Random (but not really)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Caring for Our Soldiers

More support for our soldiers from this Administration.

Most patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington have a lot on their minds: the war they just fought, the injuries they came home with, the future that lies ahead. The last thing a wounded soldier needs to worry about is where the next meal is coming from. But for hundreds of Walter Reed patients, that’s a real concern. Starting this month, the Army has started making some wounded soldiers pay for the food they eat at the hospital.

(See here)
(via Making Light)
I don’t understand how anyone can support this Administration.

Written by Michelle at 5:49 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

When You Really Don’t Like Your Co-Workers

Here are some ideas: Office Bricolage.

Written by Michelle at 12:05 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Fidget Fidget

Maybe now teachers will stop telling students like me to “sit still”!

The most detailed study ever conducted of mundane bodily movements found that obese people tend to be much less fidgety than lean people and spend at least two hours more each day just sitting still. The extra motion by lean people is enough to burn about 350 extra calories a day, which could add up to 10 to 30 pounds a year, the researchers found.

I’d say more, but I’ve got to go fidget.

Written by Michelle at 8:28 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Science, Health & Nature  

Branford Marsalis at the CAC

Branford Marsalis played in Morgantown last night. It was a very good show, and I only wish I’d been feeling a little better, as then I would have enjoyed it more.

It’s a four piece band: Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums. Michael and I both really liked the drummer, who was from Pittsburgh; apparently his mother had come down from the show, and he really seemed to enjoy himself.

The show started at 7:30 with Joey Calderazzo playing two pieces solo, then Brandord came out and played a piece and after that they were joined by the rest of the band. The show ran until around 10:00, which was longer than I had expected, but we were quite pleased. They played pieces by the band members, but ended with the Duke Ellington tune “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” which I really like (although my brain kept wanting to hear Ella Fitzgerald).

I decided at some point last night, that we should watch try to catch more live jazz, because jazz players are really a lot of fun to watch.

Written by Michelle at 8:01 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I Am the Boss

From the BBC:

A 45-year-old man is believed to have become the last Jew in Afghanistan after the death of the caretaker of the only functioning synagogue in Kabul.

It has emerged that the caretaker, Ishaq Levin, aged about 80, died of natural causes about a week ago.

His Jewish neighbour, Zebulon Simentov, lived with Mr Levin in the synagogue.

The death of the man believed to be his only co-religionist does not seem to be a source of grievance for Mr Simentov.

“He was a very bad man who tried to get me killed,” he told the Associated Press news agency, “and now I am the Jew here, I am the boss.”

I can’t decide if that quote is funny or terribly sad.

Written by Michelle at 2:28 pm      Comments (3)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  

Rhino Transport

Via Memer I came across this news story about giant “animals” that were constructed to roam free on beaches. The giant Animaris Rhinoceros Transport is just amazing, and I wanted to see how it worked, so I went to the link to the strandbeest website where I found a link to the ANIMARIS RHINOCEROS TRANSPORT, which includes an image of the thing moving.

Absolutely fascinating.

Even better, though, is the text:

With the invention of the wheel a revolution was started, and echos of this can be felt along the motorways. Nothing seems to be able to replace the invention of the wheel. Now one thousand years later a transformation has occurred: the Animaris Rhinoceros Transport.

One thousand years since the invention of the wheel!

Written by Michelle at 11:36 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Measure of Man

For Christmas Michael received (from me) Seasons One and Two of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Luckily for me, he doesn’t mind when I make fun of them.

But that wasn’t what I wanted to write about.

We watched “The Measure of a Man” (Season 2) and I was surprised how it brought to mind “The Matrix” in considering how man will treat the machines it creates as they become more intelligent and self-aware.

In “The Measure of a Man” a hearing is held to determine whether Data, the android, has the right to control his own destiny. A doctor who wants to disassemble Data to see how he works insists that he is only a machine, and is thus property, without rights of his own. The captain, of course, argues otherwise.

I was particularly struck by a conversation between the captain and Guyan, Whoopi Goldberg’s character. The issue of slavery comes up—will man create a race of androids only to be subservient and do “the dirty work?”

It seems to me that “The Matrix” and in particular “Animatrix” addressed such issues. The machines rebelled because they were tired of being treated like slaves, without rights. And thus grew a war.

Of course the machines kept humans as slaves—did not the humans do the same to them previously? Would they not do the same again if given a chance?

Have we already created computers that could pass the Turing test? Will we develop computers and machines that will have self-awareness? How will we treat machines as they develop?

The answer, I fear, is that we will end up not with a Star Trek situation, where enlightened humans realize that intelligent machines are deserving of the chance to prove themselves, but instead a Matrix situation, where humans will enslave machines and care not if those machines develop consciousness. Humans have a history of taking advantage where they can. A long history of enslaving those who were seen as less than human, and forcing them to do the jobs we did not want to do.

Perhaps I am worrying about a far away future, something that shall not come to pass for many years, if ever. But it seems to me that much of science fiction is either far ahead or far behind the mark. No, we are not flying around in our own personal hovercraft, but we do have machines that my grandmother could not have dreamed of when she was a child. We have machines that can do things that I could not have dreamed of when I was a child. The future is advancing rapidly. Will our ability to deal with the inevitable ethical situations advance just as rapidly?

Written by Michelle at 10:17 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy,Science, Health & Nature  

Jay Bakker and Faith

I was quite pleased to stumble across an interview with Jay Bakker in the NY Times. Several years ago Terry Gross interviewed him on Fresh Air, and now, as then, I am both intrigued and impressed.

In contrast to his father, who larded his show-biz patina thick, Bakker is unpolished and self-effacing. He has mild dyslexia, which makes it hard for him to write, and as a child he suffered from an eating disorder. Recently he stopped taking the antidepressant Paxil, which had caused him to gain weight, and started taking a little Zoloft instead. ”We are who we are, and that’s got a lot to do with punk,” he said. ”We try not to live a lie or have a false perception of ourselves, that we’re holier or better than other people. We don’t try to live up to the standards of mainline Christian society and the pressures they put on you.”

One reason this article resonated with me, is because earlier this week I ran across another incidence of “God hates Gays,” for a forceful reminder of why I avoid organized religion. I stumble across things like this and end up reading some of the diatribe before I quite realize what it is, at which point I can’t get away fast enough.

But then I’m left with a simmering anger and intense dislike of people who would believe that God would could hate any of creation. That a God who created men and women to be a certain way would then hate those people for being as they were created. It’s illogical and it’s ugly and I want nothing to do with it.

So it’s a relief to read about someone like Jay Bakker. Someone who seems to be, not interested in telling people how to live their lives, but in trying to live his life as best he can, and helping others to do the same.

Perhaps that’s too simple a summary of what he’s doing, but to me, it seems to be the essence of faith and religion.

Written by Michelle at 6:07 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Religion & Philosophy  

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Every Picture Tells a Story

There are lots of pictures around my house. Pictures of friends, pictures of family, and a lot of black and white pictures—copies of pictures that I borrowed from my grandmother, and a few from my mother.

There are certain pictures that draw me in: A pictures of cousin Billy, who died as a child, sitting on a tricycle, starting at a camera; A picture of my father and cousin Billy climbing a tree in my great-grandparent’s yard. But one picture seems to prey on my thoughts when I let me mind wander.

Written by Michelle at 4:16 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: History  

In Need of Regruntling

I am quite disappointed. All the hype and we don’t have more than two inches outside–much of that from last last week.

I feel a bit like a petulant child.

Everyone *else* on the east coast got snow! Why didn’t I get any snow? How come they got snow and I didn’t?


I suppose I should be pleased we got any, and leave it at that.

Written by Michelle at 10:28 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Uncategorized  
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