Just posted my third article in my series for Times and Seasons. It’s called “On Learning from False Models”, and you can read it here. I will probably do 2-3 more to wrap up this line of inquiry before I’m done with my 2-week guest stint just before Christmas.
It’s just a local article from the CBS Denver affiliate, but I have a hunch it actually speaks volumes about the state of gun control in our country:
The day after the shooting in Connecticut a lot of people in Colorado tried to buy a gun.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says it received 4,154 requests for background checks from potential buyers on Saturday. That was so many the CBI couldn’t process them all and the backlog grew to nearly 18 hours. The Unit could only process 3,001 checks on Saturday.
Extra staff was brought in over the weekend and workers are still trying to clear the backlog.
There are a lot of ways you could interpret this, and a lot of potential conclusions you could draw. (Some would probably be true, others might not be.) The one stark reality seems to be that, no matter how much Americans may fear guns in the hands of ruthless killers, they see putting a gun in their own hand a part of the solution.
Many of you have probably seen this video making the rounds of a tearful, stunned, and awkward Robbie Parker speaking to press about his daughter Emilie, who was the youngest victim in Sandy Hook.
I think the beauty of his statement stands on its own, and many have noted it. I want to share some other things I noticed, however.
When I realized the scope of what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, I posted the news to my Facebook feed to get the word out and called for people to hold off on the political debate out of respect for the tragedy. That’s not what happened, and even after getting used to the fairly rapid news-cycle in the wake of the Virginia Tech and Aurora shootings, I was shocked and dismayed at how quickly the two sides squared off and began attacking each other.
My second post about epistemic humility is now up at Times & Seasons.
For the record, I’ll be posting therefore about 2 weeks (1 and a half remaining), and then my guest-blogging time will be over. There will be some new blog pieces here as well during that time, and of course after it, but volume will probably be a little lower than usual while I’m writing the pieces for Times & Seasons just because they are unusually complicated for me to write. I’m trying to pull together a lot of tangled threads that have grown without much order over the years and wrangle them into something coherent and structured. It’s tricky work (for me, at least).
I mentioned earlier this week that I was working on a piece for another site. Well: it’s up now. This is my first piece for the Mormon blog Times And Seasons, but I think it’s pretty generally applicable. I’ll be writing a few more pieces for them over the next 2-weeks until my guest-stint is finished. Check it out!
Nature covers an article in Nature Methods that describes how researchers were able to create new brain cells starting only with discarded cells flushed away in urine. This is terrific news for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that this stem cell treatment doesn’t require destroying human life. In addition, stem cells derived from embryos tend to be hard to control, but the brain cells cultured this way–when implanted into rats–didn’t lead to any tumors. It also helps that these cells are obviously easier to harvest (“We work on childhood disorders,” said one of the researchers. “And it’s easier to get a child to give a urine sample than to prick them for blood.”) Finally: this allows researchers to create stem cells for a patient from that patient’s own cells.
Sometimes, the future is rad.
So the fiscal cliff is looming closer and closer, and a new poll shows that “Americans clearly want Washington to solve its looming budget crisis, and they clearly reject almost every option to do that”. It sounds like typical voter stupidity at first, especially since a lot of the options on the table are not only palatable, but probably should be enacted for their own sake. The article lists: “raising taxes on everyone, cutting Medicaid or Medicare spending, raising the age for Medicare, or taking away tax deductions for charitable contributions or home mortgage interest,” and the last three all seem like no-brainers to me.
Before you start to feeling too smug, however, you can head over to the Wall Street Journal and try your hand at balancing the budget on your own. You start with the $1,102,000,000,000 10-year deficit and a menu of choices for raising taxes and cutting discretionary and entitlement spending.
The Slashdot headline definitely caught my attention (F-16 Engines Stolen From Israeli Air Base), and the story was indeed as advertised: Not one, not two, but several jet engines were swiped from an airbase. These engines weigh 3,700 pounds each, mind you, so it’s not like you can smuggle one out in your car.
It gets even better, however. Turns out someone helped themselves out to a five-fingered discount on eight F-15 and F-16 engines back in 2011, also from Israel. Maybe we should not give them so many toys if they can’t take better care of them? Oh, yeah, and in 2009 Malaysia suffered a similar heist. Someone absconded with a pair of F-5 jet engines which were subsequently tracked to Argentina before being recovered in Uruguay.
The world is a weird place.
I’m a little behind on my blogging for DR this week because I’m working on some pieces for other websites (which I shall dutifully link to here). In the meantime, David Edlestein’s review of the new Les Mis movie made me laugh out loud at several points, starting with this:
For the musical Les Misérables, director Tom Hooper has his cast of stars perform the songs live on-camera instead of having them lip-synch to prerecorded tracks, which is the norm. He doesn’t want you to forget the momentousness of his grand design, either. When an actor begins to sing, the camera rushes in and fastens on the performer’s face, positioning itself just below the head, somewhere between the navel and the Adam’s apple—and canted from 30 to 45 degrees, although the angle changes as the performer moves and the operator scampers to keep up. I imagined the cameraman to be small, fleet, and extremely high strung, like Gollum. The actors must have had to cultivate an inner stillness to keep from recoiling from him/it.
It gets even better, so read and enjoy. I particularly enjoyed re-reading it in David‘s voice, once I recognized his name as the film critic for NPR’s Fresh Air. It’s definitely given me a review style to aspire to!