Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Celebrities are poison to your computer!

Celebrities are bad for you and your computer. According to this article by Thomas Claburn from Information Week.

"In its third annual list of the most dangerous celebrities in cyberspace, McAfee has found that 20% of searches for "Jessica Biel," "Jessica Biel downloads," Jessica Biel photos" and the like lead to Web sites where malicious content has been detected," writes Claburn.

The "virus spreader" herself.

McAfee was in the news again...
for something completely different. A massive airplane hangar give away by founder and namesake John McAfee sparked renewed debate over the relative suffering of multi-millionaires in the economic downturn. While McAfee's staggering losses unsurprisingly garnered little sympathy, his response was gracious and refreshing. To see the full text, to the follow up NY Times article.

"The Entrepreneurial spirit is what made America great. But we have over time equated entrepreneurism with the drive to accumulate wealth, which is a perversion of this spirit. Whatever the entrepreneur creates should be the reward, not just for the entrepreneur, but for everyone..." -John McAfee

I think that McAfee's point is more profound than he may even realize. At the center of the human heart is a desire to create (man in God's own image). In creating, the creation itself is the natural reward of the creator. Creation is hard work (on the seventh day He rested), but worthwhile, especially when the creation is good. The creator creates because it is in his\her nature and because it brings them glory and credit. Creation for the sake of anything else, even personal gain beyond the natural glory is not creation but prostitution of the self. And the perversion of creation brings dishonor and shame.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Young and Healthy

Young adults who overwhelmingly voted Obama into office are disinterested in the health care debate, according to this AP article.

The young and healthy are the most likely to foot the bill for the health care plan, in all of its current forms, but this may not be what is behind the lack of enthusiasm. Fouhy suggests something that made me wonder, and that is with college on break until this week, some until mid September, there hasn't been much opportunity for engagement.
But because the young also do not have a seat at the table in health care reform negotiations, I don't know that they will get involved anyway. It will be to their detriment, as they are forced to pay for treatments they do not need or for the the treatments of others they do not know

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Bacchae, Public Theater NYC

Intermittent rain all day scared off enough people that we scored much sought after tickets to the Public Theater's The Bacchae directed by JoAnne Akalaitis with an original score by Phillip Glass. Recent actor in The Hurt Locker, Anthony Mackie also made an appearance as Pentheus.
After failing to get tickets using the "Virtual Line" on Friday, we biked over to the theater at 1 PM on Saturday and found the line was short. By the evening performance, most seats were taken though.
The performance was startling. Greek tragedies are dark and the more so when performed live. Laura and I both enjoyed the score and the ravishing chorus pieces. Agave was a bit short of convincing but Cadmus and Tiresias were excellent and even funny in their opening act. My favorite was the monologue given by the messenger, Pentheus' servant, graphically describing his masters murder by the hands of his mother. Riveting and more stunning than the dripping head and body parts that were subsequently brought on stage and then fondled by a now lucid Agave.

NYC Day 2-4

Friday Night- Tourists in Little Italy
We got to Little Italy just as the roads had been blocked off and the restaurants were busily setting out tables and chairs. We couldn't so much as make eye contact, even peep at a menu without being assailed by a smooth talking Italian (or Hispanic, or Eastern European- you can't always tell).

The food at Lunella was ok but overpriced. And basically we felt like tourist buffoons instead of a newly married couple enjoying fine dining. Maybe that was our problem and not the restaurants but I wouldn't suggest dinner in Little Italy. At least not Lunella.

Saturday- Biking!
We decided to brave NYC by bike- and had the good fortune of running into the third and final Summer Streets day. We rode from the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Central Park on car free streets with water stops, free food give-aways, free bike repairs, and even free bike rentals. I was reminded of Chicago's Bike the Drive.

We then spent the rest of the day in Central Park- IOM racing on the Conservatory Waters, the children's lily pond in the Conservatory Garden, swimming in Lasker pool, and people watching at the Carousel were highlights.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NYC Day 1- Siggys Good Food in Brooklyn Heights

At the suggestion of our remote hosts, Logan and Laura, my wife and I had dinner at Siggy's Good Food on 76 Henry Street. The place had an excellent dinner vibe, thanks to the outdoor seating. Although it was muggy out, we weren't up for the loud and upbeat music in the small dining room.
The menu is 100% organic including wine and beers, and also offers a number of gluten free options. I went for a basic but delicious spaghetti and meatballs with a bottle of New Grist beer- all gluten free! Laura had an excellent Chicken Melanese. Dessert sounded gooded- two pies, brownies with chocolate sauce- but we passed in favor of a mad dash to bed after a long day.

Getting to NYC was a snap using Mega Bus- we left our car at the White Marsh Park and Ride (free parking). The bus did arrive an hour late and then the heralded WiFi access worked only for the first 45 minutes of the trip. We managed to grab a few snippets of airtime from the competitors Bolt and Greyhound while they were driving alongside our nearby us! Even given these problems, I'm glad we left the car behind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fairness or Justice

Interesting article that imagines what a government run panel on medical decisions might actually look like.
I can believe that a similar but very different situation occurs all the time at present. People come to the end of their personal and family resources and doubtless that is the argument for fairness. People also run into unfairness in the system, dishonesty amidst bureaucracy, and other difficulties that are unacceptable when life is in the balance. Here's an example, though different in that it is an individualized experience:

But Klavan has an interesting and insightful answer:

"Free people can treat each other justly, but they can't make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end."

You teach a child, "Life's not fair." Mostly it is in the context of trying to explain this tension between justice, power, and fairness. Yes, you actually could insure fairness for your kid if you wielded enough power- to change soccer schedules, to give everyone a part in the play, etc. But then you wouldn't be very just. The child with a lead foot would be out in front and center while the prodigy sat on the bench. People are different.
We teach children that life isn't fair because we want them to get the point that there are many things in life that cannot be controlled, or at least are not worth being controlled. We want our kids to grow a self-efficacy that takes responsibility for the kind of life they want to have- and a sense of realism, for what they cannot.

Ultimately, only a beneficent God can be truly powerful to justice. Yet in our kingdom on earth, we don't yet know what it is to say, "It is well, It is well with my soul." We should not give up on a fair and equitable society altogether, within our limited means. But we must recognize that

Monday, August 17, 2009

GRE Vocabulary Practice

The vicissitudes of the public school system have a detrimental effect on progress. Principals spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to mollify teachers and staff who resent sudden and unexpected changes. The principals must perform a galliard, or lively dance, between following system protocol and supporting their staff. One gets the feeling that each new innovation or policy that comes down from the system is nugatory and of little value but rather a nuisance. The perceived truculence of the system does much to disillusion teachers and promote the ignominy of public schools. This problem could be obviated by the effusion of cogent justification for changes in practice and policy and an overall reduction in the flux to which teachers are subjected to. Understanding the reasoning behind changes may serve to palliate them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obama Wants Health Care Competition?

Apparently. Or so says his press secretary, Robert Gibbs.
"What the president has always talked about is that we inject some choice and competition into the private insurance market."
Read more in the New York Time article:

It appears that Obama may be more of a pragmatic populist than he has been given credit for. The White House seems to be very open to negotiation. I wonder if this pragmatic tendency is backfiring in that conservatives in Congress, knowing that Obama will negotiate, are driving a hard bargain. I also think that the crisis mentality that has been created at least in part by Obamas own campaigning has been co-opted by those un-friendly to the finer points of his reform. Having brought the essential members to the table- largely Healthcare and Business lobbies and Congress, with a splash of grasroots furor, they are now writing their own healthcare reform without the White House.

Consequences and Race

Thursday night one of our adult neighbors from across the street, Jeff, startled me by calling me through our rear window at about 10:30 in the evening. He said, "Hey Asa, I didn't want them to know I told you but some the kids dented you wife's car playing football." Feeling slightly sickened, I thanked him and peaked out the front windows to see if anyone was still out there. Amazingly, there was still a collection of kids throwing a football around, and one of them was actually lying on top of the hood our another neighbor's car. A few minutes later, I ventured out to investigate. I saw the damage pictured to the left. As usual, none of the kids knew or saw anything. "We just got out here," they said in almost unison. After pressing them without luck, I went inside and told Laura whose wrath was kindled a bit hotter than mine. She did a little better and with the help of a mother who had apparently seen what happened but only now decided to chime in, the story emerged. Running to catch a ball, "he pushed me" and a kid ran full force into the car. The kids seemed slightly dumbfounded that they would even have to apologize and then when they did so it was without remorse. We had them take us to their parents- a mother and older cousin. Both of whom who expressed regret but promised nothing. We didn't expect to have the damage paid for but the feeling that Laura and I walked away with was of anger and real disbelief. Later, came a conviction that we needed to the best of our abilities see that there would be some sort of consequence for both kids. To the extent which families would be cooperative, could they do community service by cleaning up the alley and local park with us to "pay" for the damage? Without at least trying to serve consequences, we are doing the kids a disservice.

This is not the only sour thing that has happened in the past two years involving the children on the street. Often there has been a level of dishonesty on the part of adults involved too- or at least a lack of cooperation. The situations have become public though, and we've gotten a lot of sympathy from neighbors as well. We don't want to become the poor white couple that the neighborhood feels bad about. It does seem like every time something happens our friends on the street feel embarrassed about it a little. They feel like they have to vehemently condemn it, shake their heads, and commiserate with us. Maybe they are just being good friends. I am worried though that there is more to it. Race is woven throughout our interactions as surely as it is not discussed.

House Changes

We finally had some long anticipated work done on our house. We are feeling more at home now, although inner city living has its day to days trials.

Our wedding flowers are doing wonderfully and we're lookng forward to home grown tomatoes. The guest room has a new ceiling (goodbye moldering acoustic panels!) and a storm dorm opening on to the balcony that lets in tons of light.
Our dryer now vents to the OUTSIDE and we get a little natural light into the back of the basement too.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Collapse of Evangelicalism

"What we know as evangelicalism is a temporary cultural expression of the Christian faith. It comes with idiosyncrasies, good and bad. It has produced the populist Religious Right activist Jim Dobson and the careful, moderate scholar Mark Noll." -Mark Galli, Christianity Today

As I have been considering a graduate school application to Notre Dame among others for history (Early America and Religon), I've been digging in the trenches of quite a number of topics. I am most interested in studying the persistance of Protestant orthodox belief since the early 1600s. By "Protestant orthodox belief" I mean Protestant belief that affirms the basic historical tenents of the Christian church. Some of these beliefs include, the deity of Christ and the preeminence of scripture as the divine word of God, Underlying this interest of course is an assumption, that belief has persisted. If it has, it has overcome some significant odds. Many intelligent people in many generations have predicted its demise.

As a side note, I don't think Galli meant to suggest by his syntax that Dobson and Noll represent two sides of the good and bad coin or even operate on some sort of continuum between good and bad. He is just suggesting, and I agree, that there is a very large variety of self identified evangelicals out there. Dobson and Noll are certainly very diferent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Here's Someone Making Sense

A very straightforward, although admittedly without details, approach to positive health care reform given by John Mackey, of Whole Foods.
The key is the underlying assumptions- there are many good people smarter than most of us to then make it work. But we must start with, What is the nature of human beings? leading to How are people best motivated? leading to Who is responsible for healthcare? When we get these fundamental questions wrong, we end up with a lot of nice sounding policy that is completely off base. Intrepid men and women with long term vision see the writing on the wall. The less than brilliant of us can only instinctively know, deep down, that something is off. The fundamentals are wrong. And some of us, in panic, cry "Socialism!" Not necessarily because that's what Obama's reform would give us, but because it is the classic example of getting the basic fundamentals of human nature wrong, and building a house of cards on it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Buttons

Buttons is celebrating his 55th birthday today. He asked for our folding table and tent this morning in his Pajamas. At 4:30 PM, he still had his PJs on. He gave us two cards to sign for him, to him. So I guess he is planning his own party. We gave him a T-Bone steak to grill. Happy Birthday buttons.


When we got home from vacation yesterday, I found out that the black kitten had died. It lived a short and scared life in careless hands.

A Face in the Crowd \ Robert Randolph

Waiting for Robert Randolph to begin his set at Artscape, I caught a few faces in the crowd. A group of high schoolers gathered to our left, sharing joints and a few beers. Two adult mothers (or teachers from the school?) joined them at some point and one boy begged gulps of his moms beer.

Robert Randolph played a blazing set in tribute to MJ with numerous references in his solos and a very good cover of "Billie Jean." I wasn't sure if the white rhythm guitarist was up there on a whim or a permanent part of the band. He seemed at times lost, but trying hard. One decent solo.