Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good night May

Ave Maria.

A little background on the Vatican Bank

Found this when I was looking for a way to get a Vatican passport (apparently not so easy unless you rank as a cardinal of the Curia). Apparently things were a little chaotic in the 80s . . .

Anyone know of some good books on the subject? I have my doubts that IOR was laundering money for five points, but I could be wrong.

Now here's a headline

Gore could cause global boring

Need a little light reading?

Imagine a white man becoming a black man and going into the South in the 1960s.

Talk about courage.

Here's a line you don't see too often

Interview with Dappled Things editor-in-chief Mary Angelita Ruiz, National Catholic Register, February 5, 2006.

Not sure why I haven't pushed this magazine before, but Mary, a former minister without portfolio of mine, runs this project, and from what I hear it's quite excellent. I mean, anything that Neuhaus approves of can only be good.

" . . . They have launched Dappled Things, an online literary magazine for young Catholics that is trolling for talent. Years from now an Edwin O'Connor may look back and recall how he got his start with Dappled Things."

-Richard John Neuhaus, First Things, March 2006.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Eat Jackfruit!

Tasty and exotic, found in the Queen City Super Buffet in downtown New Rochelle. Apparently the one I had was unripe, but you can also chip then and whatnot.

I know I'm of isolated intellectual tradition because my head always explodes when eating a fruit that I can't place. Apple, pear, banana, melon, orange, maybe a few others, ok. Anything else, I just sort of stare at it for a while trying to figure out what's responsible for the abomination in front of me.

This is why it was a bad idea for me to be the liasion to the evangelicals on campus :-).

A good point on immigration reform?

ome people are worried that amnesty will give illegal aliens the same rights that American citizens have. In reality, it will give the illegals more rights than the average American citizen.

. . .

If an American citizen forges a Social Security card in order to get a job, he can be arrested. Under a provision recently passed by the Senate, illegal aliens who forged Social Security cards not only get a pass, they get to collect Social Security benefits.

Now that's kind of strange . . . Maybe I should renounce my citizenship and keep living here. I might get a better deal on grad school.

Speach as a worker?

The controlling factor in this case, Justice Kennedy wrote, was that Mr. Ceballos was acting purely in an official capacity when he complained internally about the search warrant. "Ceballos wrote his disposition memo because that is part of what he was employed to do," Justice Kennedy wrote. "He did not act as a citizen by writing it."

To accept Mr. Ceballos's argument, the majority concluded, would be to commit state and federal courts to "a new, permanent and intrusive role" overseeing communications among government employees and their superiors.

Dissenting in three separate opinions were Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

"The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one's employment is quite wrong," Justice Stevens wrote. He said the majority ruling could have the "perverse" effect of giving public employees an incentive to speak out publicly, as citizens, before talking frankly to their superiors.

I'm agreeing with Kennedy here, no doubt. I've signed more non-disclosure agreements than I can shake a stick at, so I was never under the impression that I could say whatever I wanted at my job. I mean, if I tell off my boss, I can't really expect to be promoted, can I?

Some ruminations on NOLA and Memorial Day

A group in NO was protesting what they described as the Fed's "central role" in causing the flood. Mr. Barnett, who stayed in the city for the duration of the flood, had some other thoughts on the matter.

And I'm back

A few news items backed up, as you might have suspected. I feel like we should start by praying for some earthquake victims however . . .

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm alive

Details to follow

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Someone emailed me this, though

The following column is copied in its entirety from the Opinion Page of
today's NY Post:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

DA VINCI Revelation

--- by ARNOLD AHLERT ---

"THE DA VINCI CODE presumes that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children.
Some see it as the most blasphemous assault on Christianity ever.

"Critics have organized protests and written articles railing against it.
Yet every media outlet has publicized or promoted the movie, regardless
of Christian sensitivities.

"Properties destroyed by protesters: Zero. People killed: Zero.

"Compare that to the weeks of death the destruction after a Danish
newspaper published 12 satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad -- which
most Western media never published, ostensibly out of 'respect for
religious sensitivities.'

"Hollywood hopes THE DA VINCI CODE will be a blockbuster. For revealing
the bankruptcy of multiculturalism and the hypocrisy of the mainstream
media, it already is."

-- by Arnold Ahlert, NY Post, Tuesday 05/23/2006

Going to Spain!

I'm going to be in Spain until Monday night. Minimal blogging. Pray for the plane, and Justine's intention.

I liked him before he was fameous

Thanks to a friend's prodding, of course.

The artist known as Matisyahu is a born-again Jew who was born first in 1979 as Matthew Miller in the American dreamland of West Chester, Pennsylvania, to a pair of social workers whom he describes as 'non-practicing Jews'. His grandfather played pro basketball in 1930s Detroit and bequeathed the future singer his imposing height — six foot three and counting. The tall kid began rapping at high school and carried on at college in Manhattan. Troubled by the drug scene and searching for roots, he put in for a semester in Jewish spirituality, which gave him a list of synagogues to visit.

But what's everyone else's excuse?

It is clear that he never wanted to be attached to the general run of Jewish music, least of all to Orthodox wedding and bar mitzvah pop that hitches biblical and Talmudic lyrics to a Beach Boys beat. 'Those guys are 20, 30 years out of date,' snorts Matisyahu. 'Their stuff is not particularly Jewish and they don't belong to now.'

That could be it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Liturgical battle heats up?

Seems like the Vatican is trying to ensure that we have good translations over here in the US, and USCCB is pushing back.

In light of serious divisions among the US bishops on questions of and the prospect of a tense debate on the proposed new texts, Cardinal Arinze's letter reminds Bishop Skylstad that Liturgiam Authenticam sets forth the authoritative principles of translation. "Both this congregation and the bishops' conferences are bound to follow its directives," the cardinal says.

While many Catholic experts have praised the new translations that will be proposed for approval at the June meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the new texts have also been criticized by influential liturgists. Bishop Donald Trautman, the chairman of the USCCB liturgy committee, has voiced his own serious misgivings about the new translations, indicating his preference for the texts currently in use.

Apparently hoping to ward off the possibility of major amendments to the proposed texts, Cardinal Arinze warns Bishop Skylstad that his office is "not competent to grant the recognitio for translations that do not conform to the directives of Liturgiam Authenticam.

Not competent. I like the sound of that. Something to keep in mind whenever I play armchair bishop.

More seriously though, the texts the use in other countries are, as far as I can tell, much better and more faithful (in the translatory sense) translations, without any deleterious effects on the faithful. I'm not sure why Bishop Trautman is so concerned . . . certainly you don't want to make lots of changes in a short period of time, but I doubt most people will notice anyway :-).

Please pray . . .

Please remember Br. Chris of the Lasallian community in Oakland. He has had complications with cancer and arthritis and has entered a hospital this morning, possibly to receive emergency surgery.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A certain someone's cousins are in these stats here

I hadn't realized how great the disappearance of religious was in the world. I feel as if somehow I'm contributing to the problem.

Heard on the graduation line

Me: I think I'd like to get an STD later in life
Andrew: Don't practice safer hermeneutics

I think TWA has found the best story of them all

A Support group for albinos has added its voice to the criticism of The Da Vinci Code, accusing producers of propagating "cruel stereotypes" by having an albino as villain.

To which he responds, in typically awesome fashion.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

NASA's statistics

Or, how we lie to ourselves to make ourselves feel better, I think. It's very easy to pat one's self on the back, and harder to look at data with a critical eye.

In spite of these variations from case to case, officials behaved as if they understood it, giving apparently logical arguments to each other often depending on the "success" of previous flights. For example. in determining if flight 51-L was safe to fly in the face of ring erosion in flight 51-C, it was noted that the erosion depth was only one-third of the radius. It had been noted in an experiment cutting the ring that cutting it as deep as one radius was necessary before the ring failed. Instead of being very concerned that variations of poorly understood conditions might reasonably create a deeper erosion this time, it was asserted, there was "a safety factor of three." This is a strange use of the engineer's term ,"safety factor." If a bridge is built to withstand a certain load without the beams permanently deforming, cracking, or breaking, it may be designed for the materials used to actually stand up under three times the load. This "safety factor" is to allow for uncertain excesses of load, or unknown extra loads, or weaknesses in the material that might have unexpected flaws, etc. If now the expected load comes on to the new bridge and a crack appears in a beam, this is a failure of the design. There was no safety factor at all; even though the bridge did not actually collapse because the crack went only one-third of the way through the beam. The O-rings of the Solid Rocket Boosters were not designed to erode. Erosion was a clue that something was wrong. Erosion was not something from which safety can be inferred.

Refreshingly honest pagans?

I stole this article from someone, and it's good reading for a Sunday, when one ought to be growing in charity. I on the other hand was on an awesome road trip to Rhode Island, which has excellent pizza for some reason.

In any event, a handful of Romans recorded their brief notice of Jesus and His followers as the years wore on.

Pope John Paul also mentioned the historian Tacitus, writing between A.D. 115 and 120 on the burning of Rome, which the emperor Nero had blamed on the Christians. Tacitus recorded that the founder of this sect (”hated for their abominations”) was one “Christus,” who “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”

Christ also appears, by name only, in the “Lives of the Caesars,” by the historian Suetonius, writing around A.D. 121.

Another brief but more telling remark comes in the testimony of Pliny the Younger, writing in A.D. 111-113 when he was Roman governor of Bithynia, on the Black Sea. Reporting his routine interrogations and torture to the emperor Trajan, Pliny spoke of the Christian sect as something harmless. They gather once a week, he wrote, “on a designated day, before dawn, to sing in alternating choirs a hymn to Christ as to a God.”

The pagan Pliny’s report, then, is among the earliest records of orthodox Christology - relating the early Church’s belief of the divinity in Christ. (Dan Brown, call your office.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A (somewhat dubious) story about a motorcycle ride through Chernobyl

Which, incidentally, means "Wormwood", I have been told. End of the world? Perhaps.

I'm not sure I follow the argument

The next item tells of a judicial challenge by Massachusetts homosexual-rights activists to a proposed constitutional amendment to end same-sex "marriage." According to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), the state constitution doesn't permit citizen-initiated amendments to reverse judicial rulings. Now that's a novel approach: A judicially created provision of the constitution is stronger than its original provisions and its legally adopted amendments. How could anyone present this argument with a straight face?

I'd like to comment on this, I really would. But I can't think of anything intelligent to say. Wow.

Bad news for Fr. Maciel also

May. 19 ( - The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, has been removed from priestly ministry and asked to spend his remaining days in "penitence and prayer," the Vatican has announced.

A Vatican statement released on May 19, responding to a report posted the previous day in the National Catholic Reporter, confirmed rumors that had circulated around Rome for several weeks. After a lengthy inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reached a final judgment against Father Maciel in March. Although that decision was not initially made public, the Vatican press office confirmed the substance of the National Catholic Reporter account.

The CDF decided-- "bearing in mind Father Maciel's advanced age and delicate health"-- not to pursue a canonical trial, the Vatican statement indicated. Instead the Mexican priest was barred from celebrating Mass or speaking in public. The Vatican statement noted: "The Holy Father approved these decisions."

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bad news for Medicare

This year, the combined Social Security/Medicare unfunded obligations reached $36.7 trillion on a 75-year horizon and $83.9 trillion on an infinite horizon. These figures were not included in handouts provided during a briefing on the report, according to John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Trustees also reported that in 2006, 12.3% of federal income tax revenues will be transferred to support Medicare; Social Security still has an excess amounting to 5.3% of income tax revenue. If present trends were to continue, Medicare alone would absorb 74.8% of income tax revenue by 2080, and Social Security 17.0%.

As part of the Medicare Modernization Act, the Trustees are required to compare overall projected Medicare expenditures with the program's "dedicated revenues." If the difference is projected to exceed 45% of the revenues within the first seven years of the projection period, it triggers a determination of "excess general revenue Medicare funding." A second such determination in 2007 would trigger a "Medicare funding warning."

This year is the first to trigger the determination. If it occurs again next year, Congress will be required to consider action on a expedited basis, but won't actually have to do anything.

And keep in mind we're doing a lot better than Europe with these numbers.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ratzinger on liturgical dance

Here is what then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote about liturgical dancing in "The Spirit of the Liturgy":

"Dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy. In about the third century, there was an attempt by certain Gnostic-Docetic circles to introduce it into the liturgy. ... The cultic dances of the different religions have different purposes--incantation, imitative magic, mystical ecstasy--none of which is compatible with the essential purpose of the liturgy. ...

"It is totally absurd to try to make the liturgy 'attractive' by introducing dancing pantomimes (wherever possible performed by professional dance troupes), which frequently (and rightly, from the professionals' point of view) end with applause. Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. ...

"I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance, which, needless to say, received a round of applause. Could there be anything further removed from true penitence? ...

"None of the Christian rites includes dancing. What people call dancing in the Ethiopian rite or the Zairean form of the Roman liturgy is in fact a rhythmically ordered procession, very much in keeping with the dignity of the occasion."

Let's pray for Ng and his family, btw

As they've found the body.

The medical examiner has confirmed the body pulled from the East River Tuesday is that of a missing Columbia University student.

Richard Ng would have graduated from Columbia Wednesday. Instead, he was remembered at the ceremony with a moment of silence.

Why was I dressed funny yesterday?

The origins of academic dress date back to the 12th and 13th centuries, when universities were taking form. The ordinary dress of the scholar, whether student or teacher, was the dress of a cleric. With few exceptions, the medieval scholar had taken at least minor orders, made certain vows, and perhaps been tonsured. Long gowns were worn and may have been necessary for warmth in unheated buildings. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head until superseded for that purpose by the skull cap.

Tonsure. I find it ironic the degree to which the opposite is true today.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

David Solimano, B.A.

Or is that A.B.?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Remember the Omer!

New bishop in DC

Apparently Drinan approves, so it's ok.

"He has no enemies in this archdiocese," said the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and a former member of Congress.


Chaos ensues. Will try to update this evening.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The slope! It's slippery!

Organs! For sale!

But even so, this new supply will fall far short of need. At the very least, the report should have shown enthusiasm for other initiatives. One is the popular and effective European practice of "presumed consent" in which citizens are considered donors at death unless they sign an anti-donor (or opt-out) card.

Another possibility it could have recommended was pilot studies using incentives in a regulated market. One model resembles a "futures" market in cadaver organs. A potential donor could receive compensation — outright payment, a sizable contribution to a charity of his choice or lifetime health insurance — in installments before death or to his estate afterwards in exchange for permission to recover his organs at death.

Why so timid? The Institute of Medicine cautioned against treating the body as if it were "for sale." But that's outdated thinking: we've accepted markets for human eggs, sperm and surrogate mothers. A recent poll by researchers in Pennsylvania found that 59 percent of respondents favored the general idea of incentives, with 53 percent saying direct payments would be acceptable.

The solution, of course, is not to do that other stuff, which is also wrong.

India Knows a Bad Film When It Sees It

Who'd think that 14% of India would be so vehement. Then again, 14% of 1.3 billion is a lot.

Roman Catholics in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) are taking part in worldwide protests against the release of the movie, The Da Vinci Code.

Hundreds of members of a Catholic group gathered outside a convent school in the Indian financial capital to protest against its release next week.

They say the film is an attack on their faith, and have warned of stronger protests if their demands are not met.

Catholics say they want the protest to draw the attention of the authorities.

"Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) activists will go on a fast unto death if the government fails to take action against anti-Christian movies," CSF general secretary Joseph Dias told the BBC.

The CSF has also called for the banning of a second film, Tickle My Funny Bone, which chronicles the life of a "sexy nun".

It gets better. Accoding to Reuters:

A powerful organisation of Indian Islamic clerics promised on Monday to help Christian groups launch protests if the authorities did not ban the screening of the controversial film, "The Da Vinci Code".

"The Holy Koran recognises Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims," Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, an umbrella organisation of clerics, told Reuters.

In India, leaders of the two communities met politicians and police in the western city of Mumbai on Saturday, urging the authorities to stop the screening of the film.

"If the government doesn't do anything, we will try our own ways of stopping the film from being shown," said Syed Noori, president of Mumbai-based Raza Academy, a Muslim cultural organisation that often organises protests on issues concerning Islam. "We are prepared for violent protests in India if needed."

Last week, small groups of protesters marched in Mumbai and burnt a copy of the book.

Now explain this, why are they the ones who are taking to the streets threating violent protest and death by starvation? Where are the armies storming Hollywood?

Crazy improv around NYC

Like having 80 people dress up like employees of a store and wander around until someone calls the cops, who aren't quite sure if they can arrest people for wearing blue shirts.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Dulles on Old and New

A subject of some interest to me of late, though I'm pretty sure I probably blogged about this when it came out. I was discussing things with an Orthodox friend type and thought that this would be a good article to start discussing why the Mosaic law has been transformed, fulfilled, etc. Though the best comment I heard today was to simply read the Letter to the Hebrews.

Opera strikes again!

Apparently my browser of choice has infiltrated the Nintendo Wii. Good times. I've often thought that by subtracting the Opera users from my blog counter, I can tell how many real hits I get.

Entry of the week

Moral of the story - irresponsible sexual activity will get you eaten by a large burmese python (the worm that doesn't die???). I wish my job was like that. All we do when someone screws up in the programming world is get more funding.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In the mood for vintage?

I just bought Winamp. Yay. I decided that all the other media players I use are bloated. Down with bloatware.

I just need a Napster plugin and I'm all set . . .

A historical event

When the head Jew, Anglican, and Catholic in a country agree on something, it must be true.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster, Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks published a joint letter today in the Times against the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.

The bill, in fact, was defeated in a vote in the House of Lords today. It would have allowed terminally-ill patients to request their own death.

The three religious leaders previously issued joint statements, but rarely on legislation up for debate in Parliament, reported the Times.

Their letter states: "We are opposed to this bill and to any measure that seeks to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia. We believe that all human life is sacred and God-given with a value that is inherent, not conditional."

Illegal charity

Indeed, this seems to be the approach to several charity hospitals that had the gall to continue their charitable mission. They get into trouble when they only give charity to human beings and not to Medicare apparatchiks.

This is exactly happened to the 161 bed Deborah Hospital in New Jersey. The hospital never charges patients for medical services. But the hospital did collect from Medicare when patients had Medicare coverage.

As medical lawyer Madeline P. Cosman, Ph.D., writes "the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services prosecuted Deborah over the course of four years because Deborah accepts Medicare payments without requiring patient copayments and therefore violates a slew of civil and criminal laws.

"By following its own three-quarter-century-old mandate to never charge patients, Deborah Hospital was accused of granting incentives for referrals, submitting false claims to the government, unfairly competing with community and other specialty hospitals, and generally flouting White Coat Crime laws ... Medicare has no obligation to pay for hospital care that the patient gets as a free gift."

Outlawing charity in the name of saving money. Good times.

Friday, May 12, 2006


From Fr. Fessio's Winter 2006 Ave Maria "Founder" Magazine:

So we are building on sand. Even though there is a Gospel injunction against doing just that.

Those idolators, trying to build a university on sand will get them nowhere. If they had more sense they would have built it in the mountains, on some solid rock.

Colombia - almost as good as Columbia

Legalizing abortion, one bad argument at a time.

Quite a father

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's the hot old series from the BBC

Why, Father Ted of course! Disturbing mostly for the fact that a series about a bunch of priests doesn't seem to have a church in it. I hope it doesn't warp my perceptions of Ireland.

Benedict v. Hugo, round 1

Because Chavez has clashed frequently with the Venezuelan bishops, his visit to the Vatican was heavily anticipated. His private talk with the Pontiff was unusually long-- 35 minutes, as opposed to the 20 minutes that Pope Benedict usually allows for visitors-- and even the formal reception and exchange of gifts became the occasion for some political theater.

35 minuites! Intense. But I like the comments on the bottom the best.

Next thing you know, Chavez will be on Venezuelan TV claiming that the Pope is planning to send in an invasion force of Swiss Guards.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Phillip has a question

does anyone actually read your blog?
Philip | 05.08.06 - 3:01 am | #

Well, I mean, you did, enough to comment on it. I can't speak for anyone else.

Want to know a little about where I'm working next year?

I'm not sure it really means that much, but it does look impressive.

A forerunner of multi-asset trading is LaBranche Structured Products - a specialist and market maker in equity options, exchange-traded funds and futures - needs to hedge the risk associated with its positions. "We post bids and offers whether it be electronically or open outcry, but as we accumulate our position, we need to trade our portfolio," explains Anthony Buendia, chief operating officer at LaBranche Structured Products, LLC, a subsidiary of LaBranche & Co. Inc. For example, LaBranche Structured Products is a market maker in emerging-market ETFs (based on the Morgan Stanley Capital International emerging market index), bond ETFs, as well as the first listed China ETF and the Chicago Futures Exchange's China future (based on the CBOE's China Index).

Corporate Charity?

There is a remarkable parallel to this analysis in the Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative Code of Jewish Law. In chapter 248 of the second volume (Yoreh Deah), the Shulchan Aruch states that in general a guardian for minor orphans shouldn't give charity from their assets. The reason is that being minors, their judgment is not sufficiently developed for them to decide on charitable gifts. When they are grown up, the money will still be there, and they will be able to decide what to do with it. This is similar to the status of shareholders. The difficulty of reaching a consensus of shareholders is a disability not unlike that of minors, and like minors, there is no compelling reason for the "guardian" or manager to give charity since ultimately the money will reach the shareholder, in the form of dividends or proceeds, and then he will be free to use the money for charity according to his judgment.

However, there are two exceptions to this rule. One is that it is permissible for the guardian to give charity if this is for the benefit of the youngsters, by giving them a good name. This corresponds to giving charity on behalf of a firm when it will promote good will and advance their business objectives. The other rule is that it is permissible to give for urgent needs which these youngsters are particularly obligated in. The example of the Shulchan Aruch is if they have poor relatives in urgent straits. Of course the needs of poor individuals are the responsibility of the entire community, but close relatives have a higher degree of obligation. This corresponds to giving charity to the local community and for needs which the company is uniquely situated to help with.

If only Augustine had said something about this I could get a good dialogue going.

Joel Spolsky's frosh CS midterm

See how you do. I think I did fine thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


"My dad is auditing the class, so it won't affect the grade curve"
-- Prof. Rubenstein

Thanks for the email

Dear David Louis Patrick Solimano,

Grade for your class PHED 1002 C 011 has been submitted via SSOL.
You will be able to view this grade on SSOL within 24 hours.

To access SSOL, go to .

Apparently I passed gym.

Normally I wouldn't quote Bill O'Reilly

However, when he points out the odd fact that Brazil is light years ahead of us on energy, I can't resist.

Likewise, the oil and automobile companies want no part of ethanol or fuel cells because that would require an expensive restructuring and more competition would emerge. There's no way the ethanol industry could be dominated by five mega-companies. I mean corn and sugar cannot be carteled. The oil racket is simple: We control the marketplace, and you have to buy from us. With ethanol we can buy from Farmer Fred.

Despite my reputation with some as a right-wing nutcase (probably well deserved), I'm a big fan of alternative power. Solar, wind, corn, even nuclear (hey France does it which means it must be liberal-friendly).

Of course, the Professor Dan corollary to that is that we should use as much foreign oil as possible in the meanwhile. Why? Dumb thought experiment. Imagine that today we stop all domestic oil production and we use up all foreign reserves in 10 years. That means in 10 years we're the only ones with any oil, and if we don't need to use it by then, we too can achieve the prosperity and political climate of Saudi Arabia.

Hmm. Well that part still needs a little more work.

At any rate, the more corn oil we use and the less petrol, the better.

Homelessness in Japan

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, has a population of nearly 8 million in its inner city, divided into 23 administrative districts. Official figures put the number of homeless (street dwellers) in the city at just around 3,700 (February 1998) whereas "Shinjuku Renrakukai", a homeless support group, claims the true figure is closer to 5,000 (rapidly increasing).
Most of Japan's homeless are older men who have lost their jobs. They are too ashamed to move back with their families. The only problem is, welfare requires people to have a permanent address to qualify. So they get no government assistance.

The overall attitude towards those without homes or jobs is without compassion. It is part of Japanese culture.

One would expect such a prosperous country to have so much poverty. But so do we.

Everything you just learned- forget that

I came to a strange realization today. Everything we learn as small children- sharing, taking turns, saving water, even the value of exercise- we forget as adults.

We make kid's programs with songs and dancing about friendship and cooperation, and then we ship the kiddies off to Middle School and so on where society beats it out of them with lying and manipulation and competition and mutually abusive relationships.

What is wrong with our society today? It seems as if cooperation, sharing, and taking turns would be counterproductive to a competitive, materialist, uber-capitalist, meritocracy in which power and control are currency and men and women do not have equal dignity.

Clearly, we should be watching more children's programming.

Monday, May 08, 2006

This just in: bullying is psychologically damaging for girls

Female bullying is worse than male bullying because it is more personal, more psychological and much more emotionally destructive.

Those scars are much more difficult to heal than cuts and bruises.

Like we needed a research study to prove this! However it is sometimes good to bring these things into the light of public discussion. I personally believe that the atmosphere of an educational institution and teachers can have a tremendous difference in cutting down on the amount of bullying students get away with.

Hat tip to Anne for the link.

Whoa, I'm on

I didn't know that a website like this existed. On the one hand it is a really cool idea, on the other I feel a little strange that a posting I wrote is being displayed on another website without my permission, even if they do refer back to the original blog.

Who was it that said, "Words once uttered, once flown, are no more your own."


"We're gonna to have to face the music, so to speak"
- Prof. Boynton in Music Hum

How appropriate as I study for the test.

Note on the below

I do thing that women's colleges are a good idea, just to clarify, lest anyone get the wrong idea from my ambiguous intellecutal relationship with Barnard.

That seems reasonable

If, of course, you can't do math.

Since students must belong to a college, and since established colleges remained closed to women, women found admissions restricted to colleges established only for women. All of the men's colleges integrated genders between 1960 and 1988. One women's college, Girton, also integrated genders, but the other women's colleges took the view that until the gender ratio problem was completely solved, they should not reduce the number of women's places available by admitting men to their colleges. As of 2005, the university's gender ratio is male 46%: female 54% (Source: Push guide, [6]).

Somehow I feel they have about as much chance as integrating as Barnard does. What's so wrong with all-male education? I mean, how does this quote make any sense:

Barnard is unequivocally dedicated to the success of women. That's immediately obvious in the way issues are considered in almost every field of inquiry, from classical studies to the history of science, or in the prominence of the nationally acclaimed Barnard Center for Research on Women.[src]

Clearly, standard Latin grammars are sexist (or is that genderist?) and must be destroyed, replaced with new Latin grammars that don't make distinctions between masculine, feminine, and neuter. I mean, who are we to say that a forest if feminine, while a mouse is neuter?

Then they go on about how much better women's colleges are for women. But when you try the opposite

After VMI won its case in U.S. District Court, the case went through several appeals until June 26, 1996 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-1 decision in United States v. Virginia, found that it was illegal for a school supported by public funds to exclude women.

Is Barnard supported by public funds? Oh yes.

Now you might say that that's a public institution, whereas this is a private one that happens to receive federal funds. But look at what happened to religious schools in the 60s and 70s in New York . . .

Bah I should be studying for finals. I should write this up later.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Quote of the Day

Re the Da Vinci Code:

"There are some other religions which, if you insult their founder, will not just be talking,"

--Francis Cardinal Arinze

A little metablog courtesy of Mark Shea

As he ponders the division between private and public in the blogosphere, and the appropriateness of each.

I'm not a big believer in discussing matters of the heart in cyberspace. Some folk have a naive belief that if you just lay it all out there for discussion and expose your most vulnerable and painful questions to public discussion then a beautiful fruitful consensus will be achieved through the Wisdom of the Voters.

I think that's insane.

I seem to recall this was called 'nullification' in the South

Also defending Iran's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that international treaties become "invalid" as soon as they fail to secure the rights of nations. Referring to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said that in the case that such rights are violated, "then that nation would revise its decision and the treaty would become invalid," according to the Iranian news agency.

Well, that kind of strips a treaty of any power now doesn't it.

Close call

I plug my laptop into the Ethernet port in my dorm, and find I'm captured by a rouge DHCP server running on a router that someone plugged in backwards. Now, this happened a few weeks ago and at that time I reported it to the network people. Apparently not much happened, b/c it occurred again today. Grr. OK so I go find the default admin password on a lab computer, then come back to my room so I can render the thing unusable and get my network connection back.

Turns out that someone else got to it in the 10 minuites I was away, disabled all the services, and blocked all incoming and outgoing connections with the parental control feature. Awesome :-).

Remember, kids. Don't plug things into networks unless you actually know what's going on. If you persist in your in-plugging, don't be surprised when you break something and someone a little more tech-savvy than you decides to fix things.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

And if I may answer another prayer group question

Whether the first sin of our first parent is contracted by his descendants, by way of origin?

Aquinas says yes, interestingly noting that it is passed on according to "seminal power", meaning that anyone who is sprung from some other source doesn't have original sin.

Does that have anything to do with cloning? Or not so much?

Goodness and free will

Re the discussions at CCU prayer group.

The goat for Azazel is really like throwing a dog a bone. While evil (analogous to a vicious dog) is busy gnawing away at his bone and celebrating his victory over us, we slip by him to enter the private chamber of the King and get forgiveness and atonement.

In other words, this offering to Azazel is Israel's gift of acknowledgement and appreciation to the forces of evil. The forces of evil mistakenly think this means that Israel has submitted to evil and has surrendered to a life of sin. However, this is not the case. This is all really a clever ploy to divert evil's attention. This gift actually expresses Israel's surrender to G-d and shows appreciation for the challenge evil provides which is necessary for there to be any loving service of G-d at all.

When the high priest sends an offering to Azazel he demonstrates on behalf of Israel that we accept that service and love of G-d is possible only because evil and rebellion against G-d is possible. On the Day of Atonement, Israel acknowledges and appreciates how the temptations of evil, sin and selfishness are really part of achieving love and selfless service to G-d.

Today we learn about the marvels of probability

I feel like I should understand this after sixteen years of math classes. But I still have no clue why this should be so.

I do know, however, that if we were doing this in binary, the probability of a leading 1 is about 100% or so, which is probably why it's never come up in my classes :-).

Even more astonishing are the effects of Benford's Law on number sequences. Intuitively, most people assume that in a string of numbers sampled randomly from some body of data, the first non-zero digit could be any number from 1 through 9. All nine numbers would be regarded as equally probable.

But, as Dr. Benford discovered, in a huge assortment of number sequences -- random samples from a day's stock quotations, a tournament's tennis scores, the numbers on the front page of The New York Times, the populations of towns, electricity bills in the Solomon Islands, the molecular weights of compounds the half-lives of radioactive atoms and much more -- this is not so.

Given a string of at least four numbers sampled from one or more of these sets of data, the chance that the first digit will be 1 is not one in nine, as many people would imagine; according to Benford's Law, it is 30.1 percent, or nearly one in three. The chance that the first number in the string will be 2 is only 17.6 percent, and the probabilities that successive numbers will be the first digit decline smoothly up to 9, which has only a 4.6 percent chance.

A strange feature of these probabilities is that they are "scale invariant" and "base invariant." For example, it doesn't matter whether the numbers are based on the dollar prices of stocks or their prices in yen or marks, nor does it matter if the numbers are in terms of stocks per dollar; provided there are enough numbers in the sample, the first digit of the sequence is more likely to be 1 than any other.

Sorry for the lack of posts

I've been sick sick. Didn't even go to work :-(. Updates to follow.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Almost another anniversary

On May 6th, 1527, Spanish troops and an angry Protestant army invaded Rome, leading to the death of over a hundred of the Swiss Guards. Clement VII escaped due to their sacrifice.

Get down wid it

Mr. Spock boogies. And he's never looked better.

Record Breaking Breast Feeding

More than 3,000 mothers in the Philippines have made a bid to break the Guinness World Record for simultaneous breast-feeding.

"What we're planning to do is incite awareness to put back the pride in breast-feeding and the respect we deserve because we commit ourselves to our children," said Dr Elvira Esguerra, director of the advocacy group, Children for Breast-feeding.

Organisers of Thursday's event said rates of breast-feeding had dropped dramatically in the Philippines. Only 16% of Filipina mothers breast-feed their children for the first six months of their lives, according to local health authorities.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some more open mindedness

I especially love the last picture on the bottom. Such civility shows maturity on the part of the debater.

Jimmy Akin's condom analysis

His conclusion is something along the lines of

It's always hard to compare the gravity of one mortal sin versus another, but it seems to me that the answer to that question is likely to be "Yes, it is less evil to mutually masturbate with your spouse than to have sex in a way that will likely kill your spouse."

Two days

Yom Hazikaron
Yom Ha'atzma'ut

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Quotes of the Day

I can never resist it when Thomas Sowell decides not to write a column and let us see into his head instead.

In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.

Helen Thomas has been called "the dean of White House correspondents." After some of her recent remarks, someone suggested that she should be called the Howard Dean of White House correspondents.

Easter in Russia

From Zenit and Rome:

This more profound dimension of Easter is particularly felt by our Orthodox brothers. For them, Christ's resurrection is everything. In Eastertide, when they meet someone they greet one another saying: "Christ has risen!", and the other replies: "He has risen indeed!"

This custom is so rooted in the people that the following anecdote is told that occurred at the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution. A public debate had been organized on the resurrection of Christ. First the atheist spoke, demolishing for good, in his opinion, Christians' faith in the resurrection.

When he came down, the Orthodox priest went to the dais, who was to speak in defense. The humble priest looked at the crowd and said simply: "Christ is risen!" Before even thinking, all answered in unison: "He has risen indeed!" And the priest came down from the dais in silence.

Just keep typing

"Length is around 15 pages. I don't count pages because I know you can
make any idea fit any number of pages."
– Prof Dan O’Flaherty

Monday, May 01, 2006

AND I'm done with classes

Senior silliness taking up my time, real content tomorrow.

One for Zed

An investigation of the latest revisions of the Missal from an Orthodox POV. TNLM really does have some fascinating stuff, which I hope to be able to read once finals are over.

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