I find Signs of Life oddly fascinating
In a new blog post, John Scalzi recounts his move from print to online writing back in 1995. This is what John learned from the experience:
The most important thing the move taught me was simply this: There is always another way. What is required is the will to confront change from without and roll with it so it becomes change from within. My job came crashing down on me, and I had a choice of accepting it or finding another way. I found another way and and took it. My editors forced change on me; I turned it around and worked to make it a change on my terms. In this particular case I was fortunate that work I had been doing had prepared the way, so I could move quickly — but even had I started from zero, with work another way would have presented itself in time.
I learned a similar lesson back in 1992-3. As I was getting closer to completing my Ph.D. in German, I realized that I no longer had a passion for my academic work and that my personality and work style were not well suited to an academic environment. I also noted the glut of freshly minted humanities Ph.Ds relative to the academic job openings. So, I made a conscious decision to be open-minded about other career opportunities. Because of this decision, I jumped at a part-time opportunity to work as a computational linguist. One thing led to another, and here I am today.
Some of my grad school associates think that I couldn’t cut it in the academic world. Others think I sold out. There’s some truth in both of those judgements, but there’s also a certain amount of narrow-mindedness. But as I’ve aged, I’ve realized that my professional life is only a relatively small part of my identity. I’m very thankful to be able to provide for my family and to have a career that I find rewarding and intellectually stimulating in its own way.
We are a group of evangelical pastors, academics and mission executives who have been disturbed by the growing influence of Christian Zionism on the political scene in America recognizing this ideology to be a major factor in the stalled peace process in Israel / Palestine. We hope to offer an alternative biblical view, one that reflects the true nature of God as a God of compassion and justice. Christian Zionism and the dispensationalism which undergirds it distorts this.
Challenging Christian Zionism offers a lot of resources to fight the right-wing Christian theology and political agenda.
NOTE: If you don’t know what Christian Zionism is, check out this article. It’s a little wordy, but not too long.
Here’s an interesting comparison of Germany and the USA from a guy who grew up in Germany but has lived in the US for a long time. I have only skimmed a couple of sections so far, but it seems right on based on my experience with the two countries. For instance:
Success in the US is almost exclusively defined as economic success; those who have such success try everything to show it. It is cool to be rich and people look up to the rich, to the extent that someone whose only credential consists of being a billionaire can almost become president.
By contrast, the rich are not particularly well-liked in Germany. In politics, being extremely rich would certainly be an obstacle. In the back of the German’s mind there’s still the assumption that someone who owns that much must have exploited others to get it.
The obvious fact that the rich in the US have much better access to health care and legal representation than the poor is generally not seen as an injustice. To Germans, this notion is deeply offensive. When I discussed the O.J. Simpson case with Americans, I would usually point out that he got away with murder because he was rich enough to hire the very best lawyers; many people I spoke to didn’t even notice the implied criticism: they replied “Sure, the rich can buy better lawyers. They can also buy better cars. That’s what wealth is.”
Generally speaking, the average living standard in the US is considerably higher than in Germany. More people own their home, houses are bigger, people own more luxury items and have more disposable income. Two caveats are in order: first, the variation in the US is a lot larger, and the poor in the US are poorer than the poor in Germany. Second, Germans may not have as much money, but they certainly have much more free time, if the daily working hours and the yearly vacation time is taken into account.
I’ll be reading the rest of it at my earliest opportunity.
So, everyone wants to know what Samuel Alito really thinks about issues like abortion. Gosh, how refreshing it would be for him (or any other SCOTUS nominee) just to say: “Well, personally, I have X option of Y subject, but my personal opinion has no bearing on my job as judge.” Instead, we get this elaborate dance. Why can’t people accept that an individual could have one personal opinion and a different professional opinion?
It looks like Karl Rove has started framing the discourse for the mid-term elections. Regarding the issue of the Iraq war, an AP article reported:
Without specifically mentioning Democrats, the president urged politicians to ”conduct this debate responsibly.”
He said he welcomed ”honest critics,” but he termed irresponsible ”partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil or because of Israel or because we misled the American people,” as well as ”defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.”
With that description, Bush lumped the many Democrats who have accused him of twisting prewar intelligence with the few people, mostly outside the mainstream, who have raised issues of oil and Israel.
Bush argued that irresponsible discussion harms the morale of troops overseas, emboldens insurgents and sets a bad example for Iraqis trying to establish democracy.
”In a free society, there’s only one check on political speech and that’s the judgment of the American people,” the president said to applause from a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. ”So I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account and demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries.”
”Patriotic Americans will continue to ask the tough questions because our brave men and women in Iraq, their families and the American people deserve to know that their leaders are being held accountable,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
So, if you question the president’s handling of the war, you’re dishonest, irresponsible, defeatist, partisan, treasonous and unpatriotic. Nice.
The eStarling frame is a standalone Wi-Fi LCD photo frame that connects to a wireless network and automatically displays photos e-mailed to it in a slideshow format. Additionally you can specify an RSS photo feed from Flickr based on your own tagged keywords. You can even shoot photos on your mobile phone then e-mail them directly to your eStarling frame for display.
Expensive, but very cool. This seems to me to be a good beginning to the long-awaited and much-touted ‘smart’ home appliances.
(via Matt Haughey)
We now have electrical utility deregulation in Texas. Sometime toward the end of last year, a salesperson for Reliant Energy showed up on our doorstep. Katie mistook this company for the company to which some neighbors had switched, and she agreed to switch service to them. When I got home that night, we decided we didn’t want to switch after all.
In the packet that the Reliant salesperson had given Katie, I noticed a form to revoke our decision within three days. I faxed it in the next day. I never heard anything from Reliant, so I assumed all was well.
Well, at the end of December, we got a final bill from our previous provider. After several long telephone calls, I determined that Reliant put in the switch request to our old provider, but then never set up an account for us. As far as I can tell, we’ve been getting free electricity since December 16th. Unfortunately, I’m too upstanding to let that continue. I re-established service with our previous provider today (though I think we still get almost a month of free electricity, as they will establish new service for us this week). Gotta love bureaucracy.
P.S. Too bad the free month was in winter, not in August.
From the New York Times:
Scientists who study the evolution of visual signaling have identified a wide and still expanding assortment of features and behaviors that make something look cute: bright forward-facing eyes set low on a big round face, a pair of big round ears, floppy limbs and a side-to-side, teeter-totter gait, among many others.
Cute cues are those that indicate extreme youth, vulnerability, harmlessness and need, scientists say, and attending to them closely makes good Darwinian sense. As a species whose youngest members are so pathetically helpless they can’t lift their heads to suckle without adult supervision, human beings must be wired to respond quickly and gamely to any and all signs of infantile desire.
The human cuteness detector is set at such a low bar, researchers said, that it sweeps in and deems cute practically anything remotely resembling a human baby or a part thereof, and so ends up including the young of virtually every mammalian species, fuzzy-headed birds like Japanese cranes, woolly bear caterpillars, a bobbing balloon, a big round rock stacked on a smaller rock, a colon, a hyphen and a close parenthesis typed in succession.