Archive for February 13th, 2011

Other universes

| February 13, 2011 | 4 Replies
Other universes

My wife asks my son Ben, “What’s going on in your head all the time when you are so quiet?”

My son says; “It’s pretty much Star Wars all the time, Mom!”

I’m watching a TV show about cosmology, including the possibility of multiple universes.

My son has sneaked to the couch across the room and pipes up;

“Dad, does that mean that there REALLY could be a Star Wars universe?” he asks.

I ask, “What did you just hear about the possibility of multiple universes?”

“That there could be more than one universe,” he says.

“So…..?”

“Cool!” he says. “There really COULD be a Star Wars universe!” I immediately chased Ben off to bed.

Now and again I hear Ben say, “That defies the laws of physics, except in a Star Wars or other universe!”

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Coulter: Throw more journalists in jail

| February 13, 2011 | 7 Replies
Coulter:  Throw more journalists in jail

Ann Coulter is predictably absurd here, but listen to the applause of the CPAP audience after this exchange.

Coulter’s comments came during a response to a question from a woman in the audience. The woman initially asked Coulter why she and other Republicans had championed free elections in Iraq but were warning about them in Egypt.

“You don’t go around disturbing countries where you have a loyal ally,” Coulter responded.

“What is more important though to American values–being friends with israel still or knowing there are jailed dissidents and journalists [in Egypt]?” the woman asked.

“What do you mean knowing that there are jailed journalists?” Coulter said. “I think there should be more jailed journalists.” This prompted a huge round of applause from the crowd.

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Randi’s $1M challenge to homeopathy

| February 13, 2011 | 1 Reply
Randi’s $1M challenge to homeopathy

In 2009, James Randi declared that homeopathy qualified for his million dollar challenge. He said then

Homeopathy DOES NOT WORK. It’s quackery, pure and simple. It’s a farce, a fake, and flummery. Prove it works, and win the million dollars.

On Saturday, February 5th, he released a statement challenging the homeopathic manufacturers to submit to a double blind test and to the retail outlets to label the products for what they are – NOT MEDICINE!

Erich posted a piece “Overdosing on homeopathic drugs” last May which has enough links for someone to see for themselves how absurd this concept is. By their philosophy, we should all be sick from some harmful strain of e. coli because at some point all water has been touched by such, and it will, of course retain that memory. Or does it only retain the memory of the “good” stuff?

Go get ‘em, Mr. Randi!

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When does a man become a man?

| February 13, 2011 | 19 Replies
When does a man become a man?

When does a man become a man?

Biologically, I guess it’s when he can reproduce – a point in development that varies from person to person. As does when he can grow a beard. But there are other milestones:

At 16, he is usually eligible to apply for a driver’s license (14 years three months for South Dakota, with restrictions; 17 if in New Jersey, and variations across the spectrum in the US).

The age of 18 is a good one. He can then vote!

Oh, and also sign up to defend his country and maybe die in its service (17 if given signed permission by a parent or guardian, though still not able to vote quite yet.)

In September 2008, 12.2% of the Coast Guard, 14.4% of the Air Force, 18.3% of the Army, 18.6% of the Navy and a whopping 36.9% of the Marine Corps were between the ages of 18 and 21, with an average across all the services of 86% of them being male. It’s a lot of responsibility for those so young.

Why did I pick the range 18-21? Old enough to vote and fight…

…but this man we’re profiling can’t drink until he’s 21.

Or can he? The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (23 U.S.C. § 158), only prohibits

the purchase or public possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than twenty-one years of age

(or the Feds withhold highway funds for states that don’t comply). But notice the wording! “Purchase or public possession”. The Code section is called “National Drinking Age”, but drinking was not prohibited! According to Wiki, 15 states and D.C. ban underage consumption, but 17 don’t at all, and the remaining 18 have some conditions that allow it. I hope my 20 year old “minor” who can go die for his country isn’t reading this! (Wiki has a summary if you want to know the laws in your state.) Note, said 20 year old already knows the law in Texas, which by the way allows that a minor can drink, not purchase, alcohol when in the physical presence of an adult parent, legal guardian or spouse – “adult” apparently meaning over 21.

The car insurance companies think he’s a man at 25, because that’s when he’s responsible enough to get out of the actuarial grouping of high risk and catch a break on those premiums.

But the real kicker that floored me this past year was one few know about. I obviously didn’t. It’s the age of 24.

My son, who owns his own house and hasn’t been a “dependent” on my tax return for a couple of years was applying online last year for financial aid through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). He called me and asked for my income information. My answer? “You don’t need that.”

But apparently he did. The site wouldn’t let him proceed without it. I checked. Twice.

Then I checked the law. He was still dependent as far as federal financial aid was concerned. And up the proverbial creek without that stirring stick, because while he qualified hand over fist on his own (which he has since July 2009), factor in my income and he gets diddly.

He turned 24 yesterday (an auspicious day…shares a birth date with Darwin and Lincoln among so many others) thus now is a man. By financial aid standards. And drinking age. And militarily…voting…driving…biologically. (And the dude’s been growing a full beard since he was 15.)

Happy Birthday, son. Welcome to manhood.

Again.

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On the value of friendship

| February 13, 2011 | Reply
On the value of friendship

In the Wilson Quarterly, Daniel Akst writes about the importance of friendship and the fact that modern distractions are seducing Americans into failing to appreciate or maintain valuable friendships. He defines friendship as “a state of strong mutual affection in which sex or kinship isn’t primary.” What are the important things that friends do?

It’s available to everyone, offering concord and even intimacy without aspiring to be all-consuming. Friends do things for us that hardly anybody else can, yet ask nothing more than friendship in return (though this can be a steep price if we take friendship as seriously as we should).

Here are the disturbing statistics. Half of American adults are unmarried and more than a quarter live alone. A recent survey shows that Americans had one third fewer friends than we did two decades earlier. “A quarter of us had no such confidants at all.” None of this is surprising given that so many of us find ourselves rushing around working so that we can afford things we don’t really need. Akst also cites to the work of Barbara Ehrenreich, who suggest that we fail to develop friendships like we used to because it takes too much of an investment. She blames the “cult of conspicuous busyness” which we pursue to attain “status and perverse comfort even as it alienates us from one another.” Stir in children, spouses and our all too willingness to move in search of jobs that pay more, and we have a social environment that is downright hostile to friendships. None of this is mitigated by the 130 “friends” that the average Facebook user has.

What are we doing in search of this mutual affection in the absence of friends? We have lots of talk therapists, of course. As Akst notes, Americans also own immense numbers of non-human pets, and these seem to be serving as substitutes for friends.

Akst has written a thoughtful piece on friendship in which he stirs in psychology, sociology, philosophy and this conclusion:

[Friendship is] one of life’s highest pleasures… It’s time for us to ease up on friending, re-think our downgrade of ex-lovers to “just” friends, and resist moving far away from everyone we know barely because it rains less elsewhere.

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