Friday, December 28, 2007

That Was Scary

[warning - nerdage to follow]

almost the scene of disaster

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to installing Thunderbird on my Mac, missing the halcyon days of a dedicated email program. Now that it's running, it's fantastic. But, I got word that there is a Firefox 3 beta out, and I was curious to test it.

I downloaded it and couldn't get it to open, so in my haste, I trashed my copy of Firefox 2. For whatever reason, version 3 isn't happening on the Mac Lappy, so I gave up when I remembered...

All of my stuff was on Firefox 2. And I trashed it.

Grad school research, bookmarks, toolbars, search preferences, everything. And when you trash something on a Mac, it's like it never existed. But let it be said that Mozilla rocks. Mozilla knew I might do something rash/stupid. It backed up my stuff. I re-downloaded v.2 and everything was there waiting for me. Phew.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ohmigod...

I just read this article by a guy who wanted to find out if waterboarding is torture by trying it on himself.

I'm not one who is often greatly disturbed by the written word, but this was just gut-wrenching. Anyone who says waterboarding is not torture is just lying to themselves. As the author says:

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.

At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.

I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

The complete article is here. I would highly recommend you read it, but know that it is not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ditto

Yeah, what he said.

Besos!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bon Nadal, Everyone!

Well, it's Christmas here in Barcelona. How did we ring in the Yuletide? By going to the Italian Bar. I had my first mojito. It was yummy. But anyway, Merry Christmas, or Happy Christmas (British), or Feliz Navidad (Castillano), or Bon Nadal (Catalan) to everyone who reads this blog! Hope you have a wonderful time and get lots of awesome presents.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Well, F*ck

F.C. Barcelona 0 - 1 Real Madrid

Baptista ('36)

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Real Madrid - 41 points
Barcelona - 34 points
Espanyol - 33 points
Villareal - 32 points
Atletíco Madrid - 31 points

Public Health Crisis

Every year, over two million kids are infected.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Random" Update of "Conglomeration"

A few random, unrelated things to toss out into the Blogosphere:
  • I haven't written about Barça in a while, but they keep on truckin'. Today they had their Champions League knockout round draw, and will face my other favorite European team, Celtic F.C. More to come on that subject, I think.
  • Jason Kottke has a link to the 30 Best Blogs That You're (Maybe) Not Reading. The funniest is the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. You should "totally" check it out.
  • This weekend features the Classico here in Barcelona, which will be the best sporting event of Christmas week, lesser-bowl-games-be-damned. Barcelona vs. Madrid "for the soul of Spain," as Esquire once put it. Since there's no World Cup or Euro this year, and the US/Mexico Gold Cup final was above average, but not spectacular, this has the potential to be the Game of the Year. Definitely more to come on this one.
  • Pizza Party Tonight! Woo!!!!
  • J&S is closing in on its 100th Postiversary. Soon, we will be eligible for syndication* on KPLR.
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*I maligned my spelling of "syndication" so badly that Firefox wanted to correct it as "redacted". Oof.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So, remember when . . .

. . . I had this great idea for a blog so everyone could be kept up-to-date on the life Jake and I were leading in Spain. And then I got worried because Jake never posted and I wanted this blog to be about us, not just one of us. And then I never really wrote to the blog, but Jake posted al l the time...yeah. I am a bad blogger. I'll admit it.

And it's not for a lack of things to say, because certainly a lot has been happening here that merits a blog post from me.

But I am turning over a new leaf and am planning on being a more regular blogger.

That being said, (ooohhh....we just got a Christmas gift delivery!), a lot has been going on here in Barcelona. My job with the study abroad program is going well. I just got back from a two week trip around Spain with the students. It was very fun, but pretty exhausting. I think the "death march" total ended up being 10 (I will post soon about more trip details). I will also post my hundreds of photos from the trip soon.

Aside from that job, I also am teaching English classes. Right now I have three classes: one class with 2 12 year old girls; one class with 3 10 year old boys; and one class with one 11 year old boy. I also assist once a week with this English speaking play group, with 7 kids ranging from 4-7 years old. Needless to say, this keeps me quite busy.

Aside from work, Jake and I have found time to have some fun, too. We are regulars at the two neighborhood bars, where we go at least once a week to watch a soccer game. I also have a few different intercambio buddies who I meet up with once a week to speak in both English and Spanish. And starting tomorrow, I will begin two new group intercambios at the local library. One intercambio group is Spanish-English, and the other intercambio group is Catalan-English. I'm a little worried about the Catalan group, as my Catalan is a little rusty. But, that's why I'm practicing it, right?

Jake and I also hang out with the students from the study abroad program from time to time. They're really fun and a great group of students. I have enjoyed getting to know them.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, we have been quite busy here trying to buy and ship Christmas gifts. We are also frantically cleaning the apartment in anticipation of my parents' arrival on Christmas Day. I am so unbelieveably excited to be spending Christmas with my parents! We will also be able to celebrate their 36th wedding anniversary (the day after Christmas) and New Years' together. We have some fun things planned (soccer games, baking cookies), but for the most part we'll just go with the flow. It certainly will be good times, though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good to Know...

According to a Reuters article published today, "[Mitt] Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, gave a speech two weeks ago in which he said if he wins the election he will observe the U.S. constitutional separation between church and state and not let his Mormon church run the White House."

That's funny, I didn't know that observing separation of church and state was optional.

Monday, December 17, 2007

It's A Start, I Guess

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (known to you and me as the king of Saudi Arabia), has found it in his heart to pardon the girl that was sentenced to receive 200 lashes for being gang raped.* This comes, of course, after international outcry and not after some sense that such a punishment was a bad idea.

Next, they might want to consider repealing the law that makes it ILLEGAL TO BE RAPED.

Just a thought.

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*Incidentally, 200 lashes is enough to kill a strong man, to say nothing of a 19 year old girl. She would have been lashed, given time to heal, and then lashed again, repeating the process until she received the full 200. But that's Sharia law for you.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quick! Hide!

Google Reader has this really nifty new feature that lets you read your friends' shared items without leaving your reader. But what makes it hilarious is the text that informs you that you have been automatically subscribed to your friends' feeds. Maybe you don't want to look at your friends' feeds. Maybe your friends' feeds are lame.

If that's the case, you have the option to hide said feeds. But the button doesn't say "Hide feeds" or anything like that. I just want my Google friends to know that if they're ever running from the law, I can hide them real quick.

Have you seen this boy?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Guess This Means I'm Officially European

Roger Cohen, guest columnist at the Times while Nicholas Kristoff is on book leave, has an excellent column this morning about the merits of secular Europe, titled (conveniently enough) "Secular Europe's Merits".

He says, "Europeans still take the Enlightenment seriously enough not to put it inside quote marks. They have long found an inspiring reflection of it in the first 16 words of the American Bill of Rights of 1791: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'"

Meanwhile, America is falling into theocracy. Think that's too harsh a view? Consider this.
  • Republican front-runner Mike Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution.
  • Mitt Romney believes that freedom requires religion. (As Cohen so eloquently puts it, "secular Sweden is free, while religious Iran is not."
  • 54% of Americans DO NOT believe that humans involved independently from other species. (Harris Interactive Poll)
  • 44% of Americans, according to Sam Harris, believe that Jesus will return in the next fifty years - 22% are sure of it. This means that for every five people you know, one of them is convinced that Jesus is a comin' within their lifetime. Do you think this influences voting and national policy? I would think so.
This worries me. It really does. I want to come back to America and go to grad school and raise a family, but not surrounded by nutjobs. Jefferson, who wrote the First Amendment, believed in a wall of separation between church and state. Kennedy believed that the separation of church and state should be "absolute."

The founding fathers didn't even think that the Congress should have a chaplain, and now we have people running for president on the platform of America as Christian Nation.

It's strange. Living in Europe has made me appreciate America more, but it's as much (if not more) what America could be if it lived up to its principles and didn't allow itself to be hijacked by religiosity and Orwellian flag-waving* as it is what I actually miss about America. I want to get my Ph.D. so I can teach kids how to think for themselves, rather than have thoughts dumped into their heads from authority. I just don't want it to be a Sisyphean task.

---------------------------

* Calling America "The Homeland" still sounds very 1984/Third Reich to me, and it just creeps me out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So What Do I Do When Susie's Not Here?

I blog more often that usual, but whenever it's just me, I tend to do something else, too.

I'm something of a videogame completist. I still remember the first time I cracked one million points in Super Mario Bros.* I can get 100% of the items in Metroid (even both ice beams). Unfortunately, today's games (like my copy of FIFA '07) have too many unlockables to fully complete the game and still have something resembling a life. But classic games have no such restrictions, and with Susie out of town, I have no real life to speak of (all of my friends from the program are out of town, as well). So what did I do?

I beat Super Mario World.

Not just beat, mind you. Found every hidden exit, finished every level, and opened every path (even the ones you don't need to finish the game, like Special World).

To beat the game in the most straightforward manner without secret exits, you have to complete 36 levels. That absolute shortest route is 12.** Total completion is 96.

The star means I need to get out more.

I finished with 96 completed levels, 99 lives, and 2,050,260 points. I have no life whatsoever.

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*I was 14 and posted my score (something like 1.1 million) on the refrigerator. My parents were confused. You have to beat the game without warping and use both places you can do the 1-up trick (the end of 3-1 and the end of 7-1) without getting so many lives that the game fails on you. You need to average 125,000 points per world. Needless to say, it takes a few hours.
**The shortest route, for those keeping track, is:
Yoshi's Island 2 -> Yoshi's Island 3 -> Yoshi's Island 4 -> Iggy's Castle -> Donut Plains 1 (secret exit) -> Donut Secret 1 (secret exit) -> Donut Secret House (secret exit) -> Star World 1 (secret exit) -> Star World 2 (secret exit) -> Star World 3 (secret exit) -> Star World 4 (secret exit) -> Front Door

Monday, December 10, 2007

Of Course He Is...

The war on reason continues, my friends. Reuters (via Yahoo!) is reporting that a biologist formerly employed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has decided to sue his former employer. Why? Because he's a "Bible-believing Christian" Creationist, and firing a marine biologist because he refuses to accept Evolution violates his first amendment rights. (So he says.)

His case has already been dismissed by The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, so he's taking it to federal court.

So why doesn't Nathaniel Abraham believe in Evolution? Has he made a scientific breakthrough that gives us a more complete view of the universe? Has he devised a falsifiable test that illustrates that we lived alongside dinosaurs? No, he just believes that the Bible provides a true account of human creation. Who needs reason and evidence when you have the inerrant word of God at your side?

By the way, is he free to believe this? Absolutely. That's why we have the first amendment. But doing biology without Evolution is like doing physics without gravity, or medicine without the germ theory of disease. Imagine you went to the doctor complaining of high fever and he said, "I don't buy this whole 'germ theory' nonsense. Just a theory after all, not a FACT. And nowhere in Genesis did God create the germs! Have an ice pack." What would you do? You'd run, that's what. You'd run, because if your fever was high enough and went untreated, you might die. I doubt a doctor could make an Establishment Clause claim on that one. And if you need to work within a certain framework to do a job, and you refuse to do it, you're S.O.L.

At this point, you may be wondering how this all ties into the title of this post. Of course he is... what? An idiot? Well, yes, but not what I meant. Going to lose his lawsuit? Right again, but not what I had in mind. The question is, what is Dr. Abraham up to now that he's no longer at Wood's Hole?

He's teaching at Liberty University.

Of course he is.

Since I just finished reading High Fidelity, here are the Top Five Things to Know About Liberty University:
  • Students can be reprimanded "for attending dances, violating curfew, viewing R-rated movies (on or off campus), drinking, smoking, viewing sexually explicit material, entering the bedroom of a member of the opposite sex (on or off campus), and participating in unauthorized petitions."[1]
  • Liberty asserts "there is now mounting evidence that man and dinosaurs did indeed live on earth at the same time."[2]
  • Furthermore, they believe that Behemoth and Leviathan (in Job) are specific references to dinosaurs in the Bible.[2]
  • Liberty has received a personal smackdown from Richard Dawkins, who called Liberty "an educational disgrace" that "is debauching the whole idea of a university."[3]
  • Their public relations director, Don Egle, said that at Liberty, they "follow scripture" regarding homosexuality.[4] I sure hope he read Leviticus 20:13 before he said that. "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."
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[1] From Wikipedia
[2] From the Liberty University website
[3] From a lecture at Randolph Women's College. The entire lecture is available on YouTube.
[4] From Inside Higher Ed

Sunday, December 9, 2007

We Have a Phrase for This in Soccer

We call it "playing the ball."


And that, kids, is why they call me the Dominator.


No way this is a foul in the beautiful game. Well, Jens Lehman got red carded in the '06 Champions League final for taking down Samuel Eto'o, but he grabbed Eto'o's foot, not the ball.

God, that was awesome.

Windy!

I don't think I can describe to you right now just how windy it is in Barcelona, because I don't think I've ever seen (heard?) so much wind, ever. Even the prairies of Galesburg had nothing on what's going on right now.

Normally, every night sees a fair deal of wind, since temperature change coming from the Mediterranean causes the wind to run up against the mountains that my apartment sits at the foot of. Last night, that was certainly the case, but it was so bad that I couldn't sleep. Apartments in Spain, rather than having blinds or shades on the interior of their rooms, all have exterior aluminum roll-down shades. This is wonderful for blocking light and reflecting/trapping heat (we still haven't turned on our A/C or our heater), but in extreme wind, they rattle. A lot.

This usually doesn't pose too much of a problem. First, when I go to bed, I'm tired, and it takes a lot to wake me up, once I'm asleep. Second, the wind is not typically what I would describe as "extreme". But last night, I was waking up every 30 minutes or so, hearing Rattle rattle. Rattle rattle rattle. Rattle. Rattle Rattle THUD!

Thud?

I cautiously raised the blinds and looked onto our balcony. Our jade tree had fallen over. Our jade tree that is exactly the size of the wall that should have buffeted it from the wind and weighs about the same as a sumo wrestler is now horizontal on the balcony, blown over by the wind.

I think I know what my project for the day is!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Guess Who?

What if I told you that I knew of someone who believed the following:
  • "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,"
  • "In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified. An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research."
  • "I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk."
  • "If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I'll accept that. . . I believe there was a creative process."
  • "We shouldn't indoctrinate kids in school. I wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach."
  • "I'm not sure what in the world [evolution] has to do with being president of the United States."
Who do you think it would be? Old quotes from Jerry Falwell? A megachurch pastor? Or how about the Republican front-runner for the Iowa caucuses? Yup, Mike Huckabee actually said all of those things - VERBATIM. Flying Spaghetti Monster (bless His Noodly Appendage!) help us if he actually wins the nomination or (gulp) is elected president. . .

Source article here and here.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Religion & Morality

As anyone who watches the news knows, Mitt Romney (R-MA) gave a speech yesterday regarding his Mormon faith and how it would effect a Romney administration. In one of my previous entries, I mentioned how it was right for Romney to address this issue, not because of any religious test for office (specifically prohibited by the Constitution, by the way), but rather because his religion was publicly a racist organization until 1978. Further, Romney was a Mormon bishop, so this case differs slightly from Kennedy's lax Catholicism.

Americans rightly asked questions of Robert Byrd's (D-WV) affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan decades ago. It is absolutely right to give Gov. Romney a chance to say whether or not he agrees with the racist dogma of an organization he was affiliated with while it was officially racist.

So yesterday he did it, and he said something that bothered me at the time. And the more I think about it, the more it bothers me. He said:

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

I'm sorry, but that's just wrong. Not only is it wrong, it is diametrically opposed to the intention of the founders, a great number of whom were deists. But let's break this down for a minute...

Freedom Requires Religion

The Spanish Inquisition* (persecution of Jews by Catholics)
Divine Right of Kings (Do what the kings says because GOD HIMSELF put him in charge)
The Troubles (Protestants and Christians killing each other over the Six Counties)
The Crusades (Catholics and Muslims killing each other over Jerusalem)
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict (Jews and Muslims fighting over land promised by God)
The "War on Terror" (Fundamentalist Muslims goading Fundamentalist Christians into a "New Crusade")
Stem Cell Research (Christianity imposing itself on scientific research)
Slavery (Justified in the South by using the Bible)
Terri Schiavo, et. al. (Religion invading personal freedoms)
Intelligent Design (Fundamentalist Christianity imposing itself on science and free thought)

Freedom requires religion? Good job, guys. Seriously, keep up the good work. If we didn't have religion, we'd be screwed! I mean, Christ Almighty!

When you actually look at it, removing God from morality forces you to set up a free society. You can advocate for other forms of government, and perhaps on small scales they would work, but human society moves naturally toward freedom. You could argue that it's a side effect of our curious, inductive natures. We want to know the truth. And the truth, as they say, shall set you free. For a great explanation of why this is, see Rawls' A Theory of Justice. I'm sure I'll blog about it sometime, the Original Position is my favorite philosophical idea.

Our Founding Fathers Believed Freedom Required Religion

Nope. They certainly believed that everyone has the right to believe what they want, but most of the founders believed that God created the universe and then walked away, having nothing to do with us. No Abrahimic revelations. No Jesus. No Muhammad. So if God had nothing to do with us, how could our freedom require religion?

Still not convinced? Read Jefferson's letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut;** Washington's letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island; any Thomas Paine; any Ben Franklin; or documents connected with the Barbary Coast War (which is immortalized in the Marine Corps Hymn - "To the shores of Tripoli...").

America has religious plurality because of freedom, not freedom because of religion. The idea, as advanced by Justice Antonin Scalia, that justice is derived from the ten commandments is a joke. What it says is that the Jews were wandering in the desert, and Moses came down with ten things you're not supposed to do, and all of this was supposed to be news to the Israelites. Oh, we can't kill now? No Graven Images? Somebody hide the calf! I don't know how your wife got into my bed...

I don't know about you, but I have a somewhat higher opinion of human intelligence than that.

----------------------------

*You may not have expected it, but there it is, along with its chief weapons of fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, and and almost fanatical devotion to the pope. Oh, and the COMFY CHAIR!!
** And who were the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut worried about being persecuted by? The (wait for it... wait for it...) CONGREGATIONALISTS of Danbury, Connecticut. They weren't even worried about non-Christians trying to keep them down. And they were worried enough to write the President about it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One More Lap Around the Sun

Well, I'm another year older. Woo. I've managed to successfully survive another lap around the sun. As you can tell, there are other holidays that I like more than my birthday (e.g. Christmas and Thanksgiving), but there are still a lot of cool things that happened on December 5th. So, here are the ten coolest things that happened on my birthday.*

1492 - Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola.
1766 - In London, James Christie holds his first sale.
1782 - Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States born.
1791 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer, died.
1830 - The premiere of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique in Paris.
1901 - Walt Disney, American animated film producer, born.
1926 - Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin premieres.
1933 - Prohibition ends.
1955 - E.D. Nixon and Rosa Parks lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
2005 - The Civil Partnership Act comes into effect in the United Kingdom, and the first civil partnership is registered there.

December 5th is also the Day of the Ninja.

*Things may or may not have occurred before my birth.

NPR's Democratic Debate

You can download this afternoon's NPR radio debate between Democratic candidates for president. First, I think that NPR should do more debates - they actually have this thing called, well, substance. No "diamonds or pearls" plants from the networks. Three topics, deep dives, and (get this) actually making the candidates answer the questions.

I'm an hour into it, but I think you can start to draw conclusions:
Hillary Clinton is a campaign machine - if she thinks it will get her elected, she'll say it.
Barack Obama's star wattage goes down considerably on the radio (think Kennedy vs. Nixon in '60), but his positions are reasonable and well put regardless of star power. He gets much stronger as the debate goes on.
Joe Biden is perhaps the smartest, most well spoken person running for the Presidency.
John Edwards almost sounds reasonable until he hops on his "big corporations are the height of evil" hobby-horse.
Chris Dodd is like a bad cassette copy of Joe Biden.
Dennis Kucinich may still be on the UFO.
Mike Gravel is just-plain-goddam-straitjacket-nuts. The highlight of the first hour was Michele Norris basically telling him to shut up when he went on a crazy rant.

Bill Richardson was not present, as he was attending a funeral for a New Mexican Korean War soldier whose remains he was able to repatriate.

UPDATE: In the 77th minute (yes, I watch too much soccer), there is a freaky Joe Biden/Chris Dodd mind meld. Maybe Dodd really is a Biden clone...

UPDATE AGAIN: In the 95 minute, Joe Biden talks about women "getting the crap beat out of them" and says "S.O.B." I didn't know he had it in him to drop the senatorial decorum and get emotional about domestic violence. Go Joe.

If I lived in Iowa, I would caucus in the following order:
Barack Obama
Joe Biden
John Edwards
Hillary Clinton
Bill Richardson
Chris Dodd
Dennis Kucinich
Bag of Baseballs
Mike Gravel

This Is An Outrage!

Texas has just fired their state science director for not sticking up for Intelligent Design.

The director, Christine Comer, was forced to resign for forwarding an email to a science group regarding a lecture to be given by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and expert witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover (the Pennsylvania ID suit). Why force her to resign?

Forwarding info on a lecture, in the eyes of the Texas board of education, apparently implies implicit endorsement of its ideas, and as Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the board says in a New York Times article, "[An educator's] job is to enact laws and regulations that are passed by the Legislature or the State Board of Education and not to inject personal opinions and beliefs."

Personal opinions and beliefs? Evolution is not a personal opinion or belief any more than the Theory of Gravity. Scientific theories are not ideas. No scientist wakes in the middle of the night and has a sudden hunch which is proclaimed a theory. That's an idea. A scientific theory is "a mathematical or logical explanation, or a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise falsified through empirical observation." (via Wikipedia) Evolution is not an idea bandied about by scientists late at night around a wine bottle. Neither is Cell Theory, Atomic Theory, the Kinetic Theory of Gas, the Germ Theory of Disease, Special and General Relativity Theory, Quantum Theory, Number Theory, or the Theory of Gravity.

Intelligent Design, on the other hand, is a personal opinion. That the Bible is the inerrant word of God is a personal opinion. Rejecting scientific claims that do not square with your religious beliefs is a personal opinion. And advocating for these claims in the public square via a method that uses taxpayer dollars is unconstitutional.

As Judge John Jones III wrote in his Kitzmiller opinion,

ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's; and (3) ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. . .

ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the Intelligent Design Movement is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID. . .

Accordingly, we find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom, in violation of the Establishment Clause."


Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall!

Monday, December 3, 2007

By The Way...

Hillary Clinton just attacked Barack Obama's record as a kindergartener. I'm not even kidding.

Here's the story, courtesy the Chicago Tribune.

Seeking Criticism

New post up on the other blog, and I think I'm onto something, but the ideas don't seem totally cogent yet. Any feedback would be appreciated. Lots going on right now here in BCN, and a more substantive update is coming (likely tomorrow), but highlights include Susie being on a two week tour of southern Spain and me going to the Barcelona/Espanyol game on Saturday night. More soon!

P.S. Anyone looking for a good book should check out Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience. Best book I've read in some time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Just Freed 17 Gigs (Yes, GIGS) on the Laptop

And, I did it in TEN SECONDS! Some of you know that I bought my iPod before I bought the Mac, so somehow in the Mac/iPod integration process, I wound up with two copies of all of my old music on my laptop, which I just figured out today. All of this happened before a friend of mine told me the great secret to operating in a Mac environment - don't overthink, just do.

And I was starting to worry that I'd need to upgrade my hard drive...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hitchens Is At It Again

What? What's that, Christopher? We should ask questions about Mitt Romney's Mormonism? Why? The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints was dogmatically racist until the late seventies?

From Slate:

"Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has had to be asked about his long-ago membership of the Ku Klux Klan (which, I would remind you, is also a Protestant Christian identity organization), and he was only a fiddle-playing member, not a Grand Kleagle or whatever the hell it is. Why should Romney not be made to give an account of himself? A black candidate with ties to Louis Farrakhan could expect questions about his faith in the existence of the mad scientist Yakub, creator of the white race, or in the orbiting mother ship visited by the head of the Nation of Islam. What gives Romney an exemption?

There is also the question—this one more nearly resembles the one that John F. Kennedy agreed to answer so straightforwardly in 1960—of authority. The Mormons claim that their leadership is prophetic and inspired and that its rulings take precedence over any human law. The constitutional implications of this are too obvious to need spelling out, but it would be good to see Romney spell them out all the same."

Capital idea, sir!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Best Political Ad EVER

Once upon a time, I thought Mike Huckabee might have been the best Republican candidate for the nomination. Granted, this is sort of like being the tallest midget, and this is also before he said things regarding the Arab/Israeli conflict like "This conflict isn't new. It has been going on since all the way to the time of Abraham."[1]

-or-

"It would be very problematic for Israel to give up the West Bank, from their own standpoint of security. . . [T]here are a lot of options that involve other territory that doesn't have to include the West Bank or the Golan Heights. There is an enormous amount of land in Arab control all over the Middle East."[2]

But this is too funny. I have never laughed during a political ad before, and if you haven't seen it, you are doing yourself a disservice.



[3]

[1] Abraham, if he existed, lived somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 - 1,700 BCE. Islam was founded around 610-ish CE. Only off by two and a half millenia.
[2] I don't even know where to start with this ridiculous statement.
[3] Chuck Norris doesn't endorse. He tells America how it's going to be.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Something Awesome Happened Yesterday

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have a fairly long break between two of my classes. Long enough that I don't want to stick around the school, but too short to go home. So, I've been going to a cafe on Avigunda de Gaudi (a diagonal street with Sagrada Familia at one end and Hospital de Sant Pau at the other, so it's bookended by Gaudi), having a Coke, and reading some Philosophers Speak for Themselves.

So yesterday, the baristo brought me my Coke and said, "You're always studying."

"Yeah," I said.

He asked, "What are you studying?"

"Philosophy"

"Oh, are you studying in England?"

"No," I said, "I'm going to study in the United States."

"Ah, I'm sorry, those are quite different," he said.

"Not really. They're very similar."

Except the whole conversation WAS IN SPANISH!!! I had an entire conversation with someone from Spain in Spanish! It only took three months...

Also, for people who read my other blog, I then proceeded to make some interesting connections between Cartesian thought and religious fundamentalism. Look for a post soon!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oops!

It has been brought to my attention that the Whither Reason? link in the previous post doesn't go anywhere. It has been repaired, but in case you don't want to scroll down, it's here, too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Promised Something New

And here it is. Since I've decided that I'm going back to school, hopefully in the Fall of 2009 (God willing and the crick don't rise), I thought it would be a good idea to start putting some things on paper. That way, I won't go back into school having not written anything of philosophical substance in six years. So...

I have a new philosophy blog, Whither Reason?, and I'd like you to check it out. Philosophy is a dialog, and I can't have a dialog alone.

Here's how it works: I read a book, blog about it, and hopefully get a good back and forth going on the topics I write about. No, you don't need to read along, though you're certainly welcome to. I just need to make sure my writing isn't crap.

I'm taking this really seriously, and didn't want to put WR out there until there were a couple posts and the layout was at least what close to what I wanted. I'm now to that point. So, head over there, poke around, and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Never Thought I'd Say This

The University of Missouri now holds its NCAA National Championship destiny in its own hands. #2 Oregon lost last night to Arizona, and Mizzou's schedule looks something like this:

@ Kansas State
vs. #4 Kansas @ Arrowhead Stadium

If the Tigers win out, it's off to the Big XII Championship, likely against #3 Oklahoma (though the opponent doesn't matter).

Right now, the BCS Standings are:

1) LSU
2) Oregon
3) Oklahoma
4) Kansas
5) Missouri
6) West Virginia

So, assume everyone that can win this week does. Oregon drops out of the top five, and OU, KU, and Mizzou move up. Mizzou now has to play Kansas. If they win, and Oklahoma wins, the BCS top three going into the Big XII Championship would be LSU, OU, Mizzou (assuming LSU wins out). IF Mizzou gets to the title game, and IF Mizzou beats Oklahoma, the worst position Missouri would find itself in would be 2nd.

Now let's see if they can do it.

Oh, and most interestingly, with the Oregon loss, FOUR teams hold their destinies in their own hands, fighting for two spots. If a team wins out, it goes to the title game. But (and this is a big but), two of the teams face off in a week, and the winner will most likely face the third team shortly thereafter, since three of the top five are in the Big XII and lead their divisions. Pretty exciting. Kind of sounds like... a playoff. But we all know that playoffs in college football aren't exciting, which is why we have the BCS. Right?

Right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sorry for the Post Lull...

I'm working on something cool. And keep the grad school recommendations coming! They're super helpful.

Uh... And Ayers Rock is in St. Louis, Right?


As a follow up to my earlier post about 60% of Americans thinking that trade is bad for the economy, I have bad news.

The problem isn't just in America. We are a planet of morons.

The Guardian is reporting that one in three Britons believe that Mt. Everest is in Europe.

Yes, that Mount Everest.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Need Your Help! Seriously.

I've been thinking about this on and off for the past few months, but I'm starting to get my act together - I want to get my PhD in philosophy. I'm looking at schools and admission requirements, and I'll be honest - it's quite intimidating. Some of the admission rates are crazy! Wisconsin only admits about 10% of its applicants. University of Chicago admits about 5%. Other schools don't say, but I'd assume it's about the same.

Here's where I need your help. If you applied to grad school (and not a University of Phoenix or eMBA or something, but a full time, physical presence required grad school), what was your application experience like? What are typical admission rates for your program? I'm starting to freak out a bit, and I'm terrified that I'll apply to a bunch of schools and get rejected by all of them. That would crush me.

Also, if you have any recommendations on where I should look, let me know!

Right now, the list consists of (in no particular order): Loyola Chicago, U of C, UIC, U of I, Mizzou, SLU, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Wash U, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Western Michigan, and Michigan State.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's Not About Creationism

I ran into an interesting article today on Language Log discussing a rather spurious theory that much of what constitutes English slang is, in fact, descended from Gaelic. As a member of the Irish diaspora, it would be fantastic, if it were true. Unfortunately, the research is bad at best and disingenuous at worst.

However, a quote* from the article got me to thinking about Creationism (or Intelligent Design, or whatever the Religious Right is packaging Biblical Fundamentalism as these days), the theory that claims dinosaurs lived alongside man 3,000 years ago and "the chances are good" they were on Noah's Ark.

Creationists have always maintained that they are relegated to the scientific fringes and are maligned and unfairly attacked by the mainstream, caught up in a conspiracy to prevent them from getting their views accepted by mainstream society and into the classroom (see Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, etc.).

Are Creationists out of the mainstream? Absolutely. Do they deserve to be? You bet. Consider the quote I mentioned earlier, applied not to bad Gaelic scholarship, but to Intelligent Design:

The Creationist advocate** "paints himself as the maligned scholar, the unappreciated genius, the outsider. He may be all of those things, but he is them by choice: his work cannot withstand scholarly scrutiny so he simply cannot afford to join forces with any larger body of experts who do this sort of thing for a living. His book falls apart on first reading by anyone with some expertise in the field."

* The original quote comprises the third paragraph.

** The Creationist advocate was obviously added by me. The quote in its original context discusses the book How the Irish Invented Slang.

Busy Bee

Sorry for the lack of updating. Things here have gotten a little busy, as I have begun teaching some English classes. My Puritan work ethic was not satisfied with the mere 20 hours a week I work with the Knox Program, so I decided to pick up a few hours of teaching. I had two classes this week, and they went really well. The first class is two 12 year old girls who barely speak any English. That class was pretty rough as it was apparent that they weren't understanding anything I said. However, my other class of 3 10 year old boys was AWESOME! They had a basic level of English, but definitely had a higher level than the girls, so we were able to do more things. We introduced ourselves, played time bingo, made up stories (they wrote about a magical basketball that was at the bottom of the sea), played an alphabet game, and the time just flew by!

So, that's what's been keeping me busy. Not sure what's going on this weekend. There's a chocolate festival here, which sounds cool, but is kind of expensive. I had also thought about maybe going hiking tomorrow, but it's gotten a little chilly here. But, perhaps the best news of the weekend is that we are getting a new couch! It is scheduled to arrive today, and I am VERY excited!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Huh?

I was reading a Reuters article today about the Iowa Caucuses today when I came across some poll data that was disturbing.

"Nearly 60 percent of Americans believe trade is bad for the economy, according to an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll conducted in September."
-Iowa voters take Democrats to task over jobs (Reuters)

Uh, trade is the economy. That's what capitalism is; trading money, goods, or services for other goods and services.

So you're saying that the economy is bad for the economy?

Either the quote/poll drastically misrepresents Americans' feelings toward trade, or the average American is quite dull. I'm really hoping it's the former.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Americans, Drop What You're Doing!


If you live in America, or have access to American magazines, go out right now and pick up a copy of the 150th Anniversary issue of The Atlantic. There are a series of fifty essays by prominent American thinkers from diverse walks of life (artists, writers, politicians, judges, etc.) discussing the American Idea.

The Atlantic's website doesn't allow non-subscribers to read the articles online, but it does have some interesting (and conflicting) quotes. Among the better ones:

"We don't have to diminish the American idea in order to save it. Indeed, the only way to prevail in the struggle between freedom and fundamentalism is to enrich that idea in the face of threats."
-Senator Joe Biden

"We are not unique; our ideals are not exceptional; and, to everyone's good fortune, our ability to put those ideals into practice, however special it once may have been, has not remained so."
-Justice Stephen Breyer, US Supreme Court

"Ours are loyalties to an ideal, not to a revelation, and this must have been the reason, even if he was not conscious of it, why Lincoln referred to the American 'proposition.'"
-William F. Buckley

"America is now a nation of 300 million souls, wielding more influence than any people in human history—and yet 240 million of these souls apparently believe that Jesus will return someday and orchestrate the end of the world with his magic powers."
-Sam Harris

"The question is: Do we live to serve ourselves alone, or shall our lives bear witness to something larger?"
-T.D. Jakes

"America's uniqueness is based in the Christian consensus of the Founding Fathers, who penned documents guaranteeing religious and personal freedom for all."
-Tim La Haye (in counterpoint to Sam Harris)

"The American idea, as I understand it, is to trust people to know their own minds and to act in their own enlightened self-interest, with a necessary respect for others."
-John Updike

David Foster Wallace's piece has been reproduced in its entirety, and is definitely worth a read, even if you don't pick up a copy of the magazine. You can read it here.

Barça Update: WOOOOO!!! -or- Suck It, Rangers

Rangers prepares their defense before the game

After the ugly slugfest a couple weeks ago in Glasgow, tonight was Barcelona/Rangers: The Rematch, and did Barça ever deliver. Henry (6') and Messi (42') found the back of the net for a 2-0 finish. Yes, Henry's goal touched his hand, but there was a deliberate handball in the box that wasn't called, so it evened out.

Barcelona was out for blood from the start, using a 4-3-3 to great effect. (For non-soccer folks, that's four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. A more-or-less "standard" formation is 4-4-2. The more forwards you have, the more attack minded your team will be, and the more defenders you have, the more defensive minded your team will be.)

Rangers, again playing for the draw, tried a formation that looked more like five defenders, the Maginot line, four midfielders, the Union blockade of the Confederacy, and one lone forward. Funny how that didn't work outside of Scotland.

So, four group games down, two to go. As a bonus, Madrid has stumbled in league play, dropping a match to Valencia (mmm... oranges) while Barça have continued to roll. I haven't seen the games recently, due to a combination of sickness (Sunday's game) and being at the Espanyol game (Thursday's game). From what I understand, Thursday should have been a win, but the tie isn't the end of the world. Barcelona is now only one point behind Madrid in the standings. Speaking of standings...

La Liga (Jornada 11)
1) Real Madrid / 8-2-1 / 25 points / +16
2) Barcelona / 7-1-3 / 24 points / + 15
3) Villareal / 8-3-0 / 24 points / +6
4) Valencia / 7-4-0 / 21 points / -2
5) Atlético Madrid / 6-3-2 / 20 points / +9

Champions League Group E (Matchday 4)
1) Barcelona /3-0-1 / 10 points / +7
2) Rangers / 2-1-1 / 7 points / +2
3) Olympique Lyon / 2-0-0 / 6 points / -2
4) VfB Stuttgart / 0-0-4 / 0 points / -7 -- ELIMINATED --


Pelé Sez: It's time to start thinking about who will advance in the Champions League. There are 32 teams in the Group Stage, and 16 will remain when the Group Stage is done. If you finish in the top two in your group, you move on. If not, you're out of the Champions League. Right now, advancement looks like this:

Through to the Next Round
Manchester United (ENG)
Arsenal* (ENG)

Looking Good
Chelsea (ENG)
Real Madrid (ESP)
AC Milan (ITA)
F.C. Barcelona (ESP)
AS Roma (ITA)
Inter Milan (ITA)
Fenerbahce (TUR)
Sevilla (ESP)

On the Bubble
Marseille (FRA)
Liverpool (ENG)
Rosenborg (NOR)
Shalke 04 (GER)
Lazio (ITA)
Olympiacos (GRE)
Celtic (SCO)
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Rangers (SCO)
Olympique Lyon (FRA)

In Trouble
Besiktas (TUR)
Valencia (ESP)
Werder Bremen (GER)
Benfica (POR)
Sporting Lisbon (POR)
Slavia Prague* (CZE)

Eliminated
VfB Stuttgart (GER)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Steaua Bucuresti (HUN)

* Arsenal could theoretically not advance to the knockout stages, but here's what would have to happen. Arsenal would have to lose its next two games. Slavia Prague would have to win its next two games. In addition, Slavia Prague's goal differential (goals scored minus goals allowed) would have to be better than Arsenal's by at least twenty. Keep in mind that when the two teams met in England, Arsenal won 7-0. I say Arsenal is through to the next round, and I'm Pelé, so you should listen to me. Love! Love! Love!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Prophetic Words

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom..."

-Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol

Yup, Nancy Grace had her twins, John and Lucy. Personally, I was pushing for Damien and Lilith.

Evil with a capital... Oh, hell, she's just evil, okay?

Monday, November 5, 2007

iPhone Goes Crazy

One of the best features of the iPhone is that you can look at documents (.doc, .xls, .jpg, etc.) at full size, even though the screen is tiny. You accomplish this by using a pinching motion that, like all other Apple products, is ridiculously simple. How far can you zoom in? Just take a look:



Is he reading National Geographic?

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm Sick

I'm laid up in bed with a cold or flu or something nasty, so you'll have to depend on Susie for a more substantive post today.

In the meantime, here's a clip from Robot Chicken's Star Wars special. I like the space slugs ordering Chinese and Jedi President Bush.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What do I do?

So, I know one of you has asked me this, and more of you might be wondering this, but what exactly do I do here? What is my job like?

Well, my official title is "Assistant to the Director of the Knox College Barcelona Program." I hate to be aloof, but that job title actually is a pretty good description of what I do. I assist the Director of the Program (one Mr. Tim Foster) to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Each day is different, and so far my main tasks have included handling all the visa/residency paperwork, coordinating the students' arrival, planning excursions, finding activities for the students, handling university registration, planning for the big December trip, and planning the Thanksgiving dinner. Some days are insanely busy, while others are more relaxed. I am also available to listen to the students' problems, concerns, experiences, and help them out when I can.

I really like the group of students that is here now. I am sad that a good chunk of them will only be here fall term. However, 19 more students are arriving in January, so that will keep me on my toes.

Where do I work? At the University of Barcelona. The UB has many campuses, but I work at the main one in the city center. It was built in the 1860's, and was declared a historic site in the 1970's. So, yeah, I basically work in a castle. It's pretty amazing, actually. However, the office where I work is fully equiped with the most modern of technologies (ok, not the *most* modern, but we do have computers, internet, fax, etc.), so despite the historical surroundings, we can still get everything done quickly and efficiently.

I know I may not have fully and adaquately described my job, but my job is really a hodgepodge of different tasks. In all, I try to make sure that the program runs as smoothly as possible, and I do everything possible to achieve this goal. That's all.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy this glorious four day weekend. Yep, that's right! Today is a holiday here in Spain (All Saint's Day) and I always have Fridays off, so another nice long weekend here in Spain.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Goulet

That's right, Robert Goulet, star of Broadway's Red Ships of Spain and the seminal album Coconut Bangers Ball: It's a Rap, has passed away at the age of 73. Now Banderas will have to do the English lyrics, too.

Join me now in saying: Goulet.



not actually Robert Goulet


actually Robert Goulet

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brainiac!

Have you ever seen Brainiac? No, not the Superman character, the British TV show. It's like Bill Nye the Science Guy for the twenty-something set, featuring fun experiments like walking across custard, firework racing, touching an electric fence, and blowing up a car with thermite "because it's old, because it's white, and most importantly, because it's French."

But my favorite, by far, is Alkali metals in a bathtub.



You can also subscribe to their podcast.

Irony

Check this out. Disneyland is closing the Small World ride in January because the riders are too fat. Yup, Americans are now too fat-assed for Disneyland. Small world, indeed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Flickr Photos

Featuring our recent trips to Lloret & Tossa, Girona, the Dalí Museum, and a 1,000 year old monastery. Enjoy!

Sir, (a + bn)/n = x, hence God exists. Reply!

It's often said that in polite society, there are two things that you never discuss - politics and religion. I've given politics enough of a go on the blog, so now it's God's turn.

Editorial comment - one side of this discussion is going to approach straw man status. However, this side often presents itself as a straw man, so this is precisely the problem. If you put up a piñata, I'm gonna take a swing.

Somehow in the YouTube-Google Reader-Friends' Blogs zeitgeist, I came across a series of articles and videos relating to religion and God's existence. They are as follows:

Richard Dawkins discussing The God Delusion at Macon Women's College and on the Beeb. (videos)
Christopher Hitchens discussing God Is Not Great at a Google Talk. (video)
"The Evangelical Crackup" in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (article)
"Should I get a tattoo??" on the St. Louis Archdiocese Youth Ministry page (article)

Dawkins and Hitchens are, for those who don't know, rather well known atheists who present their cases quite persuasively. They are articulate, both (but Dawkins in particular) use science and logic to present their arguments, and they are gracious and accommodating, within reason, when confronted with questioners who have opposing viewpoints.

Dawkins' (greatly condensed) argument goes something like this: An infinitely complex being responsible for the creation of the universe, and therefore you and me, cannot exist because the universe evolves from simple systems to complex systems, and not vice versa.

While I was watching Dawkins' MWC talk, which was infiltrated by Jerry Falwell's Liberty "University" students, I also found my way to the St. Louis Archdiocese's Youth Ministry page. One of my best friends is a seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and he mentioned that he had a new blog entry on the youth site. (As philosophy, it's actually quite good - possibly the best writing he's done in some time.) While I was on the home page, I saw a link right below his, asking "Should I get a Tattoo??"

At first, I thought, Whoa, this is awesome. Someone on a Catholic youth page is surveying his readers to see if he should get a tattoo? That's keeping it real, especially if people say he should, and he actually DOES it.

Then I read the article. He does not want a tattoo. He does not want you to get a tattoo, either, because God says no. After stumbling through the Design Argument, in which he says that "your skin is not a canvas for painting but a barrier for protecting against infection" (which, by extension means no one can wear make-up and all piercings, even the ears, are forbidden by God himself), he moves on to a doozy.

"Have you actually been to a tattoo parlor? You will find demon-worshippers [sic] who get branded with their gods in there. . . Satan enjoys seeing people go through pain to permanently scar their skin."

Are you f*cking kidding me?! Demons? Like horns on their head demons? Exorcist demons? You shouldn't get a tattoo because you'll get pulled into a den of demon worship? Oh shit, maybe that's why my Ba'al brand still burns three years after I got it! Do people actually believe this crap? The article was wrong from about paragraph one, but this is waaay through the looking glass.

The Times article I read talked about how religion is now known for what it is against (abortion, gay marriage, etc.), rather than what it is for (love, betterment of society, etc.). Let me recap the discussion in society right now:

Reasoned, logical, atheists calmly presenting their case and engaging in honest debate vs. Demons like tattoos, God told President Bush to invade Iraq, and dinosaurs lived three thousand years ago.

I'm not saying there aren't reasonable, principled, God-fearing people. I'd just like to know where the hell they are, because the public debate is being dominated by people who are just absolutely nutters. Note to the religious establishment: you cannot advance your position if you refuse to engage in honest and open debate. "Logical argument" beats "This book is true no matter what because God says so" every time, even if the logical argument is flawed. It's like sending a cripple into a UFC fight and wondering why he keeps getting the crap kicked out of him.

I know people who go to church every week, and they're calm, rational people who don't believe this outer space nonsense. Why are they letting others speak for them, especially when it's like this? Why doesn't a rational theist approach a Dawkins or a Hitchens and say, "Here are the logical flaws in your argument and here is my counterargument for your critique."

At the same time, I know atheists who are absolute morons, and you know what the principled atheists do? They ridicule the morons, because that's what they deserve in the marketplace of ideas. It's time for theists to do the same. I'll stay out of it and play skeptic, cause I'm good at that. If you're a rational human being, and you believe in God, I'm calling you out.

And to my religious friends, I'm not saying I'm an atheist - I just had to say something.

Comment away.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It's a Small World After All...

Well, now that I've managed to get that song in your head, I have a little story to share. First off, a little background. Most everyone who's reading this knows this, but I studied in Barcelona from January-May, 2003. Now, I am working for the same program that I studied with (the Knox College Barcelona Program). Ok, so now onto the story.
Here in Spain they have things called "intercambios". It translates to mean "exchange" and typically means that a native speaker in one language meets with a native speaker in another language to both work on the two languages. So, for example, I would meet with a native Spanish speaker (who is learning English) and we would speak in Spanish half the time and English half the time. Not only are intercambios a good way to learn a language, but they are also a good way to make friends. When I was here in 2003, I had one intercambio, but due to our busy schedules, we only met up a few times. However, my two closest friends in the Knox Program both had intercambios (and actually they had intercambios with a brother and sister) and so I would hang out with their intercambios and got to know them pretty well.
Flash forward to present day. Now, finding an intercambio is done over the internet (sort of like internet dating, except you are looking for a speaking buddy, not a date), and so I posted on this internet board that I was looking for an intercambio. I received tons of messages (mostly from 40+ year old men who I am sure wanted to exchange more than languages), but I also got some serious responses. One of the messages was from a 31 year old guy named Marc who seemed very serious about wanting to practice his English. So we e-mailed back and forth and agreed to meet up for coffee and to practice our languages. We were going to meet at the Metro stop right by my apartment, so I got there a little early. There was this totally sketchy guy hanging out, and so I ducked into a shoe store and started looking around, for fear that this sketchy dude was my intercambio. While I was looking at the shoes, I ran into one of the students on the program. We chatted for a bit and then I noticed that now another guy was waiting at the Metro stop and he looked completely normal, so I approached him and it turns out he was my intercambio. Phew, glad it wasn't the sketchy guy. At first Marc seemed very familiar to me, but I just thought it was because he sort of reminded me of this guy Marc that I knew in 2003 (who was the boyfriend of my friend's intercambio). However, the more that Marc talked, the more he seemed familiar to me. Eventually he started talking about his girlfriend and I asked what his girlfriend's name was. Turns out his girlfriend has the same name as my friend's intercambio from 2003. Then I asked him some more questions, and eventually we realized that we knew each other!!! This Marc was the same Marc I knew in 2003. We had hung out together and seen movies together. And I knew his girlfriend pretty well. WEIRD!
And seriously, what are the chances?? I somehow end up back here in Barcelona and decide to place an internet message about an intercambio. Marc somehow decides to answer my message. I somehow decide that Marc's message is a serious one, so I reply. And then we meet up. In a city of over a million people, how can it happen that I randomly met up with one of the probably 6 people I know here. SO RANDOM! And cool.
Anyways, just had to share. Isn't it so weird that the world is really kind of small??

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wandering Through Cyberspace

You ever go surfing on the internet and click on a link you think is interesting, only to read the next article, which contains another interesting link, etc., etc., until you wonder how you got to the page you're now staring at in disbelief?

It happens to me a lot.*

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The McDonald's Pizza.

As the site says, "This is a culinary Frankenstein cooked by Bizarro, a crude combination of deliciousness into an artery-jamming fatty Voltron."

*Wikipedia is by far the easiest site to do this on. I once went from Radiohead's latest album, In Rainbows, to the chemical makeup of PVC in a logical fashion (In Rainbows -> Thom Yorke -> The Eraser -> Vinyl (Album) -> PVC)

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil

Maybe there is justice after all...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Barça Update: Double Dutch Edition

In the town/where I was born...

Okay, so I didn't update after the Barcelona game this weekend, but lest you think I only update when Barça wins, I have an excuse. This excuse is called Irish Breakfast, and the resultant food coma kept me out of blogging commission until now.

Since I have two games to relate, I'll keep them quick.

Saturday, after watching the mighty Celtic get their mighty arses handed to them by Rangers (3-0), Barcelona went out and got torpedoed 3-1 by Villareal, better known by the best nickname in all of sport - the Yellow Submarine. Best. Nickname. Ever. Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch the game. Susie and I were on an intercambio with our Ukrainian/Basque couple.

Tonight, Barça squared off against Rangers in the Champions League, with a chance to all but guarantee passage to the knockout stages with a win. Thanks to some horrendous and egregious refereeing, coupled with Rangers typically thuggish play, Barcelona managed only a 0-0 draw.

Editorial note: I've read about Rangers, I've played against them in PlayStation FIFA, but I've never experienced an honest-to-God Rangers game before this week. After two, I can say this. I hate them. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. I hate Rangers with the fire of a thousand suns. I have never seen a team so bent on thuggery as a stratagem, or a team so quick to appeal for a card when they get breathed on wrong. They infuriate me so much, I told Susie that if DaMarcus Beasley scored against Barça, I would never cheer for him again. And I meant it. Rangers can die.

Ahem. Anyway, Barcelona could have really used those three points. All they would have needed realistically would have been one more win in three matches, two of which would be at home. But, coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Here are the standings for La Liga after this weekend's matches, with Champions League standings following tonight's matches.

La Liga Standings (Jornada 8)
1) Real Madrid / 6-1-1 / 19 points / +12
2) Villareal / 6-2-0 / 18 points / +5
3) Valencia / 6-2-2 / 18 points / +3
4) Barcelona / 5-1-2 / 17 points / +10
5) Espanyol / 5-2-1 / 16 points / +3

Champions League Group E
1) Barcelona / 2-0-1 / 7 points / +5
2) Rangers / 2-0-1 / 7 points / +4
3) Lyon / 1-0-2 / 3 points / -4
4) Stuttgart / 0-0-3 / 0 points / -7


Pelé Sez: It's getting crowded at the top. Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, you usually start to see some separation in the standings. But after this weekend, the top five are separated by only three points. Real Madrid finally dropped a game, but Barcelona again kept pace by losing. The beneficiaries, Villareal (now in second) and Espanyol (now fifth) are going to make this an interesting contest. The next big contests for Barça will be the Rangers rematch on November 7th (Champions League) and at Espanyol on December 2nd (La Liga). Espanyol/Barcelona is typically a charged affair, and it will be even more meaningful if Espanyol can hang around the top of the table for the next month. Could we see two Barcelona-based teams in next year's Champions League? We'll see! Love! Love! Love!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Old Firm

You'll Never Walk Alone

I've mentioned the Old Firm in passing on the blog, but it bears an explanation, since tomorrow features the first Old Firm clash of the season.

The Simple Explanation
Old Firm, along with Barça/Real Madrid, are quite simply the biggest, most important rivalries in sport. Period.

A Bit More
Imagine the biggest American sports rivalry you can. Cubs/Cardinals doesn't count, because it's a polite, sporting rivalry. I would buy a Cubs fan a beer after a game, and I know Cubs fans would do the same for me. The rivalry lacks vitriol. Try Yankees/Red Sox, the Red River Shootout, or Carolina/Duke. Now, add some political and religious strife.

Celtic F.C. (pronounced sel'-tik) and Rangers F.C. are more than the two most decorated Scottish football clubs. Rangers holds a slight lead in head to head matchups (149-135 with 92 draws), as well as more league championships (51-41), but Celtic has more Scottish Cups (34-31), and are the only Scottish team to win the European Championship. Because Glasgow (home to both teams) is home to a very large Irish immigrant population, Celtic and Rangers have become talismans for Irishmen of all stripes, mostly due to the circumstances surrounding Celtic's founding.

When the Irish made their way to Glasgow following decades of English oppression and the Great Hunger, they were almost universally poor and almost universally Catholic. Many found their way to soup kitchens, where they received nourishment with a side of proselytizing, since the soup kitchens were run by native Anglicans. Catholic ministers were worried that the flock was giving up Catholicism out of necessity, as protestantism meant food on the table. Furthering their concerns, there were no activities for Catholic children that didn't involve the Anglican Church.

So, Brother Walfrid, a Marist, simultaneously founded The Poor Children's Dinner Table, a Catholic soup kitchen, and Celtic F.C., both as an activity for Catholic youth to participate in and a method of funding the charity. In 1888, playing their first ever match, Celtic defeated Rangers 5-2 in what was called a "friendly encounter." The friendliness, unfortunately, wouldn't last.

By the time of the First World War, Ireland was fighting for independence from the United Kingdom, and Irish nationalism was at an all-time high. Ireland had no major football league to speak of, so Celtic received an influx of support from Catholic Republicans across the Emerald Isle. Catholics saw Celtic as a way to express themselves, much the same way as Barcelonans used Barça to express their Catalan nationalism. Rangers, for reasons unknown (though likely due to their proximity to Celtic) received the support of Protestant Loyalists, and it's never been the same.

The rivalry is not only hotly contested in Glasgow, but also in Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland, with tens of thousands making their way to Scotland for games via ferry and plane. For decades, Celtic did not sign protestants and Rangers did not sign Catholics. A Jesuit priest once did an analysis of refereeing decisions, attempting to prove that the Scottish (read: protestant) referees were biased against Celtic. Mo Johnston, a Catholic who had played several seasons for Celtic, was accused of abandoning his heritage (and worse) for signing to play with Rangers. A Rangers director once came under heavy criticism for publicly stating that the Pope was a man of perdition. The games are physical on the pitch and occasionally in the stands.

Even the symbolism of their crests and uniforms reference the Catholic Republican/Protestant Loyalist tension. Celtic's crest is a shamrock, a symbol of Irish nationalism and St. Patrick. The green of Celtic's hoops is a Republican color. Meanwhile, the lion on Rangers' crest is a symbol of England, the red, white, and blue match the Union Jack, and blue is a traditional protestant color.

While the rivalry is fierce and enjoyable, both sides have made great strides to reign in the outright sectarianism, to their credit. But, as Mother Jones says, "economic globalization basically swept away discrimination against Catholics, but many of the city's Protestants never got a chance to adapt emotionally to the change." On the flip side, Catholics still feel discriminated against, even though this may no longer be the case.

So, words will be exchanged tomorrow, tempers will flare, and players will leave it all on the pitch. 90% of Ibrox will be blue tomorrow, but the slice in green, white, and orange will make themselves known. And while you might hear strains of "If you hate the f*ckin Feinians, clap your hands" from those in blue, I'll be singing "You Never Walk Alone." After all, it's a grand old team to play for.

P.S. If you want even more, read chapter two of Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World: An (Unlikely) Theory of Globalization.

Big Football Weekend

The European kind, that is.

Last weekend, there was no real, meaningful soccer, thanks to Euro 2008 qualifiers. Sure, South America began World Cup qualifying, but that goes through 2009, so it's not like last weekend's results were cause for nail-biting. But this weekend is HUGE. Like, three leagues of huge, kicking off more hugeness for the next week or so. As a result, here's what I'll be doing this weekend:

1:30 PM Saturday - Celtic @ Rangers, the first Old Firm clash of the season, which I'll be watching at the Celtic Cross, an honest-to-God Celtic bar (its website has the Celtic hoops as the background and the menu features "Parkhead Pic a Pic", "The Hoops Full Irish Breakfast", and "Lisbon Lions Just Deserts"). The list of live sporting events even says "Them vs. The Mighty CELTIC". Susie will have to keep her DaMarcus Beasley love at a low volume.
Saturday Night - Keeping Abreast of MLS Results, which won't be my main focus, but will have a big impact on Sunday.
8:00 PM Sunday - Barça @ Villareal, featuring the return of Liga action and my two favorite Liga teams. At the same time I'm enjoying the atmosphere at Stuzzichini, I'll be following another game online.
9:00 PM Sunday - Chicago Fire vs. L.A. Galaxy, most likely for all the playoff marbles. David Beckham & Landoon Donovan vs. The BlanChopFle. Remember those Saturday MLS results? There are several permutations, depending on how Saturday plays out, but the short of it is win and you're in. It's Beckham vs. Blanco. Style vs. Substance. Flash vs. Brute Strength. The Golden Boy vs. The Hunchback. The highest profile signing in American sports history vs. a no-nonsense gamechanger. I honestly don't know if I've ever been more disappointed to miss a game, and I'll only say this - IF YOU ARE IN THE CITY OF CHICAGO, GO TO THIS GAME! You'll have to scalp tickets, but I promise it will be worth it.

My predictions?
Celtic 2-1 Rangers. Heated match, but cooler heads prevail. Celtic is healthier following the Euro matches, and Artur Boruc is just sick in goal. Playing at Ibrox won't be enough for Gers.
Barça 2-0 Villareal. The Barcelona attack is just that good.
Fire 2-1 Galaxy. Blanco scores the winner and gets into it with either Becks, Donovan, or Abel Xavier. Cooler heads do not prevail, and both sides finish with 10 men.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From the Depths of the Interweb!

Some pretty interesting stuff came from the depths of the interweb today. More interesting than anything that happened to me in the past 24 hours, so here you go:

Savage Love - I'm not reproducing it out of respect for taste (read: Susie's really grossed out), but totally worth a read this week for the Southern Reverend story.

In more serious news, it seems that David Pogue, the tech guru at the Paper of Record doesn't know everything. He's compiled a list of things he doesn't know on his blog. Among the highlights:

* What happens to software programs when their publishers go out of business?
* Who are the morons who respond to junk-mail offers, thereby keeping spammers in business?
* How come there are still no viruses for Mac OS X? If it has 6 percent of the market, shouldn’t it have 6 percent of the viruses?
* Why don’t all hotels have check-in kiosks like airlines do?
* Why aren’t there recycling bins for bottles and cans where they’re most obviously needed, like food courts and cafeterias?

But don't fear, faithful blogreaders. I have several substantive ideas in my head for some posts, including watching the Old Firm game (part the first) at The Celtic Cross on Saturday, thoughts on Richard Dawkins and a blog post I read at the St. Louis Archdiocese Youth Website (I was there to check out the musings of a good friend), and more.* Also, I'm going to try and get a Google Reader feed on the blog for some shared items, removing the excuse, "I'll just post a funny link and that counts."

* Unlike the Times, I am absolutely, unequivocally, and totally in favor of the serial comma. Without it, how would you explain the following sentence: I like steak, bacon and ham and eggs.
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