Saturday, August 31, 2013

Outside Looking In

It's always interesting to get an outside perspective on the daily aspects of life that you tend to take for granted. Business Insider offered such a perspective in a piece called The Weirdest Things About America:

Aniruddh Chaturvedi came from Mumbai to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn., where he is majoring in computer science. This past summer he interned at a tech company in Silicon Valley.

During two years in the U.S., Chaturvedi has been surprised by various aspects of society, as he explained last year in a post on Quora.

Chaturvedi offered his latest thoughts on America in an email to Business Insider.

Chaturvedi's list is lengthy, interesting, and in some cases surprising. Here are a few of my favorite tidbits:

- Everyone is highly private about their accomplishments and failures. Someone's performance in any field is their performance alone. This is different compared to India where people flaunt their riches and share their accomplishments with everybody else.

- Strong ethics — everyone has a lot of integrity. If someone cannot submit their completed assignment in time, they will turn in the assignment incomplete rather than asking for answers at the last minute. People take pride in their hard work and usually do not cheat. This is different from students from India and China as well as back home in India, where everyone collaborates to the extent that it can be categorized as cheating.

- Almost every single person in America has access to basic food, clothing, water and sanitation. I haven't been to states like Louisiana and cities like Detroit, but from what I can tell, nobody is scrambling for the basic necessities required for sustenance.

- The first time (and one of the last times...) I visited McDonalds in 2007, the cashier gave me an empty cup when I ordered soda. The concept of virtually unlimited soda refills was alien to me, and I thought there was a catch to it, but apparently not.

- An almost-classless society: I've noticed that most Americans roughly have the same standard of living. Everybody has access to ample food, everybody shops at the same supermarkets, malls, stores, etc. I've seen plumbers, construction workers and janitors driving their own sedans, which was quite difficult for me to digest at first since I came from a country where construction workers and plumbers lived hand to mouth.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Out of Mind

On August 27th, John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, issued a Letter to Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful Regarding Violence in Egypt:

I thought it would be helpful for you to know that both the Bishops’ Conference, through its Committee on International Justice and Peace, as well as the Catholic Relief Services have been working behind the scenes to address the violent situation of political unrest in Egypt which has, as you know, also been tragic for the Christian community there.

The Committee on International Justice and Peace has contacted U.S. government to convey the Holy Father’s emphasis on the need for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation.” It has urged the United States to work with the international community to support efforts by Egyptians to strengthen public order and the rule of law as well as to build an inclusive democracy respectful of human rights and religious freedom.

In a letter to Secretary of State Kerry, the Committee has expressed a special concern for the Christian community in Egypt, noting that extremists have scapegoated Christians, blaming them for the current state of affairs, and viciously have attacked Christian churches, institutions and communities, destroying property and terrorizing people. The letter also mentioned that the Church in Egypt reports that many of their Muslim neighbors have come to their defense.

Catholic Relief Services is continuing to represent the Church in the U.S. as well as the Catholic community on the ground in Egypt. They are working with the Church in Egypt to help those in greatest need who are often most impacted by violence and political unrest. CRS is currently helping to rehabilitate Church schools that have been burned and looted. These schools are known for providing some of the best quality of education that is available to the entire population and thus carry great value for the Church and the entire local community. CRS is mobilizing funds and identifying engineers and other experts who can help respond to current needs and who are available to rehabilitate additional schools and clinics if necessary.

At the same time, CRS is continuing its ongoing programming of response to critical human needs even as the crisis in Egypt unfolds. They are helping to educate thousands of refugee children who have come to Egypt from Syria, Iraq and countries throughout Africa; CRS is aiding young women vulnerable to sex trafficking; it has helped over 15,000 people find work and provide for their families during the recent years of turmoil and economic uncertainty. To foster dialogue, tolerance and acceptance among religions, CRS is continuing a program begun last year with the Coptic Catholic Church. This program has brought together 12,000 Christians and Muslims in dialogue and is all the more important in light of recent events.

As you well know, none of these efforts are being given any attention in the media. Perhaps that is just as well, but I thought it would be important for you to know of the Church’s involvement in trying to reach out to lobby for an end to violence in the area as well as to protect the Christian community there. Please pray that these concrete steps to relieve the distress of so many of the Egyptian people will be successful.

With every good wish, I am Cordially yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

It's encouraging to see that the US bishops are working to bring the issue to the attention of the US government while Catholic Relief Services are helping to relieve the suffering on the ground in Egypt. Recent events in Syria have distracted from whatever scant media attention was being paid to the attacks on Christians and their churches in Egypt. It's good to know that Church leaders are still paying attention.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Spinning Straw Into Political Gold

President Obama employs the straw man argument more than any politician I can recall in my lifetime. Years after he leaves office, they’ll still be sweeping up strands in Washington DC from the thousands of straw men he has set up and knocked down during his two terms in the White House.

He engages in this practice so often that it’s actually newsworthy when an Obama address is completely straw free. Even at yesterday’s fifty-year anniversary of the March on Washington-an event that should have been about bringing the country together instead of dividing it based on partisan politics-the President couldn’t resist reaching for his favorite tried and true rhetorical crutch. And it was a whopper:

And who is to blame? We'll quote the President at length: "Entrenched interests—those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools—that all these things violated sound economic principles.

"We'd be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market—that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame."

The question that always is asked and never answered when President Obama brings such straw men to the stage is: who? Who told us that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy? That greed was good? (In real life and not a movie.) That those without jobs or health care only had themselves to blame? Who are these caricatures of Gilded Age robber barons whose cruel sentiments the President so effectively and passionately rebuts?

They exist only in the President’s imagination and those of his most fervent followers who usually follow President Obama’s straw man set ups with a roar of approving applause.


Peter Gray says that school is a prison and its damaging our kids:

School is a place where children are compelled to be, and where their freedom is greatly restricted — far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them. Moreover, the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school.

Compulsory schooling has been a fixture of our culture now for several generations. It’s hard today for most people to even imagine how children would learn what they must for success in our culture without it. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are so enamored with schooling that they want even longer school days and school years. Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Schools as we know them today are a product of history, not of research into how children learn. The blueprint still used for today’s schools was developed during the Protestant Reformation, when schools were created to teach children to read the Bible, to believe scripture without questioning it, and to obey authority figures without questioning them. The early founders of schools were quite clear about this in their writings. The idea that schools might be places for nurturing critical thought, creativity, self-initiative or ability to learn on one’s own — the kinds of skills most needed for success in today’s economy — was the furthest thing from their minds. To them, willfulness was sinfulness, to be drilled or beaten out of children, not encouraged.

When schools were taken over by the state and made compulsory, and directed toward secular ends, the basic structure and methods of schooling remained unchanged. Subsequent attempts at reform have failed because, though they have tinkered some with the structure, they haven’t altered the basic blueprint. The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else. It’s no wonder that many of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and innovators either left school early (like Thomas Edison), or said they hated school and learned despite it, not because of it (like Albert Einstein).

While I don't agree with all of Gray's conclusions-the foundation of America's current public eduction system is more based on the secular Prussian model imported by Progressives in the early part of the 20th century than on teaching styles from the Protestant Reformation and later in his piece his extolling of "unschooling" drifts too far in the direction of Rousseau's "noble savage" theory-his main point about the restrictive nature of public education and the damaging effect it has on the ability of children to learn is difficult to dispute. The reflexive answer to the failures of public eduction in American is always "more." More money, more teachers, more computers, more homework, more days of the year spent in the classroom (swell idea to start school before Labor Day, ain't it?).

Yet despite years of adding more and more in these areas, the results we have are less and less impressive. Until we're willing to say "no mas" and actually address the real root cause of the problem-the educational system itself-we'll continue to sentence kids to the prison of public education.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Doing Not Talking

John McWhorter proposes A Better Way to Honor Dr. King's Dream:

Along these lines, the term "institutional racism," which the Black Power movement injected into the lexicon in the late 1960s, is more damaging to the black psyche than the n-word or any crude jokes about plantations or food stamps. The term encourages blacks to think of society—in which inequality, while real, is complex and faceless—as actively and reprehensibly racist in the same way that Archie Bunker was. The result is visceral bitterness toward something that can't feel or think.

Equally distracting is the notion that America needs a "conversation" about race, one in which whites submit to a lesson from blacks about so-called institutional racism. "Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening," King told us in his speech. What we awaken to now is the rudeness of idle talk, of those who blow off steam by demanding a "conversation" that will not bear fruit—look no further than President Clinton's national effort on that front in the late 1990s—and in any case wouldn't provide greater opportunity to any poor person.

The "conversation" idea is fundamentally passive because it assumes that what black people need most is for white people to think better of them and more about them. So why does it command such allegiance among blacks? Because it channels the idea that our most urgent task is to speak truth to power, rather than to help black people who need it. Too many suppose that the two tasks are still the same as they were in 1963, when the reality is now quite different.

Is there complete racial harmony in America today? Have we completely moved beyond race and entered some sort of mythic "post-racial" utopia? Of course not. But as McWhorter so aptly notes, neither of those goals is grounded in reality and the reality is that there has been significant progress over the last fifty years. Instead of more "conversations about race" we should-again as McWhorter proposes-be talking about concrete ways that we can help black people who need it.

Today's struggle should focus on three priorities. First, the war on drugs, a policy that unnecessarily tears apart black families and neighborhoods. Second, community colleges and vocational education, which are invaluable in helping black Americans get ahead. And third, the AIDS and obesity epidemics, which are ravaging black communities.

If I were to add a fourth it would be to seek ways to encourage marriage and discourage having children out of wedlock. Strengthening family structure would do more to improve matters than any conversation on race ever will.

Monday, August 26, 2013

That Which Is Rewarded Is Repeated

The latest video offering from Prager University is about praising your children for the right reasons:

What is the one thing you can do right now -- especially if you have children -- that would significantly increase both goodness and happiness on earth? What is the one thing that could change the world in just a few years? Find out by watching the latest PragerU video by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Giving five minutes in exchange for improving the world is about as good as it gets.

Just One Word

It’s easy to get down on the future what with our tepid economic growth, the seemingly endless upheaval and violence in the Middle East, and the fact that today everyone in America is discussing something called “twerking.” But if you squint hard enough you can still find rays of hope.

One such ray is that “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” the first installment in the latest teen book series to be turned into a move franchise, bombed at the box office.

Even more heartening is the excitement over the Graphene Gold Rush:

A substance 200 times stronger than steel yet as thin as an atom has ignited a global scientific gold rush, sending companies and universities racing to understand, patent and profit from the skinnier, more glamorous cousin of ordinary pencil lead.

The material is graphene, and to demonstrate its potential, Andrea Ferrari recently picked up a sheet of clear plastic, flexed it and then tapped invisible keys, triggering tinkly musical notes.

The keyboard made at Dr. Ferrari's University of Cambridge lab was printed with a circuit of graphene, which is so pliable that scientists predict it will fulfill dreams of flexible phones and electronic newspapers that can fold into a pocket.

It is the thinnest material known. But it is exceedingly strong, light and flexible. It is exceptional at conducting electricity and heat, and at absorbing and emitting light.

Scientists isolated graphene just a decade ago, but some companies are already building it into products: Head introduced a graphene-infused tennis racket this year. Apple Inc., Saab and Lockheed Martin Corp. have recently sought or received patents to use graphene.

"Graphene is the same sort of material, like steel or plastic or silicon that can really change society," says Dr. Ferrari, who leads a band of about 40 graphene researchers at Cambridge.

A good deal of concern about the prospects for future economic growth revolves around the belief that we’ve run out of technological game changers. In the past, such game changers have resulted in revolutionary changes in industry, transportation, energy, and information that have propelled growth. It still remains to be seen whether graphene will one day join the ranks of steel, plastic, or silicone and ignite similar changes. But the fact that it’s even being discussed in the same breath is encouraging.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Song of Shelbyville

Former TV anchorman Don Shelby was in the news a few weeks ago, and not just because he’s apparently become a professional Lyndon Johnson in dotage impersonator.

Shelby had been the subject of rumors about becoming a candidate for Congress in CD3.  I must admit, as a boastful, lightly-informed, partisan talking head he does seem like a perfect fit for the position.  But, at least at this point, he’s playing coy about his availability:

I'm flattered I would be approached, but truth is, I'm not much of a partisan and my politics, for what they are, are a little goofy.  I would be a terrible congressman.  I would rat out every special interest hack and poser. Still a reporter.  Therefore, I would be relegated to some form of quarantine.

It would be a cosmic injustice if that level of ego and self-delusion doesn’t get a chance to play in the big leagues of Washington DC.  I’m keeping hope alive for a change of heart.

Before withdrawing his name from consideration, Shelby did a bit of a coquettish dance for his Democrat party suitors:

[The] Third can be won by a Democrat.  It voted for Kerry, and Obama twice.  But, that would make me a Democrat, if I ran.  They are pushing hard, the Washington crowd.  They think this is winnable, and I'm a guy who might do it.  But, that would mean that I had written my last news story.  I may just keep trying to bring ideologies together on science as a journalist.

If only he could abandon his long-held commitment to bringing us together through his objective, even-handed views on the issues, he could be one of our ruling elite.  But a man with the principles of a Don Shelby would never abandon his selfless principles, I’m sure.

Speaking of his journalism skills, the Star Tribune added this update to Shelby’s comments about Democrat John Kerry winning CD3:

Update: President George W. Bush won the Third District in 2004, beating Democrat John Kerry 51-to-48.

If nothing else, Don Shelby’s brief return to the public spotlight added the above quotes to the library of classics we’ve been compiling here over the years.

From 2007, on his disdain for participating in the political process:

"Under no circumstances is it ever right for a journalist to make a contribution to any politician, ever. As soon as you do, you have taken a side and you begin pulling for that person. You're going to try to do whatever for your party to win. For the longest time, I argued that we shouldn't vote, but I changed my mind in recent years after getting mad at the fact that not enough people were voting."

From 2010, on the reasons for his retirement from the media:

"I have determined that I can be of no further help to WCCO," he said. "My kind of journalism is passé — the long-form, investigative pieces that hold the powerful accountable."

From 2011, on his return to the media:

"I am so pleased that I’ll be back in the game—not just to be back in the game, but to satisfy the needs of people who, for 32 years, trusted me to tell them the truth,” Shelby said.

And on his continuing quest for the truth:
I've got to tell you that I wouldn't be comfortable in a hammock or passing a lazy summer day fishing if I could help find the truth of these matters and tell them to people.
Why study the sciences? Fair question. I want to know, among other things, if the science supporting global-warming theory is correct or if some people -- fossil fuel producers, politicians who represent those businesses or states big on fossil fuel production, and blowhard pundits -- are correct in saying there is nothing to worry about.

And from last year, what promises to be inscribed on stone archway entrance to the Shelby Archives:

Which, at long last, brings me to my point. I dislike hubris. So did the ancient Greeks. It was, in fact, a crime. Roughly defined as extreme pride, hubris also has come to mean an absolute, unshakeable confidence in one’s own opinion, without regard to the facts.

Despite his passing on the Congressional race, something tells me this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Don Shelby.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Separated at Birth?

Benjamin Kruse from the local Up and At 'Em morning radio show and...

...Cameron Tucker from the national Modern Family television show?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blowing Smoke

A public health professor fesses up on The Real Reason Behind Public Smoking Bans:

PBS NEWSHOUR: Let's a step back: why, and when, did these bans start taking effect?

BAYER: They really began in earnest in the early 1990s, so it's part in parcel of the tightening of the tobacco control movement, the recognition that we have to do more because several hundred people die each year from tobacco-related diseases. I looked at the arguments for why we had to ban smoking in parks and beaches, and there were three -- and they were really very striking.

One was that smoking is dangerous to people around the smoker. So, it's one thing if a smoker wants to smoke, it's his or her business, but as one tobacco control advocate said, if you can smell it, it may be killing you. We're familiar with the second hand smoke argument -- that's what happens if you ban smoking in a bar, or a restaurant. But the beach or a park is a very different location. It's open, the air is open. So what is the risk? And the public health people said, we don't know the exact risk, but there is a risk, and it's unacceptable.

The second argument was that tobacco butts endanger wildlife, because they get washed into the sea and fish and birds consume these butts and it kills them. Or, cigarette butts represent the kind of revolting kind of litter on beaches, and to prove that, people involved in environmental control would actually count the number of cigarette butts they found on a beach and there are billions and billions of those, as you can imagine.

The third argument, and the most interesting argument to me, was that parents and families have the right to take their kids to the beach, or a park, without seeing anyone smoke. It's like bad behavior, just the way we want to protect our kids from hearing people curse, or get drunk; we don't want them to see smokers because maybe they'll emulate it.

PBS NewsHour: And do these arguments pan out?

I discovered the evidence was really weak. The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent. The evidence that fish and birds are dying because of cigarette butts is virtually non-existent. And even the evidence that seeing someone in a park or beach will encourage kids to smoke is extremely weak.

So I said to myself, what's going on here? What's the public health impulse that's involved that leads to these bans if the evidence is so weak? Because everyone in public health believes that what we do should be evidence-based.

As I thought about it, it became very clear that what was involved wasn't that we were trying to protect non-smokers from sidestream smoke on parks and beaches. We weren't really concerned about birds and fish. There wasn't really evidence that we were going to protect kids by disallowing smoking in parks and beaches.

What was involved was that we really wanted to make it less and less possible for people to smoke, because it's bad for them and we're trying to protect smokers themselves from a behavior that's going to increase the risk of disease and death.

So public health officials have essentially lied to the public about the true dangers of second-hand smoke for years all the while pretending that their claims were based on solid scientific evidence? I’m sure that this is the only case where something like this has occurred and other similar situations where we’re being warned about imminent dangers and told that the threats are based on science are all perfectly legitimate, right?

Rock and a Hard Place

At some point, discussions of US policy toward Egypt almost invariably result in the statement “There are no good options.” The same truth also holds true for Egypt’s Christian community. They’re now in the unenviable position of being caught between the Muslim Brotherhood-which is explicatory or implicitly behind the recent wave of religious motivated attacks against them-and the al-Sisi led government which seeks to use the plight of the Christians to garner international support while doing little to actually protect them. Here’s the latest update from Human Rights Watch:

In the vast majority of the 42 cases Human Rights Watch documented, neither the police nor the military were present at the start or during the attack. In one case, in Dalga, a village in southern Minya governorate, residents said that men had attacked the local police station around the same time. In Kirdassa, Giza, west of Cairo, an activist said that mobs attacked the local police station, killing15 officers according to the Associated Press, before attacking Al-Mallak church. A priest in Malawi, a town in Minya governorate south of Minya city, told Human Rights Watch that he called emergency services and police multiple times while mobs burned his church, but no one came. Another Dalga resident said that on August 16 the governor promised to send armored personnel carriers to protect Copts from ongoing violence, but that none came.

“We [church officials] spoke to the prime minister, minister of interior, and a military official asking them to intervene,” Coptic Bishop General of Minya Anba Makarios told Human Rights Watch on August 19. He said the officials promised to send protection, but it never arrived.

In Hadeyeq Helwan, 30 kilometers south of Cairo, a resident told Human Rights Watch that one armored personnel carrier finally arrived on the afternoon of August 17, a day after the St. George Church there came under attack.

Residents in Minya city told Human Rights Watch that in the week following Morsy’s removal from the presidency on July 3, someone had spray-painted Coptic-owned store fronts in Minya’s city center with a black “X” to distinguish them from Muslim-owned buildings. Those marked subsequently came under attack.

The attacks come after weeks of sectarian discourse by Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the Nahda and Rab’a al-Adawiya sit-ins in which speakers claimed or insinuated a link between Copts and Morsy’s removal. One speaker, Assem Abdel Magid, said on July 24,“Copts and communists are supporting Sisi in the killing of Muslims.” A YouTube video of a pro-Morsy march on July 12 shows marchers chanting “Islamic Islamic despite the Christians” while passing a church.

Some Muslim Brotherhood leaders have condemned the recent sectarian attacks. On August 16, Dr. Mourad Ali, spokesman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, released a statement that said, “Pursuant to our party’s indivisible principles, we strongly condemn any attack, even verbal, against Copts, their churches or their property.”

Others however have suggested a Coptic role in the ongoing crackdown on the group. On the afternoon of August 14, the Freedom and Justice Party Helwan Branch posted a statement on the group’s Facebook page accusing Pope Tawadros, the religious leader of the Egyptian Coptic community,of participating in Morsy’s removal and of inciting Copts to block roads, encircle mosques, and storm them. The message ended with, “For every action there is a reaction.” On August 16, the Muslim Brotherhood website published a story with the headline,“The police and the church open fire on the al-Haram march at Giza tunnel and Murad Street.” Several residents and clergy in areas where church attacks occurred said that local religious leaders incited groups to attack churches.

If the Egyptian government wants to get credit for defending Christians from the Muslim Brotherhood, then its actions need to match its words. It’s shameful that the United States has almost no ability to influence the Egyptian government to do so. Even worse is that it appears that the current administration has apparently almost no interest in the preventing the persecution of Christians.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One Body

One of the most underreported and unappreciated stories of our time is the regular and persistent persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. The recent upheaval in Egypt is just the latest example of Christians (and their churches, schools, monasteries, etc.) being targeted for violence for no other reason than their faith. While most of the media attention has been focused on the protests and crackdown against them in Cairo, Christians across Egypt have been under attack. Here is a list that was posted on August 19th of churches and other buildings that have been attacked:

The following list of 58 looted and burned buildings (including convents and schools) has been verified by representatives of the Christian Churches.

At least 58 Christian churches, schools, institutions, homes and shops have been attacked, looted and torched over the last three days by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the former Egyptian president who was deposed on 3 July . On August 14 the army has tried to evict the sit-in of the Islamists in Rabaa El Nahda Square and Adaweya. In a wave of devastating violence, over 600 people were killed and thousands injured. But violent attacks were also carried out on Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical churches as well as the homes and shops of Christians, as we have documented

The representatives of the Christian Churches have drawn up a list which we publish below. The list was handed over to AsiaNews by the Press Office of the Catholic Church in Egypt.

Catholic churches and convents

1. Franciscan church and school (road 23) - burned (Suez)
2. Monastery of the Holy Shepherd and hospital - burned (Suez)
3. Church of the Good Shepherd, Monastery of the Good Shepherd - burned in molotov attack (Asuit)
4. Coptic Catholic Church of St. George - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
5. Church of the Jesuits - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
6. Fatima Basilica - attacked - Heliopolis
7. Coptic Catholic Church of St. Mark - burned (Minya - Upper Egypt)
8. Franciscan convent (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) - burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt)
9. Church of St. Teresa - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
10. Franciscan Church and School - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
11. Convent of St Joseph and school - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
12. Coptic Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart - torched (Minya, Upper Egypt)
13. Convent of the Sisters of Saint Mary - attacked (Cairo)
14. School of the Holy Shepherd - attacked (Minya, Upper Egypt)

Orthodox and Evangelical Churches

1. Anglican Church of St. Saviour - burned (Suez)
2. Evangelical Church of St Michael - surrounded and sacked (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
3. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George - Burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
4. Church of Al-Esla - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
5. Adventist Church - burned, the pastor and his wife abducted (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
6. Church of the Apostles - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
7. Church of the Holy renewal - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
8. Diocesan Centre Coptic Orthodox Qusiya - burned (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
9. Church of St. George - burned (Arish, North Egypt)
10. Church of St. George in al-Wasta - burned (Beni Suef, Upper Egypt)
11. Church of the Virgin Mary - attacked (Maadi, Cairo)
12. Church of the Virgin Mary - attacked (Mostorod, Cairo)
13. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. George - attacked (Helwan, Cairo)
14. Church of St. Mary of El Naziah - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
15. Church of Santa Damiana - sacked and burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
16. Church of St. Theodore - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
17. Evangelical Church of al-Zorby - Sacked and destroyed (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
18. Church of St. Joseph - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
19. Franciscan School - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
20. Coptic Orthodox Diocesan Center of St. Paul - burned (Gharbiya, Delta)
21. Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Anthony - burned (Giza)
22. Coptic Church of St. George - burned (Atfeeh, Giza)
23. Church of the Virgin Mary and father Abraham - burned (Delga, Deir Mawas, Minya, Upper Egypt)
24. Church of St. Mina Abu Hilal Kebly - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
25. Baptist Church in Beni Mazar - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
26. Church of Amir Tawadros - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
27. Evangelical Church - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
28. Church of Anba Moussa al-Aswad- burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
29. Church of the Apostles - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
30. Church of St Mary - arson attempt (Qena, Upper Egypt)
31. Coptic Church of St. George - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
32. Church of Santa Damiana - Attacked and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
33. Church of the Virgin Mary - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
34. Church of St. Mark and community center - burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)
35. Church of Anba Abram - destroyed and burned (Sohag, Upper Egypt)

Christian institutions

1. House of Fr. Angelos (pastor of the church of the Virgin Mary and Father Abraham) - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
2. Properties and shops of Christians - Burnt (Arish, North Egypt)
3. 17 Christian homes attacked and looted (Minya, Upper Egypt)
4. Christian homes - Attach (Asuit, Upper Egypt)
5. Offices of the Evangelical Foundation - burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
6. Stores, pharmacies, hotels owned by Christians - attacked and looted (Luxor, Upper Egypt)
7. Library of the Bible Society - burned (Cairo)
8. Bible Society - burned (Fayoum, Upper Egypt)
9. Bible Society- burned (Asuit, North Egypt).

The third Catholic church listed here caught my eye as it shares the same name as the church we attend. It’s become all too easy to ignore the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. One would hope that the situation in Egypt brings attention to this in a way that forces us to pay attention. One would also hope that Christian churches in the West, especially the United States, use this as an opportunity to open the eyes of their congregations to the plight those suffering for their faith and offer them our prayers and support.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Smell the Blurred Lines

Over at Ricochet last week I had a post on the prevalence of opposite branding in the advertising world, that is, selling a product with a potentially fatal flaw by brazenly advertising it as the exact opposite of that flaw.

That was the lead in for an analysis of the controversial video for Robin Thicke’s song, “Blurred Lines".  Of note was this comment from the video's star, supermodel Emily Ratajkowski.  She totally would have had a problem in having her body exploited for commercial purposes in this video.  Expect that’s not what was happening here at all, in fact it was the opposite:

Initially, on paper, the video looked pretty crazy and I wasn’t inclined to do it. After I met with Diane Martel, the director, who is a very sophisticated, savvy lady, she explained the concept a little more. They were looking for a confident, kind of sarcastic woman with a little attitude, so I was more inclined to do the video.
 the video is making fun of itself, and that’s what’s very crucial about it. You have naked women dancing around in the video. It sounds pretty bad, right? But when you look more into the attitudes of the women and how we’re making direct eye-contact [with the camera]—we’re ignoring these guys, we’re having fun. You can see that [the females are] in the power position.
That wisdom struck a chord with me this evening while watching Spinal Tap, and this quote from the boys about why the cover of their controversial album “Smell the Glove” wasn’t really exploitative at all, in fact, it was the opposite:

Nigel:  It's a matter of compromise, we made a joke, and it was a long time ago, they're making it like a big deal. 
David:  That's true.  You know, if we were serious and we said "yes she should be forced to sniff...smell the glove" then you'd have a point you know but it's all a joke, isn't it, we're making fun of that sort of thing.
Nigel:  It is and it isn't, she should be made to smell it, but...

David:  But not you know over and over again.

Rock and roll may not survive, but rock and roll rationalizations will never die.

The Elder Appends: I spotted another "Spinal Tap" connection when I read Saint Paul's post at Ricochet last week and referenced it in a tweet.

Ian: That's alright, if the singer's the victim, it's different. It's not sexist.

Nigel: He did a twist on it. A twist and it s-

Derek: He did, he did. He turned it around.

Ian: We shoulda thought of that....

David: We were so close....

Ian: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been fine.

All: Ah....

Ian: But it''s still a stupid cover.

David: It's such a fine line between stupid an'...

Derek: ...and clever.

David: Yeah, and clever.

Nigel: Just that little turnabout....

Aliens in the Outfield

Separated at Birth ...

Minnesota Twins utility man Ryan Doumit:

and the alien on the cover of Whitley Streiber's Communion:

Exit Fees

(At the governor’s office)

Nameless Assistant: Good morning Governor Dayton.

Governor Dayton: (mumbles something unintelligible)

Nameless Assistant: Indeed sir. Did you hear the news? You made the Wall Street Journal again today.

Governor Dayton: (mumbles something unintelligible)

Nameless Assistant: Oh, really sir? You haven’t seen it yet? Do you want me to read it to you?

Governor Dayton: (mumbles something unintelligible)

Nameless Assistant: Of course sir. Stop me if I’m going too fast or you don’t understand something.

(The Nameless Assistant picks up the paper and begins to read)

The grand prize for self-abuse goes to Minnesota, which this year enacted a new 10% gift tax with a $1 million exemption. A gift tax is a levy on money given away while still alive. This tax is in addition to Minnesota's 16% estate tax. The new law is all the more punitive because it applies the 16% estate tax (6% on top of the earlier 10% gift tax) to any gift within three years of death.

This is essentially a clawback tax, or more taxation without respiration. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, who signed the law, is the heir to a department store fortune and knows a lot about inheriting wealth but not much about creating it.

Nameless Assistant: Well, like they say “any pub is good pub,” right Governor Dayton?

Governor Dayton: (mumbles something unintelligible)

Nameless Assistant: You don’t remember that law? (Sigh) Not again.

Governor Dayton: (mumbles something unintelligible)

Nameless Assistant: So noted sir. Next session I’ll be sure to remind you to read the bills before you sign them.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXXIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the solid folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the core knowledge to help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to fill any void.

In the past, I’ve noted my passion for the beers of summer. There’s nothing better on a hot summer day than a zesty wheat beer popping with flavors of fruit and spices. Unfortunately, it seems like there is a trend where more and more brewers are taking a tamer, smoother path with their summer offerings. These summer beers are usually lighter and more drinkable. While there’s certainly no shame in these crisp and refreshing thirst quenchers, they often lack flavor and seem hollow. They may look great in the glass, but there’s just not enough there there.

So it always comes as a welcome surprise when I come across a summer beer that that is befitting the season, but isn’t afraid to bring it something to the taste table. A beer such as Chainbreaker White IPA from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery:

Deschutes is taking you into the next beer frontier. Brewed with wheat and pilsner malt; this IPA displays beautiful citrus aromas from Cascade and Citra hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast. Think thirst quenching hopped-up wit beer with enough IBUs to warrant the IPA name.

Technically, Chainbreaker IPA is a year round offering so it’s not solely a summer beer. However, it’s definitely the season that suits it best.

Six-pack of 12oz brown bottles retails for $8.99. Label has a soft yellow background and features a picture of the front wheel of a bike on a mountain trail framed by a busted chain.

STYLE: Belgian IPA


COLOR (0-2): Golden orange and cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Lemony fresh. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, dense with good volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Strong citrus flavors of grapefruit, lemon, orange, and a little mango up front followed by wheat, yeast, and spices. The body is light and the feel is watery. The finish is clean and crisp and it is very drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Lasting and smooth. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Chainbreaker IPA is a summer beer that delivers both refreshment and flavor. It’s probably more skewed toward being a wheat than an IPA. Whatever you call it, the taste combination is quite delicious. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hope for Holiness

Robert Reno on Learning from the Virgin Mary:

Once again, this dogmatic affirmation works against our native pessimism about our own humanity. We may have a faith that our souls can somehow be purified, eventually. But we tend to think that the usual war of the flesh against holiness is inevitable and unwinnable. But the doctrine of the Assumption insists otherwise. The Blessed Virgin did not suffer corruption. Her body was in no way at war with her spiritual destiny.

Since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has insisted on the real possibility of sanctification for all of us. That’s what’s at stake in the doctrine of purgatory, and in the Marian doctrines as well. It’s what John Paul II was saying when he reminded us that the call of Christ is a universal call to holiness. Yes, we live in a fallen world that makes any progress in holiness difficult. But it’s possible, because being human—being conceived by flesh, having a body with all sorts of instinctual desires and a trajectory toward decay and death—is not incompatible with participating the perfection of God.

As the Blessed Virgin Mary sings, God lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. Born under the shadow of Adam’s fault, we are indeed lowly. With bodies that age and fail, we are starved for eternity. But God is gracious. He lifts and fills us. And as the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption make clear, we should never turn away from that grace with excuses about how sin is inevitable, and our bodies somehow alien to our spiritual aspirations.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Early Birds

Kevin D. Williamson has a timely article at NRO titled On Punctuality:

I am a great admirer of the economist Tyler Cowen, and the only time I ever have wanted to wring his neck and stomp him into pink goo was when he approvingly quoted the economist Umesh Vazirani to the effect that if you have never missed a flight, then you are wasting too much time in airports. The last-second traveler is a bane of airports and trains, disrupting processes such as check-in and security screening — both of which already are annoying enough — insisting that he be rushed through because he could not be bothered to show up with sufficient time for the admittedly sclerotic process. My morning subway in New York’s financial district, which runs every three minutes during rush hours, is invariably held up by somebody holding the door for himself or a slow-going companion — who is not in such a hurry that he can be bothered to precede the train to its stop but in such a hurry that he cannot wait three minutes for the next train. Civilization means voluntarily enduring some small inconveniences to facilitate order. (Small inconveniences, Herr TSA Gropenfuhrer — small.)

There’s nothing more frustrating as an on time air traveler than to have to wait for those who are late. And not those who are delayed because they ran into some unforeseen snafu. It’s the folks who intentionally and always try to show up for their flights at the very last possible minute.

I am a puritan on the issue of punctuality: 15 minutes before the movies, 20 minutes before theater, two hours or more before a flight, 30 minutes before an intercity train, etc. If I have to leave myself some extra time on Joe Lhota’s account, so be it. (I have been known to cancel dates over a 15-minute lapse.) This is, I am willing to admit, a pretty poor strategy in some ways — e.g., I do not remember the last time I was on a flight that took off on time. But the prospect of being late fills me with anxiety, a fact that I attribute to having spent my formative years working in daily newspapers. A production manager once informed me that missing the paper’s deadline cost us several hundred dollars a minute. I once had a candidate for a reporter’s job show up for the interview a half an hour late. I did not even come down the stairs, but yelled at him from the landing, emphasizing that the newspaper is a deadline-oriented enterprise. Perhaps he’ll be a senator someday.

I never worked in a daily newspaper yet I share Williamson’s anxiety about being late when traveling. So if the choices are spending a couple of hours at the airport reading, listening to music, and catching up on e-mail before my flight or making a panicked last minute push to get through security and dash to the gate lest I miss my flight, I’m going with the former every time. Time spent relaxing because I KNOW that I’m on time is never wasted time.

Besides newspapering, I suspect that my libertarian sympathies have something to do with this. Libertarians tend to be very rule-oriented people, which is only a paradox if you do not think about it very much. If I agree to a set of rules, I will follow them to the letter. If the menu says “no substitutions,” I do not ask for an exception. If Delta asks that I be there two hours before my flight, I will be there — even though I know from long and bitter experience that Delta is going to screw me.

Williamson’s theory about libertarians being sticklers for the rules is an interesting one that I haven’t considered before. But I certainly agree with his sentiment in that if I agree to a set of rules, I too will follow them. It’s part of the social compact that helps hold society together. We are trying to have a civilization here people. Please show up on time.

Monday, August 12, 2013

First Rule of Holes

Today's WSJ featured a snippet from a column by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown that originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a short but sweet glimpse into the way that public spending on projects really works:

News that the Transbay Terminal is something like $300 million over budget should not come as a shock to anyone.

We always knew the initial estimate was way under the real cost. Just like we never had a real cost for the Central Subway or the Bay Bridge or any other massive construction project. So get off it.

In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment. If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever be approved.

The idea is to get going. Start digging a hole and make it so big, there's no alternative to coming up with the money to fill it in.

You gotta give Brown credit for his honesty. He makes no bones about that fact that the original estimates for public spending projects are illusions not tethered to reality that are all about getting public buy in rather than factual estimates of the true costs that will be incurred. He’s also right that once the digging starts there’s no going back.

We've seen this pattern of public projects knowingly going over budget again and again. Locally, we just when through something somewhat similar with the new Vikings stadium. At this point, the project hasn't gone over budget (although it surely will), but we have discovered that the proposed method for paying for the stadium was a work of fiction. Again, this was used to sell the stadium to the public. While costs are undersold, in this case the revenue was grossly oversold. By the time this shortfall was made public (I believe no one ever really believed it was real) it was too late. The legislation had been passed, the purple clad rubes had celebrated, and the stadium design was revealed. Whoops, guess we’ll have to find another pot of money to pay for it.

So now that we know that the politicians know that they’ll spend much more (and take in much less) than they pretend on these projects the question is when we will come to our collective senses and stop digging new holes?

Friday, August 09, 2013

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLXXXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the smoothing folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to calm the most jagged of nerves.

This is the time of year when we typically witness an outbreak of hysteria in these parts. It’s caused by the sobering realization that our glorious days of summer are indeed numbered and that number is dwindled rapidly. I like to call this SSAS or Summer’s Slipping Away Syndrome. Its symptoms include:

- Freaking about because it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school

- Freaking out because it’s almost time for the State Fair

- Freaking out because the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder

SSAS seems to especially prevalent among Minnesotans this year after enduring a winter that never ended and a spring that never began. But rather than fret over or fruitlessly try to fight the change, we might as well just embrace it, enjoy what remains of summer, and appreciate the splendors of autumn.

The cooler nights for example are well suited for quaffing richer, heavier beers that we typically eschew during the height of the sultry summer. Beers like Midnight Ryder from Indeed Brewing Company in Minneapolis:

Midnight Ryder – a hat tip to Bischoff’s son, Elliott Ryder – is cloaked in mystery and full of surprises. A style of disputed origins and merit, American Black Ale puts a distinctly American twist on the India Pale Ale with five varieties of malt that give this dark beer a medium body and a complex array of flavors including caramel, chocolate and a smidgen of roast. Sealing the deal are six varieties of American-grownhops added throughout the 90-minute boil (Willamette, Cascade, CTZ, Warrior, Summit, and Glacier,. This beer offers a resinous and piney character with just enough citrus to bring balance at the finish line.

Six-pack of 12oz cans retails for $9.99. Another Indeed design with a fin de siècle feel this time with a top-hatted, curly-mustachioed chap sporting both a top hat and monocle riding a bear-who also has a top hat and vision aid-and drinking a cup of coffee.

STYLE: American Black Ale


COLOR (0-2): Deep black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Toffee and chocolate blend with citrus. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color. Thick and foamy with loads of volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Like the aroma a zesty combination of hoppy bitterness and roasted malts. You get flavors of pine, citrus, chocolate, and coffee. The body is medium to heavy and it definitely more suited for sipping than slamming. Mouthfeel is thin and a bit watery. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Lasting flavors of coffee and bitter. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Another good effort from Indeed to go along with their other flagship offering Day Tripper Pale Ale. Midnight Ryder is a tasty amalgamation of bold flavors that strikes the right balance between roasted malts and hearty hops. Summer’s end may indeed be imminent, but Midnight Ryder will smooth your transition. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Back Yard Jihad

Al-Shabaab recruitment video features men who traveled from Mpls to Somalia for jihad:

Al-Shabaab's latest recruitment video features the stories of three men who traveled from Minneapolis to Somalia for jihad.

All three men left for Somalia in 2007 or 2008 and were dead within two years.

In the video, Troy Kastigar, a Native American who converted to Islam in 2004, tells viewers, "This is the real Disney Land."

"You need to come over here, join us, and take pleasure in this fun," Kastigar adds.

Al-Shabaab is a Somali-based al-Qaeda cell.

The video has since been removed from YouTube, but two journalists with expertise on Somalia watched it and tweeted out details, including stills of the men.

There is absolutely no danger that videos of this sort might induce local Somalis to take up jihad here rather than traveling all the back to the homeland, right? Good, I feel much better now.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Buzz Words

While I haven’t yet completed work on this next installment in the award winning Beer of the Week series, I have a hunch that it might involve a cask Gueuze style offering dry-hopped with Mosaic hops. Just maybe…

Four magic words that will make you sound like a craft beer expert:

Like any interest, hobby or obsession, craft beer has its own lingo, and navigating a tap list or communicating what your preferences are when ordering at L.A.'s craft-beer-focused establishments can be intimidating. Here are some terms to know that are growing in popularity among craft beer drinkers.

You gotta talk the talk, right?

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Just Grow Baby

The problems facing the middle class and possible solutions have now become a staple of American political conversation. Politicians and pundits of all stripes now acknowledge the challenges faced by “working Americans” even though most of the proposals voiced to overcome them are stale policy prescriptions that are either irrelevant or unlikely to make a difference. In fact, some would likely make things worse for the middle class.

In today’s WSJ, William Galston looks into what is Behind the Middle-Class Funk:

Four decades later, the middle class share had declined by 10 percentage points to just 51%, while the upper class share increased by six points and the lower class by four. The U.S. income distribution is still a bell curve, but the left and right tails are fatter and the hump in the middle is lower.

This means that the middle class is less economically and socially dominant than it once was. Relatively speaking, more Americans are enjoying affluent lives at the same time that more are just barely making it (if at all). But that doesn't mean the middle class got poorer. During those 40 years, Pew calculates, the median income of middle-class households (adjusted for inflation) grew by 34%. The median grew for the others as well—by 43% for upper-income households and 29% for those with incomes below the middle class. This isn't surprising, because the median income for all U.S. households rose by 32% during that period, from $44,845 in 1970 to $59,127 in 2010. Indeed, 86% of middle-class Americans, and 84% of all Americans, enjoy higher incomes than their parents did.

By some measures the middle class has done better, and by others worse, than the Pew study suggests. Pew uses a definition of income that excludes employer-provided health insurance, non-cash transfers such as food stamps and the redistributive effect of taxes. If these additional sources are included, the rate of increase in median household income between 1979 and 2007 is significantly higher. The increase looks substantially smaller if, as some economists suggest, we use the rate of medical-cost inflation rather than the consumer price index to determine the real value of employer-provided health insurance.

Another complication: Forty years ago, average household size was 3.2 persons. Today, it is only 2.5, a drop of 20%. Most analysts (including Pew's) adjust for this change, because a smaller number of persons per household means that income per person rises faster than the overall household income numbers would suggest. But some researchers disagree, on the ground that smaller households reflect, in part, lower birth rates, which are in turn influenced by gloomier economic realities and expectations.

Finally, rising household incomes reflect increasing hours of work per year to a greater extent than wage and salary increases. Between 1979 and 2007, on average, annual hours worked by middle-income households rose from 3,007 to 3,335—fully 10%, a larger increase than for any other income group. Some of the additional work reflects expanding opportunities for women. But much of it came in response to economic pressure and represents time that men as well as women reluctantly diverted from their children—hardly an unambiguous improvement in family well-being.

Galston doesn’t offer any simple solutions to the myriad problems that are afflicting the middle class. However, he does end his piece with one prescription which would undeniably improve the situation:

We can argue about how squeezed the middle class was in the decades between the end of the postwar expansion and the onset of the Great Recession. But two things are clear: The coping mechanisms the middle class employed in those decades (fewer children, more hours worked, more borrowing against home equity) are played out, and it will take middle-class households years to recover from the recession-induced blow to their income and wealth. If we cannot restore a vigorously growing economy whose fruits are widely shared, the struggles of the middle class will persist, and our democratic distemper will deepen.

There’s an economic maxim that says “growth solves all problems.” While that might be a bit of exaggeration, it is true that a period of solid and sustained economic growth would be the best single way to help middle class families. Now, we just need to figure out how to make that happen.

Monday, August 05, 2013

HWX, the Summer Wind Edition

It’s a special Monday Night Edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX), with  John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening for a discussion of the vital issues facing our culture on this sultry night.  Topics include:
 *  the weather in Minnesota
*  the best in cheap beer, today and yesterday
*  the onset of the trial of Major Nidal Hassan
*  the fire sale on the Boston Globe
*  the curious case of the closed US Embassies
*  Loon of the Week, featuring a double shot of Rep. Keith Ellison
*  This Week in Gatekeeping, featuring a double shot of geography errors in the Guardian and the New York Times
 We’re also joined by a couple of recent Ricochet Members/Listeners of the Week who give us the low down from their respective corners of the country and tell us their Ricochet backstories.  
There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded below.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Counterproductivity Is Alive And Well

The San Francisco 49ers will be unveiling a new app along with their new stadium next year.  The app will let fans know which concession and toilet room lines are the shortest:

When the San Francisco 49ers unveil Levi's Stadium, in Santa Clara, Calif., for the 2014 season, their new home will come with all sorts of built-in tech extras. For instance, a high-speed mobile infrastructure will allow fans to watch highlights and surf the web without their connections being jammed by tens of thousands of other fans trying to do the same. 

The new stadium's most impressive innovation, however, will tackle another problem entirely. Yes, as recently reported by Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin, a stadium-specific app will allow fans to track the shortest beer and bathroom lines in real-time to most efficiently plan excursions away from their seats.
While I admire the effort, I see one huge problem.  If everybody in the stadium is being directed to the shortest lines, wouldn't they then quickly become the LONGEST lines? 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Was That Wrong?

Lawyer for San Diego Mayor Bob Filner blames city for failing to provide sexual harassment training:

The attorney for San Diego’s embattled mayor says the city failed to provide Bob Filner state-required sexual harassment training and therefore should pay to defend him against a lawsuit by his former communications director, who alleges he asked her to work without wearing panties.

Filner’s lawyer Harvey Berger made the argument in a letter to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith one day before the City Council voted unanimously to deny Filner funds for his legal defense. Local media published parts of the letter Wednesday.

Berger said the training was scheduled but the city trainer canceled and did not reschedule.

From the Seinfeld episode The Red Dot:

In the boss' office.

Boss: I'm going to get right to the point. It has come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?

George: Who said that?

Boss: She did.

George: Was that wrong? Should I have not done that? I tell you I gotta plead ingnorance on this thing because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing was frouned upon, you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices and I tell you peope do that all the time.

A Matter of Style

In case you haven't yet heard, today is officially National IPA Day. No Atomizer, it is not a national holiday (report to the office immediately) although hard core IPA fans no doubt treat it as such and are celebrating accordingly.

IPAs are the rock stars of the craft beer world. There's an official Site of IPA, which describes the style as the "flagship of the craft beer movement." Anyone with even a passing familiarity of craft beers is likely well acquainted with the style and even some of its history (although they may not know the real story of the origins of IPA).

A less well known beer style that's all the rage among the geekiest of the beer geek crew (guys with beards mostly) these days is sour. I have yet to jump on the sour bandwagon and this piece from the New Yorker called A Brief History of Sour Beer helps explains why the style may not be for everyone:

Before the advent of refrigeration and advances in the science of fermentation in the mid-nineteenth century, almost all beer was, to varying degrees, sour. The culprits were pre-modern sanitation and poorly understood, often naturally occurring bacteria including Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, as well as Brettanomyces yeasts, which can contribute a hint of tartness and characteristic “funky” flavors and aromas, sometimes compared to leather, smoke, and “horse blanket.” In a development that would make Pasteur, the father of biogenesis (as well as his method for halting it, pasteurization) roll in his grave, brewers, especially in the United States, have embraced the time-honored Belgian art of deliberately infecting beer with the same “wild” bugs that generations of their predecessors so painstakingly eradicated. The result: pleasingly sour, food-friendly beer, mysteriously complex and engaging.

At brewing conventions these days, the best-attended lectures aren’t about hops. They’re about inoculating wood barrels with wild yeast, with slide shows of oozing bungs and anti-oxidative pellicles. Brewers have put the lessons to use, releasing hundreds of commercial examples of American sour ales. These sometimes have lofty, even sacerdotal names: there’s Allagash’s Resurgam (“I shall rise again”) and Russian River Brewing’s Consecration, for starters. With pH akin to good Pinot Noir, the best make it onto serious menus. The worst taste of nail-polish remover, rotten apple, coconut, or the dreaded “baby diaper.” A consistent product is notoriously tricky to pull off; brewers might be said to guide, rather than master, the beers, hoping for serendipity. Amid all the trial and error, ancient brewing history is repeating, spreading around the nation one foamy, infected-on-purpose barrel at a time: to Billings, Montana; Athens, Ohio; Tampa; L.A.; Brooklyn (of course). Where next?

When there's a chance that the beer you're cracking may taste like a dirty diaper you're operating in a high risk/reward environment. It might be a while before we're celebrating National Sour Day.