"The blog has made Glab into a hip town crier, commenting on everything from local politics and cultural happenings to national and international events, all rendered in a colorful, intelligent, working-class vernacular that owes some of its style to Glab’s Chicago-hometown heroes Studs Terkel and Mike Royko." — David Brent Johnson in Bloom Magazine
[T]o appreciate the physical universe properly, one must be “born again.”
As I was fleshing out the text of this book, my grandson Luke was born. During the drafting, I got to observe the first few months of his life. I saw how he studied his own hands, wide-eyed, and began to realize that he controlled them. I saw the joy with which he learned to reach out and grasp objects in the external world. I watched him experiment with objects, dropping them and searching for them, and repeating himself (and repeating himself…), as if not quite certain of the result, but laughing in joy when he found them.
In these and many other ways, I could see Luke was constructing a model of the world. He approached it with insatiable curiosity and few preconceptions. By interacting with the world, he learned the things that nearly all human adults take for granted, such as that the world divides itself into self and not-self, that thoughts can control movements of self but not of not-self, and that we can look at bodies and not change their properties.
Babies are like little scientists, making experiments and drawing conclusions….
Wilczek is one of those super-brains-on-two-legs guys who, in their day jobs, are probing into the very existence of…, well, existence while they moonlight as authors penning books for the less cerebral among us to try to pretend to understand what they’re writing about. He knows what quantum mechanics is all about. Or, let me put that more accurately: among humans on Earth, he’s one of the very few who can at least know what he doesn’t yet know about the subject. For, as Richard Feynman once famously observed, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Feynman, of course was one of those super-human intellectuals who wrote a lot for the lay person. Carl Sagan, too. Among the living, there are Dava Sobel and Neil deGrasse Tyson. In fact, here’s a list of great science writers, living and dead, who can (in most cases almost) be grasped by the likes of you and me:
Pick any three of the above and delve into one or more of their books and you’ll find your life enriched beyond any monetary figure. A caveat: it won’t be terribly easy getting through any of their books. No matter — the Big Mike philosophy goes: Nothing worth doing is easy.
Anyway, let’s go back to that Wilczek quote. The idea being perhaps the truest and most pure scientists are human babies trying to figure out what those spindly little things on the ends of their hands are for; why things drop; how, if my diaper is full and I howl about it, some big person’ll come along and put a new one on me; and, eventually, what’ll happen when I stick a safety pin point into one of those little holes in the wall.
How beautiful is that idea?
Babies observe. They wonder about what they’re observing. They experiment. Sometimes the result of that experiment hurts. Sometimes the result is they learn something. They file either conclusion away in their memories for future use.
The smartest among us are those who understand they don’t know all that much and are hungry to learn.
So, the city’s hiring a bean counter to handle the 2015 upcoming budget. Acc’d’g to today’s Herald Times [paywall], Mayor Mark Kruzan et al have tabbed the Crowe Horvath accounting firm to slap a quick dough doc together in time for the City Council to review it in August.
Just to bring you abreast of the situ., City Controller Sue West took a powder in June after only a year and and half on the job. The Mayor characterized her leaving as a “life decision.” He said at the time that her absence wouldn’t affect the ongoing budget process because Deputy Controller Donna Slater, a CPA, was on hand and, per the M., “she doesn’t have that much less experience with budget preparation. We’re very fortunate to have Donna.”
Slater less than a week later threw her hands in the air and resigned as well. Eek.
Now Crowe Horvath senior manager Angie Steeno will draw up the draft budget. Slater (who’s staying on the job through Aug.) and city staffers already have been hard at work on it but the remaining work entails more than just dotting the i‘s. Crowe Horvath is a well-respected accounting firm with offices in 26 cities around the country. The outfit was started in 1942 by biz math geeks Fred P. Crowe Sr. and Cletus F. Chizek. By 1995, Crowe’d become one of the top 10 accounting firms, in terms of billing, in the US. After the usual series of mergers and buyouts, Crowe Chizek became Crowe Horvath in 2008.
I dunno if it’s me, but ever since I arrived in this town in 2009, people entrusted with both the city and county’s cash have been dropping like flies. After learning about Amy Gertstein and Rhonda Foster’s alleged misuse of county credit cards and Justin Wykoff allegedly cutting himself sweetheart deals with Public Works contractors, I get the feeling local governmental finances are no more safe than if all B-town and Monroe County cash was simply parked on shelves in some photocopier room.
What with the potential for criminal charges, firings, and unexpected resignations, landing a job as a local pecuniary official might not be cause for celebration of late.
The mayor and the County Council promise us things are getting better. We’ll see.
Tyson Talks Tough
So, I’ve been saying this for years but who wants to listen to me? Tons o’folks listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson, though, especially those usually on my side of the fence who believe in climate science and evolution etc. Mother Jones has published a vid wherein the King of All Science tells the anti-GMO crowd, essentially, to take a Xanax. He explains:
I’m amazed how much rejection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public. It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new, emergent science…. What most people don’t know — and they should — is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food. There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows…. You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection. That’s how we genetically modify things. So now we can do it in a lab, all of a sudden you’re gonna complain? …We are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs. I don’t have a problem with that because we’ve been doing that for tens of thousands of years. So chill out.
Sorry, NdGT, there won’t be any chillin‘; the foodies who’ve seen this vid are having nervous breakdowns at this very moment trying to figure out what to think about you now.
Indiana University alum and billionaire Mark Cuban doesn’t like the way corporations are trying to get out of paying US taxes now. Big outfits like Walgreen’s are moving their HQs to foreign countries these days so’s they can dodge their responsibilities to help keep this holy land running. Cuban sez:
If I own stock in your company and you move offshore for tax reasons, I’m selling your stock.
When companies move offshore to save on taxes, you and I make up the tax shortfall elsewhere.
Hey, kids, I realize we live in the most informed, brilliant, and sensitive burgh this side of Berkeley, California, but still some of us might come up against a simian thinker who, say, doesn’t believe all this socialist, bike-riding propaganda about climate change.
What Do All Those Scientists Know?
You know, it’s all a plot to destroy America and so on.
So you might have a need to destroy his ignorance and put him in his proper place (A zoo cage? A mental institution?) should you run into him bleating his views in a bar or at your coffeehouse headquarters.
Many of us emerge from such a tête-à-tête ruing our inability to deliver just the right bon mot that would send him scurrying out of the place, humiliated to the point of wondering whether he should just end it all. (Imagine, too, using pretentious Gallicisms to finish him off — pure bliss, no?)
Which I agree with. These days, we have what I’d call science’s designated hitters: Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson. Their Q-ratings nearly approach those of fictional brains such as Frank-n-Furter, Dr. Strangelove, and Professor X.
Don’t get me wrong, I dig NdGT and Nye the most. Still, to the gen. pub., they’re pretty much the alpha and omega of smart guys. OTOH, we get all sorts of un-scientists spewing their mouth refuse about things scientific. People like Sen. James Inhofe, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh — and there are dozens more where they come from. Corporate news purveyors find these chuckleheads by the score whenever there’s a climate debate or an evolution debate or even a flat-Earth debate.
Guys like Michael Mann toil in anonymity in their labs and classrooms, discovering things, learning things, and being, well, all scientific while the populace of this holy land learns about the physical world from Steve Doocy and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.
So, go, go. go, M. Mann et al. As for you, loyal Pencillista, read his piece on climate change and go into your next argument on that topic armed with the best info.
The Old Pro
My complete interview with Charlotte Zietlow is now up on The Ryder website. It’s a long one but it’s a good one. Take some time and read it — and feel better about politicians for a brief moment, armed with the knowledge that that vocation’s roster has included decent souls like CZ.
If you’re pressed for time, catch my eight-minute mini-interview with the Dem doyenne that ran on WFHB’s Daily Local News a couple of weeks ago.
End of commercial.
All The News That’s Old
Now we learn that 40 percent of the Indiana University student pop. is from out of state. This thanks to the Daily Beast‘s ranking of the decade’s “hottest” schools (via the Herald Times).
IU, acc’d’g to the D. Beast‘s rankers, is the third most thermal institution of higher education in Murrica, after USC and Vanderbilt.
Good journalist that I am, I googled “hottest schools decade IU daily beast,” just to verify the story and, perhaps, to provide a link to the Beast’s piece (which the H-T hadn’t).
Lo and behold, I found that the DB‘s list of hot colleges was done in 2009. It ran December 13 that year, which makes sense, considering it was an “of the decade list.” Such things aren’t done in the middle of a ten-annum.
Didja Hear The News?!
So thanks, Herald Times, for the five-year-old news. If I’d paid the $8.95 the paper wants every month for an online subscription, I’d be steaming about now. Luckily, I’ve figured out a way to get it free, which is what it’s worth.
Again, take a few minutes and cop an ear on the piece sometime today.
I Told You So
How many times have I said this? The Wingnut Right is going to start really digging Vladimir Putin.
That is, if they haven’t already developed a tyrant-crush on him yet. Come to think of it, I guarantee Sarah Palin soaks her drawers thinking about the bare-chested beast.
Anyway, along comes one of god’s PR men on Earth, Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham. Billy boy was the Christianist go-to guy for presidents from Eisenhower to Bush I. As Neil Steinberg wrote yesterday, Graham pere “sat out literally every important moral issue of his day…. while groveling before power and babbling about the End of the World.” Little Frankie runs the family’s dog and pony show now, apparently, and he just wrote a fap piece about Vlad-who-impales-only-women-because-gays-are-criminals.
Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?
In my opinion, Putin is right on these issues. Obviously, he may be wrong about many things, but he has taken a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda.
Our president and his attorney general have turned their backs on God and His standards, and many in the Congress are following the administration’s lead. This is shameful.
Then, on Easter Sunday, the fertility holiday the Christianists swiped from the pagans, Frankie appeared on George Stephanopoulos’s gabfest where he was queried about whether or not he supported Putin as a leader. Here’s his reply:
No, I think — I think Putin is going to do what’s right for Russia. And not what’s right for America, but for Russia. We used to have a president in this country that did what’s right for this country. But we don’t seem to have that right now.
Putin is going to make these decisions that he thinks is best for the Russian people and he thinks taking advantage of children, exploiting children is wrong for any group.
See? These loons love the man-gravy out of Vlad Putin.
I knew it all along and said so. That’s why you have to read the Pencil every day, even when I don’t post — just re-read the old stuff for the hell of it.
The Science Of Prejudice
We know about how relatively few women there are in the hard science fields. It’s a national disgrace.
But let’s not forget that blacks, too, are woefully underrepresented in areas like physics, mathematics, biochemistry, and other disciplines that probe and define reality.
Rock star astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson once was asked why so few Double-Xers get into the sciences. He answered by comparing the plight of aspiring girl scientists to that of little black future scientists, no matter their gender.
Teachers and other authority figures literally push girls and blacks away from the sciences.They may not even realize it, but they do. For instance, when young NdGT told his teachers he wanted to be an astrophysicist, more than one of them advised him that maybe, just maybe, he’d be better off dreaming of becoming an athlete.
Wouldn’t You Rather Collect Welfare Checks?
There She Goes….
I’m not even going to write about that high school in Pennsylvania suspending a kid for asking Miss America to his prom. You know, the reigning M.A. was visiting the H.S. for whatever reason beauty queens visit schools and, during the assembly, some kid got up, gave her a flower and asked her to go to the prom w/ him.
Big deal, no?
Well, yeah it was a big deal to the petit tyrants who run that kid’s correctional facili…, er, high school. They suspended him for three days for causing a disturbance.
Oh hell, I lied. I am going to write about it. Here goes.
1) All of high school is hell, but assemblies are particularly hellish. At least the kid tried to make this assembly entertaining and fun for the rest of the kids.
2) Miss America wins her crown by being voted the most hot babe among 49 other contestants (or is it 50 or 51 other contestants? IDK: Does DC send a Miss? Any of the territories?) Anyway, the kid showed real spunk by asking the consensus hottest dame in his school to his prom. I say give him the Most Likely to Succeed award right now.
3) Schools still suspend kids? As if a day or two or three off is a punishment? And don’t the kids miss out on trivial little things like their lessons when they’re suspended?
4) Miss America, it has been revealed, visited the school “to discuss the importance of science, technology, and math studies.” Wait, what? What in the holy hell was she doing talking to them about that? Where was Neil de Grasse Tyson?
Nina Davuluri, Your New Science Career Adviser
5) I want the school’s principal to be suspended immediately. No, wait, fired. And booted in the ass as he leaves.
Mind you, Fox B-casting is not Fox News. The two are separate entities under the worldwide umbrella that is Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire. Whereas Fox News typically airs topical news “debate” shows wherein, like professional wrestling, there are clear-cut villains and heroes, and its news updates generally steer blame for all the evils in the world, up to and including irritable bowel syndrome, toward Barack Obama and his liberal minions, Fox Broadcasting presents such darlings of the cognoscenti as The Simpsons, The Family Guy, and Glee.
Hell, F-Broad even will begin showing Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this coming Sunday. To refresh, the original Cosmos was the brainchild of Carl Sagan. The presenter of this iteration will be Neil de Grasse Tyson. Both the late Sagan and and the still-very-alive NdGT would be ridiculed to high heaven were they to appear on a Fox News segment on climate change or evolution.
The Devil No Matter What?
Still, the TV entertainment arm of the Murdoch octopus is run by, well, Murdoch. That’s gotta be enough to scare the bejesus out of us crunchy, bleeding-heart types who listen to Morning Edition.
Fun With Books
Would you read a book entitled Everything I Know About Women I Learned from My Tractor?
How about A Passion for Donkeys or Does God Ever Speak through Cats? And then there’s that classic, What’s Your Poo Telling You?
IDK about you, but I’d read ’em! Not only that, I’d proudly display these tomes in my living room library. BTW: You can, indeed, tell the book, What’s Your Poo Telling You?, by its cover. It’s about paying close attention to your porcelain princess deuces; its tagline is “Loads of facts about your health.” And, yes, it’s illustrated.
Just a reminder that I am the world’s biggest liberal, even in these days when liberals have lost their spark and are routinely portrayed as Nazi/commie terrorists who force their daughters to have sex with black men and then have their resultant fetuses aborted.
How did a nice guy like me get hung with that kind of rep?
The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.
Now, Students, Remember: Never Rock The Boat.
Tell it, brother.
And, finally, here’s Italian TV dude Adriano Celentano doing a parody video showing what American English sounds like to them goofy furriners. Sort of a counterpart to Andy Kaufman doing Latka Gravas, as you’ll see.
Weird thing is, when I watched this vid last night, I though the music was very, very cool. Then, when I watched it again this morning, it sounded, well, unlistenable. Further proof that we have to trust our second thoughts .
Whyzit that the smartest females corporate media gives us are fictional? I had no idea who Piper Chapman was before I read her fabulous meme quote last night. At first I thought she was a real person and I started writing, “Here’s a female actor who isn’t a dumb blonde. This Piper dame seems to have the goods between the ears. How she ever made it in Hollywood or wherever they shoot Netflix things is beyond me.”
A couple of seconds-worth of research revealed PC is a character in the Netflix comedy-drama Orange Is the New Black, which I’ve never seen and I don’t plan to. No, not because I object to it in particular but because, y’know, it’s TV.
Taylor Schilling: At Least She Plays Smart
Anyways, natch, no ambitious young actor would ever say anything like PC said in public because although we are free, free, free to gun down anyone whose looks we don’t like in this holy land, when it comes to expressing liberal-bordering-on-radical views, well, now hold on there pardner.
It’s okay to be Barbra Streisand and throw fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, who’s about as liberal as I am a thug rapper. That’s cool. But once you start messin’ w/ the Big Daddy-o in the Sky, you’re messin’ w/ your career, babies.
Oh, and you aspiring female opinionators can dream of filling the Rachel Maddow slot — TV needs a lesbian/intellectual/tough-talking/hard-core liberal, you bet. She’s a perfect target for Right Wing troglodytes to aim their hot little pistols at while she’s going on and on about commie things like facts and poor people. And, by the way, any double meaning you’d care to attach to my reference to hot little pistols there is perfectly expected. The “real men” of this holy land know what R. Maddow needs.
So, I’m bummed that the following manifesto is merely script dialogue. Still, it’s worth a look:
I believe in science, I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit he could be kind of an asshole.
[A Pencil Aside: Hey, is this chick me or something? Carry on.]
I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked with machetes.
[Pencil Aside 2: Oh yeah, she’s me. With long streaked hair, blue eyes and ladyparts. Carry on.]
I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell, I don’t think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don’t believe that people die young because god needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit and, on some level, I think we all know that. I mean, don’t you? … Look I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride. I’m sure I’d be happier. But I can’t. Feelings aren’t enough. I need it to be real.
Trust me, there was some heavy sighing going on as I clacked this in. I’m still not going to watch Orange Is the New Black and I wish, wish, wish an actual person had said this. Like Piper Chapman sez, I need it to be real.
Grimly tally the number of people who have been killed by terrorism in the United States since the State Department began keeping records in the 1960s, and you’ll get a total of less than 5000 — roughly the same number, it has been pointed out, as those who have been struck by lightning. But each year, with some fluctuation, the number of people killed in car crashes in the United States tops 40,000. More people are killed on the roads each month than were killed in the September 11 attacks. In the wake of those attacks, polls found that many citizens thought it was acceptable to curtail civil liberties to help counter the threat of terrorism, to help preserve our “way of life.” Those same citizens, meanwhile, in polls and in personal behavior, have routinely resisted traffic measures designed to reduce the annual death toll (e.g., lowering speed limits, introducing more red-light cameras, stiffer blood alcohol limits, stricter cell phone laws.)
Murrica, ya gotta love it!
The above passage is from the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt, a neat little study of the psychology behind our cars and roads and everything else related to them.
They hate us, remember, for our freedoms.
Who rules the world? You, the voter? The Prez? Carlos Slim Helu? Bruce Springsteen? Tony Bennett (see below)? Whoever it is that packs the most heat?
Forget ’em all. If you want to figure out who calls the shots on the third planet from the Sun, check out this fab Open Database website: opencorporates.com. OC monitors more than 55 million corporate entities around the globe, measuring their reach, gauging their influence, and illustrating the dense web the biggest of them has spun around us all. We seven billion are, after all, a bunch of buzzing flies trapped in the arachnoid mesh created by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other archvillainous entities. (How about that for literary imagery?)
Dig: SMERSH and KAOS had nothing on, say, the Citigroup gang. And don’t even get me started on Monsanto.
The Loved One sent me the link last night and, to say the least, it takes my breath away. Couple that with conservative guru Richard Viguerie saying Mitt Romney lost because he didn’t hammer it home that Barack Obama is a “radical” who is out to destroy our holy land and you get the gist of the angst Tuesday’s election caused much of the nation.
I wrote on Facebook the other day, “Personal to Republicans like Karl Rove & Glenn Beck and everybody who thinks the nation is gonna collapse now that Obama’s been reelected: Get hold of yourselves, people!”
It does seem on first blush that many Republicans and Me Party-ists and Libertarians have become opera singers and drama queens about an event that occurs every four years.
While driving The Loved One to work this morning, I said something on the order of, These people are lunatics. She had a flash of equanimity, though, and pointed out that we’d be singing a very similar tune, only with different lyrics, had Romney won.
Then again, I thought of George W. Bush “winning” the 2000 election. I could have consoled myself by saying, “Well, it’s only four years, we’ll get ‘im next time.” The problem was Bush bollixed the Afghan War and then tricked the nation into the Iraq War. Whatever my worst fears were about Bush at the time of his “victory,” those misdeeds far exceeded them.
I don’t expect Obama to manufacture evidence to whip up war hysteria. The thing that petrifies the Right is his willingness to spend dough on social services.
Even if he bollixes that agenda big time — say he creates some useless, bloated federal authority overseeing the health care system — it still won’t come close to comparing with a couple of wars that have thus far cost hundreds of thousands of civilian and military lives.
So, on third thought, yeah, the people wailing and gnashing their teeth and predicting apocalypse — literally — over another four years of Obama are pretty much lunatics.
By the way, Sagan’s signature line, “billions and billions”? He never said it. He revealed that tidbit in his book entitled — what else? — “Billions and Billions.”
Sagan’s early passing was a great loss, especially in this era of anti-intellectualism and distrust of science. On the other hand, we’re not totally adrift — the big boss at the Hayden Planetarium, Neil de Grasse Tyson, is a worthy successor. He only needs a signature line — that he never said.