Weekly Meanderings

Weekly Meanderings November 10, 2012

Chicago Bears sports fans are still yacking about the amazing game played last Sunday by “Peanut” Tillman. His performance was perhaps the most influential game I’ve ever seen by a defender. Tillman and his wife are to have a new baby Monday …

A good reason to read blogs, and a good reason not to read blogs.

Daniel Siedell, asking “Who are you?” Father Rob asking about fishing.

Karen and the Yay You card.

Good story: “Today, as a functioning member of society who goes to work, creates Web pages, smiles at passersby and offers tea and toast to visitors, he survives with the help of a $202 monthly housing subsidy. But he still battles mental illness. Throughout our day together, he often stopped while talking to listen to all the noise in his mind. “I still hear the voices,” he explained. “It took me a while to accept them but not allow them to control me.” And then he rejoins the conversation.”

Announcement: Kruse Kronicle on Amazon Kindle. (How does this work, Michael?)

One of my favorite reads of the week.”The decision not to start world war three was not taken in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the sweltering control room of a submarine. The launch of the B-59’s nuclear torpedo required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Arkhipov was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov’s reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998. So when we raise our glasses on 27 October we can only toast his memory. Thank you, Vasya.”

Ted on Don’t.

Only a recent European arrival can perceive American politics this simplistically: “Beyond that, the election involves a choice between a party – the Democrats – that has some commitment to the role of public authority as a positive good and another – the Republicans – in which the majority opinion is that public authority is a necessary evil to be kept to a minimum.  Another issue at stake is whether or not to vote for a party that thinks there is such a thing as society.  The GOP seems vehemently committed to the idea that the only ontological reality there is is the individual and the choices he or she make.  These choices are then aggregated via a market system and whatever is the outcome determines what should be done and what counts as true, good and beautiful.  This way of proceeding is taken to be part of nature and any attempt to interfere with it is seen as against the natural order to be condemned as ‘socialist’ or even ‘communist’.”

Patrick examines consumeristic impacts on the church. Roger examines a recent book on the proof of heaven.

Ben Witherington has a post by a friend on St Francis.

Meanderings in the News

Some scientific humility: “That there’s an amazing story of life’s evolution on Earth is a scientific certainty. The evidence is encoded in the nucleic acid sequences of every living organism ever discovered, and the history of life on this world is traceable back for literally billions of years. But the origin of the very first organism that could be called “alive” is very much still an open scientific question. Was the first living creature on Earth created on Earth? Was the material that it came from present on Earth since our planet’s formation, or was it carried here during our planet’s early bombardment by asteroids, comets and protoplanets? Or, did it perhaps originate elsewhere, on one of those spaceborne projectiles, and then seeded life on Earth?…  Life happened here on Earth and we have the history that we have; that’s a given. But until we discover complex life in other places or gain a significantly better understanding of how life originated on Earth in the first place, there is not enough evidence to state that the conditions found in the Solar System are preferred for creating complex life in the Universe. Yes, it’s a very neat find that 4% of the solar systems out there — based on what we’ve observed — have similar asteroid-belt structures to our own, and that’s worth sharing with the world. But going beyond that and stating that those 4% of cases have a better shot at promoting complex life is a reach that goes well-beyond what the science tells us.”

Father and daughter, President or not. (“You know what, Dad, Mom won’t let us watch TV on school nights. That’s not fair.”)

Speaking of parenting… see this about the Fairy Wren? “Mothers usually set about teaching their offspring the moment they’re born. But the females of one Australian bird can’t wait that long. Superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) mothers sing to their unhatched eggs to teach the embryo inside a ‘password’ — a single unique note — which the nestlings must later incorporate into their begging calls if they want to get fed. The trick allows fairy-wren parents to distinguish between their own offspring and those of the two cuckoo species that frequently invade their nests. The female birds also teach their mates the password.”

Powerful, sad, tragic, healing story.

Jay Sterling Silver and the “no duty” law: “The “no duty” rule can be traced to the spirit of rugged capitalist individualism, the Darwinist idea that the common good is advanced through the struggles of selfish individuals. But the law doesn’t just allow moral monsters to act with impunity. Social science suggests it exacerbates the problem. Experiments have long revealed the symbiosis of law and morality: being told that a behavior is illegal makes it also seem more immoral. One defense of the no-duty rule is that common law exists to prevent people from harming one another, not to compel people to help one another. But modestly impinging on the individual freedom to do nothing seems reasonable when a life hangs in the balance. Such a duty is common in Europe, where some countries have criminal penalties for violators. A sensible statute might read like this: “Any person who knows that another is in imminent danger, or has sustained serious physical harm, and who fails to render reasonable assistance shall be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to three months, or both.” Civil liability could also be established, as in other countries. A duty to help would not require bystanders to endanger themselves or provide help beyond their abilities; it could simply require warning someone of imminent danger or calling 911. It wouldn’t bring back the two boys, but it would require us to accept our fundamental moral duty to help those in grave peril.” [One needs a Spartan education to know valor and courage as instincts.]

Top great men with mental disorders.

Fun video:

Will Sandy alter political discourse about global warming? “High-profile figures like Bloomberg, Cuomo and Clinton speaking candidly and practically about climate change suggests a change of pace among public officials. But will the dialogue on extreme weather and climate that has emerged in Sandy’s wake alter the national conversation (or lack thereof) on climate change? Or will that discussion recede with Sandy’s floodwaters and the week’s news cycle? … Warmer temperatures, which allowed the storm to carry more moisture, and higher sea level are likely to have amplified Sandy and its effects, said Michael Mann, a climate researcher at Pennsylvania State University. The 13-foot (4 meters) coastal surge, which includes both storm surge and high tide, in New York City’s Battery Park was the highest in at least two centuries. The higher sea level — a foot higher than when the city’s protective sea walls were built a century ago — can be attributed to climate change, Mann said. “Someone set the fire with meteorology, but climate change added the fuel,” Foley said.

Fatty foods, exercise and the brain.

Why questions moderate political beliefs: “We tend to think that liberals and conservatives are on opposite sides of the spectrum from each other and there’s no way we can get them to compromise, but this suggests that we can find ways of compromising,” Preston said. “It doesn’t mean people are going to completely change their attitudes, because these are based on pervasive beliefs and world views. But it does mean that you can get people to come together on issues where it’s really important or perhaps where compromise is necessary.”

Discovery: no methane on Mars. “NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has detected no methane in its first analyses of the Martian atmosphere — news that will doubtless disappoint those who hope to find life on the Red Planet. Living organisms produce more than 90 percent of the methane found in Earth’s atmosphere, so scientists are keen to see if Curiosity picks up any of the gas in Mars’ air. But the 1-ton rover has come up empty in the first atmospheric measurements taken with its Sample Analysis at Marsinstrument, or SAM, researchers announced today (Nov. 2).”

Kate Wong: “Archaeologists excavating a cave on the southern coast of South Africa have recovered remains of the oldest known projectile weapons. The tiny stone blades, which were probably affixed to wooden shafts for use as arrows, date to 71,000 years ago and represent a sophisticated technological tradition that endured for thousands of years. The discovery bears on an abiding question about when and how modern human cognition emerged, and suggests a way by which early modern Homo sapiensoutcompeted Neandertals to eventually become the last human species standing.”

Meanderings in Sports

Fun, fun, fun.

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