Thursday, April 26, 2007

No. 98 . . . !

The Baptist church is full of strife right now, in large part because of what I think are dumb issues, like whether women can be ministers, whether Jesus is the focal point of all exegesis, and whether Disney should be boycotted. I'd post links, but I'm too lazy. Instead, I'll just point you to this post by an old professor of mine, one of the smartest people I've ever known. He's viewed as rather a heretic in many "traditional" and "conservative" circles, but I say open your mind. As Ravi Zacharias said, "The more I understand of what others have claimed and thought, the more beautiful Jesus Christ looks to me." So if nothing else, read this post to make your own religion more beautiful to you.

Mary Magdalene a Prostitute?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Beam Me Up

It's not very often that my two favorite fields of science have exciting news for me two days in a row. Today's news, however, is far more exciting: it seems that European scientists have discovered a new planet. Now, I know what you're thinking: they've already discovered over 200 other planets, not counting the 8 1/2 in our solar system. Yes, but--this is the closest thing to Earth they've ever found. Closer in the sense of similarity. They think this planet has a mean temperature of between 0° and 40°C (which roughly equates to 32°-104°F--sound familiar?). Oddly, tho, it orbits its sun in just 13 days. Anyway--scientists think it may have liquid water, and liquid water = life.

The other exciting thing about this is that, if true, it puts us at yet another crazy intersection of science and religion. I don't know if any of you remember, but when Darwin came out with his stuff, one of the hardest parts for religious types to swallow was the idea that humanity could be on the same level as the animals (which evolution claims). Uniquity among the animals was central to their "in the image of God" theology. We've gotten away from that, but a lot of ├╝berconservatives now hold high a new idea that I call "what are the chances?" theology. Basically, some people assert that life is so fickle and hard to sustain that it's almost impossible for life to exist. So close to impossible, in fact, that randomness could not have done it. Ergo, some higher being had to put it all together just right so that life could exist. I don't disagree with the conclusion, but I detest the analysis. What are the chances? Who cares? I think that life is determined to survive: that's what it does. If things had been only slightly different, then life would be slightly different.

If you're going to try to put God and science together, do it well. This new planet will force them to rethink (hopefully) this theory and figure out a much better reason to give God the credit.

That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

He ain't stupid; his brain don't work.

As I'm nearing two important milestones in my blog life (100th post and 3,000th visitor), I was trying desperately to come up with something to blog about. I hope you're not disappointed with this one. (By the way--this is number 96. And oddly, I have over 100 visits from somewhere in New York. I hope that nor'easter didn't get you down!)

I don't want to get into the whole nature/nurture thing. I have ideas, but I just plain don't know enough. But I thought this article on was really interesting. I know most of you are too lazy to follow the link, so here's the basics: There's a part of our brain that helps us recognize mistakes and learn from them. Apparently, in certain people (those tending toward impulsivity and antisocial behavior, particularly), that part of the brain doesn't work quite as well. So basically, it's not that they're stupid or mean or spontaneous, it's that they (literally) can't learn from their own mistakes. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, my brain malfunctioned.

The physiology of the mind blows my mind. I know at least one of my loyal readers knows a thing or two about psych, so I'm interested in her comments, if any.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I've been there...

I used to moderate business meetings for my church. If only we'd had somebody like Alice:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Taking the TAKS and lovin it

The Waco Tribune-Herald has put a little 41-question test with supposedly actual TAKS questions. Take it and see if you could pass. I got a 39/41, or a 95. How'd you do?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Legal Beagle

Do you remember how in Planet of the Apes, the apes always talk about how evil and repulsive humans are because they kill each other and seek revenge? Well, my beagle, Molly, recently sought revenge for some ants that bit her in the mouth while she was eating, as evidenced by this picture:

You can't really tell what's going on, but this crater used to be a big ant pile. I think this is equivalent to shooting somebody 18 times.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Always a groomsman; now finally a groom

A good friend of mine, and the best man at my wedding, got married this past weekend. Charlie has been in, I think, at least 10 weddings and was finally part of his own. The ceremony was intimate and beautiful, the reception was fun, and the occasion joyous. This picture was taken during the bride-and-groomsmen picture session. As you can see, I am the only one not paying attention.

Congratulations, Charlie: I hope Sara will be as good a roommate as I was.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pagans in State Government

I saw a really funny headline, at least if you grew up in the Bible Belt: "Perry Appoints Pagan to the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee." Haha . . .

I also had a terrible conversation with my landlord yesterday. We're out of town for a friend's wedding, and I forgot to give our animals extra food. I called up my landlord to see if he could unlock the door for my in-laws so they could feed our animals. Unfortunately, he was unavailable. Then:

Me--"OK, so could Mrs. Roper* possibly unlock the door?"
Mr. Roper--"Mrs. Roper divorced me last summer."
Me--"Oh . . . uh . . . I'm sorry . . . I didn't know . . ."
Mr. Roper--"So are y'all going to renew your lease?"

Thankfully, I'm in law school and I've learned how to trample on people's feelings.

Ed. Note--Names have been changed. Extra points for anyone who can guess where this name came from.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nobody's too sophisticated for Calvin & Hobbes

Now I'm sure that most of my readers don't even have to guess who this little kid is, but it has come to my attention that there is a significant lack of familiarity with Calvin and Hobbes at Baylor Law School. I'm not sure what English majors in Lubbock read, but apparently they grow up eating food like Calvin's mom made and don't even know it. In Division III, we wait until college to eat this stuff.

75 percent

One of my favorite lyrics of all time: "I'm so happy. How do you write about that?" Anybody know it? By the way, Justin Scott has my admiration and respect for guessing "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" from my last post. Anonymous got it, too, but after Barrister Scott.

The other day, I was driving home as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone" was gracing my radio. Afterward, the deejay commented that it was one of the few songs in that station's reportoire in 3/4 time. Since then, I've been thinking about it, and the only other song I could think of is the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" (which may actually be in 6/8). Until this morning that is. I was belting out Billy Joel's "Piano Man" on the way to school this morning when Paul (the real estate novelist) told me it was in 3/4.

These are all three classic songs that have a special place in American culture and music history (at least "House" and "Piano Man"). Some psychologists and musicologists believe that there is a physiological basis behind why we like the music we do. I don't know about that, but I do know that most classic hymns (such as Amazing Grace) are in 3/4 and that most pop music is in 4/4. Could it be that the waltzy 3/4 rhythm catches our interest long after the 4/4 has faded into the background of life? Just wondering.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The King and the Queen Went Back to the Green

. . . but you can never go back there again." Billy Joel wrote that in what is currently my favorite song. If you can guess it, you'll win . . . my respect and admiration.

Just wanted to stick in a fun cartoon on a Monday morning.

So Professional

Which is more binding: the Hippocratic Oath or the Pledge of Allegiance?

Let me tell you about Marshall Goldberg's The Karamanov Equations. Surprisingly deep, the central conflict in the story is protaganist-surgeon Nick Sten's struggle between the Hippocratic Oath and the Pledge of Allegiance, even though you probably already know how that will turn out. The story takes place in the early 1970s, switching between Moscow (presumably), Wisconsin, and Paris. The Russians are about six months away from developing an impenetrable shield against any kind of guided missile (rendering all arms reduction negotiations pointless), but they've put all their eggs in one basket: Nikolai Pavlevitch Karamanov. The Central Committee freaks out when they learn that Karamanov has a clot in his carotid arteries--yes, both. To make matters worse, the clot is located just high enough on the neck that conventional clot removal would only kill him.

Enter Nick Sten. Dr. Sten has developed gas endarterectomy, which basically functions like a power wash. It can reach clots in arteries that no other method can, but the record is something like 8 survivors of 20 procedures. The Russians, desperate for their defense system, give Dr. Sten a call and ask him, through a ruse, to save Karamanov. The CIA catches wind of it and reminds him of his patriotic duty: to kill Karamanov on the operating table. Adding to the emotional mix is the fact that Sten's wife thinks he's leaving her for an old Parisian love from the Korean War.

As a political science major, I am always wary when novels enter the fray of politics, but this story was plausible. Goldberg reinforces the humanity of all sides (except, hehe, the French) and didn't get too carried away with the not-too-subtle message that doctors are more humane than Cold War government agents. The relationships between the various actors worked out decently and relatively unpredictably. The book closed well, with most of the important strings tied up.

In sum--I recommend it as reading to give you pause.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ode to the Left Hand

So I'm sitting there in precal one day in high school. It's about 7:30 in the morning, and my best friend, southpaw Marcos del Patel walks in. Marcus is about 6-2, 180, olive skin, brown eyes, black hair, and a body girls drooled over. He's also the school's best Tenor I. He strolls in several minutes late, as usual. Ms. Krause (Krazy K to her fans), fresh from attending the 50th reunion of a high school class she taught, rolls her eyes at him. The day has officially begun.

At some point, Se├▒or Patel sharpens his pencil. He and I, closest confidants and co-Subway-employees, sat near each other. On his way to his seat, he stops at my desk and says "Don't you hate it how your butt shakes?"

Very odd pause. "What?"

"You know--when you sharpen your pencil? You get up there, everybody's watching you. You put the pencil in the sharpener, turn the crank, and [shakes his booty] shake, shake, shake?"

Right-handers (including me) throughout Krazy K's zero-hour precal class collectively pause. Once more with emphasis: "What?"

At this point, left-handed star-wide-receiver Shep turns around and points vigorously: "Yes! I hate that!!"

Now it's lefty-star-running-back B.J. Head*: "Agh!! The bain of my existence!"
Then, professional-Pittsburg-Pirates-LHP Zach Duke: "I bet a righty invented the pencil sharpener just to embarrass us."

In that moment, two star football players, a future Major League pitcher, and the king of the choir found friendship and solidarity in an unexpected place: the left-hand-pencil-sharpening-booty-boogie. And those of us who are majoritarian, middle-of-the-alphabet right-handers . . . well, we survived somehow.

Can I get a witness?

*--Ed.--Names have NOT been changed to protect anybody. Mr. Head's name really was "B.J. Head."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Long Haired Hippy

I was talking to an unbeliever before class, and I told her I once had long hair. She didn't believe me. Thence ->

I apologize for the hazy quality, but it's a picture of a picture. I have never learned how to scan . . .
Anyway, that's me on the left and my beautiful wife on the right. This picture was taken in my in-laws' living room back in February 2002. We had been dating for about 9 months at that point. This May, we'll have been together for 6 years (!!) and married for three. Believe me, you're not the only one who's shocked.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Une riske acceptable

Now that moot court is o v e r, I can get back to l-i-v-i-n. Like blathering.

I read Sphere a while back, and the more I think about it, the closer it comes into breaking into my best-books-ever stratosphere. In fact, I was so impressed with that book and Crichton's general way of thinking/writing, that I thought I'd look into some other doctors. For my birthday, my lovely wife got me four books, all by doctors:
- Keith Ablow's Compulsion
- Robin Cook's Acceptable Risk and Fatal Cure
- Marshall Goldberg, M.D.'s The Karamanov Equations.

I've read Compulsion and Acceptable Risk, and let me tell you something: they're just OK.

Compulsion was a very entertaining, fast-reading thriller with a psychiatrist-detective at the forefront. Some of the characters were thrown in for no reason, and the author was clearly biased toward a certain character for whom I had no sympathy. While it didn't break any new ground literarily, it was entertaining enough that I'd recommend borrowing it from the library or buying it from a used book store.

As for Acceptable Risk . . . let's just say that some books are written to be movies. The book begins with a foray into the Salem witchraft trials in 1692. Then we hop three hundred years into the future and spend the rest of the book getting to know one of the witch's descendants. The descendant's boyfriend discovers that the witchcraft hysteria was caused by a just-now-newly discovered mold in the rye bread eaten by the Salemites in 1692. The boyfriend develops a drug from the mold, and we spend most of the book watching the descendant vascillate about what she should do. Finally, in clicheish fashion, the house burns down during Salem's worst storm since 1692, and the world is set aright again. It felt very much like reading a slow-developing "thriller" movie, complete with the five minutes of break-neck thrills that suddenly end with explosions and massacre. I couldn't wait to finish the book, but not in the good way. I don't really recommend this.

I started The Karamanov Equations yesterday. Published in 1972, this book has all the indications of a classic, golden-age-of-science-fiction novel full of fun and science puzzles. If it sucks, I won't write anything else about it