually breakdancing were not actually pregnant.
In case you missed it, asteroid 2009 DD45 passed the Earth today at a distance of about 1/7th of the way to the moon. It was noticed about 3 days ago, and apparently has an orbit that will bring it close to home every so often. See here.
It is relatively tiny, about 30 meters across. Therefore, when it hits it’ll only make a hole a few miles across. Maybe the size of Manhattan or the Greater Chicago area. Yes, when. It’ll probably hit in the ocean, in which case only seaside towns will be destroyed, like Miami, D.C, or Los Angeles.
But this is only one of thousands that have been discovered so far. No need to worry. When the sky does fall, we’ll find out eventually. With a bit of pork barrel spending, we might be able to predict and prevent such things. But it might cost as much as the current bailing out of mismanaged banks.
But I’ve discussed the end of the world before.
At the Red Cross, we get lots of mail.
Mostly it’s our own reply paid envelopes with cheques in them, sent in response to a quarterly mailout. In a time of crisis (like now: redcross.org.au) it’s all kinds of envelopes from all kinds of people with lots of different stamps for me to harvest and decorate my cubicle with. Sometimes, amidst the cheques and postal orders, we might also get a letter or card from an old digger or Red Cross lady with a “The War” story, or perhaps a tale of how the good ol’ Red Cross came through for them when they were in a POW camp. We also get people complaining about how much mail we send them because it must cost us so much money to send all those letters (the complainants usually use our own reply paid envelopes – or call our 1800 number – to do so, which, um, costs us money). Occasionally we even get white-hot rage and four-lettered, multicoloured profanity in response to such a mailout (that’s for another adults-only post).
Even less frequently, we get poetry. The following – well, I guess you could call it a poem as I’m not sure what else it should be called – came in a card attached to a donation . . .
This video was created many years ago–based on Moyers’ description of the American space program, it was probably made in the early to mid 1960′s. I had never before seen any video of Asimov (though I have read some of his writings), and I found this video (part of an episode from “Bill Moyers World”) to be engaging. The topics: science and education.
I also found what appears to be a full transcript of the interview at Harpers Magazine, which contains some additional information, including this exchange on the power and limits of science:
MOYERS: What’s the real knowledge?
ASIMOV: We can’t be absolutely certain. Science doesn’t purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism, a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. This works not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life. I should think people would want to know that what they know is truly what the universe is like, or at least as close as they can get to it. We don’t pretend that we know everything. In fact, it would be terrible to know everything because there’d be nothing left to learn. But you don’t want to be up a blind alley somewhere.
As you might assume, Wikipedia has an informative biography on Asimov. After viewing this video, I looked it up. I especially enjoyed his comment on religion:
In his last volume of autobiography, Asimov wrote, “If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.” The same memoir states his belief that Hell is “the drooling dream of a sadist” crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term? Asimov rejected the idea that a human belief or action could merit infinite punishment. If an afterlife of just deserts existed, he claimed, the longest and most severe punishment would be reserved for those who “slandered God by inventing Hell.”