Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stuff and Nonsense on a Lazy Sunday (03 December)

  • Five op-eds in Sunday's Washington Post may set off an intriguing debate, pro and con. On the front page of the Post's Outlook section, famed Columbia University historian Eric Foner proposes George W. Bush as the worst president in our history -- and author Douglas Brinkley disagrees, but very slightly: He thinks Bush only ranks as poorly as Herbert Hoover.

    Another historian, David Greenberg, believes that only Nixon was worst. Meanwhile, Michael Lind pegs Bush at #5 --from the bottom. But Vincent J. Cannato, a historian at the University of Massachusetts, cautions: "Today's pronouncements that Bush is the 'worst president ever' are too often ideology masquerading as history."

    The Washington Post editorial page, ironically, has been a strong backer of the Iraq war from the beginning. [Editor and Publisher]

  • The English version of German news magazine Der Spiegel has an account of a Polish teenage exchange student who found himself boarded by a very Evangelical Christian family in North Carolina.
    When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, 'Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.' At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane.

    Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.

    My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying 'Michael, it's time to go to church.' I hated that sentence. When I didn't want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn't allow me to have any coffee.

  • Dozens of UK schools are using creationist teaching materials condemned by the government as "not appropriate to support the science curriculum", the Guardian has learned. The packs promote the creationist alternative to Darwinian evolution called intelligent design and the group behind them said 59 schools are using the information as "a useful classroom resource".
    The teaching pack, which includes two DVDs and a manual, was sent to the head of science at all secondary schools in the country on September 18 by the group Truth in Science.
    The DVDs were produced in America and feature figures linked to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a thinktank that has made concerted efforts to promote ID and insert it into high school science lessons in the US. Last year a judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled that ID could not be taught in science lessons. "Intelligent design is a religious view, a mere relabelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," he wrote in his judgment. [The Guardian]

  • The Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case of a Juneau, Alaska, student suspended from his high school for displaying a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at an off-campus event. As I've written previously, the question of how free students are to speak when not technically on campus (though in this instance the student was at a school-sanctioned event) is far from settled law, and this could be a landmark decision. [Alex Koppelman at Salon's War Room]

  • Time Magazine recently released its list of the 100 "greatest and most influential records ever." And while I agree with their assessment of Pink Floyd (i.e., no entries), I am rather befuddled that four of the nine albums that were released during this decade (the 2000s, the Oughts, whatever you want to call them) are anthologies/compilations by artists who have long passed away (Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, and Hank Williams). Have those records... excuse me, CDs been that influential to artists currently churning out music? That said, I am happy to see that The Stone Roses eponymous debut made the list.

  • New Zealand’s Northern Advocate reports that a US $402 million (NZ $600m) proposal to generate electricity with 200 tidal-powered turbines submerged at the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour could get under way next year. The harbour is one of the largest in the world. It’s a broad shallow harbour covering an area of over three hundred square miles and has more than two thousand miles of shoreline. It has a two and a half mile wide entrance to the Tasman Sea halfway along its length. [Alt-Energy Blog]

  • Soylent green is biodiesel! No, not really. But the Seattle P-I's Dateline Earth blog notes that John Plaza, president of Seattle-based Imperium Renewables which is building the country's largest biodiesel plant down in Grays Harbor County (south of Seattle), is considering an unlikely source for its fuel--algae:
    Right now the favorite way to make biodiesel in the U.S. is with the waste products of soybeans -- which doesn't require planting any additional acreage, Plaza points out. [...] Soy gets you 40 or 50 gallons of oil per acre, Plaza says, while the comparable figures for the brassicas and palm are perhaps 100-150 gallons per acre and about 650 gallons per acre.

    Algae? Done right, it can yield perhaps 10,000 gallons per acre per year, because it's harvested every two weeks instead of once a year. And folks are experimenting with different forms of algae to see if they could boost that production rate maybe four- or fivefold.

    And here's the beauty of growing algae: It needs three ingredients. One is free -- light from the sun. The second can be recycled -- water. The third is carbon dioxide. Yes, that's the same stuff causing global warming -- which will certainly have to be captured at power plants pretty soon. It could then be applied to algae, Plaza reasons. And the leftover protein can be used in foodstuffs. (Insert vision of Charlton Heston here.) Or it could be burned to produce energy.

Speaking of Soylent Green, here's a taste treat for you:

And finally, the T-shirt that's at the top of my holiday wish list:

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Go to the Cracks in the Facade main page.

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At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god, that exchange student story is so awful that it's hilarious. When I stayed with a family in Salzburg I had pretty much the opposite experience. Lived with a very free-wheeling artist named Drago Druskovic and his family. So free-wheeling that it was a challenge to get Drago to wear even a pair of underpants to the breakfast table. Thankfully, my home stay only lasted a couple of weeks; a year of that sort of thing might have completely done me in. It is humorous to think that the Polish kid fled back home to where things were so much more progressive. (Insert your favorite Polish joke here...)

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Agen said...

I forgot to give a tip of the hat to Kat for the gnome shirt. Damn, that's a good one...


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