George Gurley

Shakespeare’s complexity compounds mysteries
December 3, 2011
The film “Anonymous” is the most recent installment of the ongoing argument about who wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare.
Government’s role in economy
November 6, 2011
“Seeing is believing” — right? According to Michael Shermer, author of “The Believing Brain,” that hoary bromide has it exactly wrong. Believing comes first. Then we seek information that confirms our beliefs and reject whatever might contradict them. Our brains are “belief engines,” writes Shermer. They search for patterns and endow them with meanings, simple truths to comfort us in a complex world.
Owners are best stewards of land
October 1, 2011
Across the gravel road is a small plot of ground of which I am the “steward” — that is to say, the owner.
Weed mars prairie enjoyment
September 5, 2011
Every summer, almost every day, I go out in nature with my mind set on murder. Sericea lespedeza is my quarry, an innocuous-looking plant that spreads like a virus. It can out-compete even native grass.
Major parties must change their ways
August 8, 2011
The political vocation attracts “charlatans, jackals and romantics,” according to one observer. And the worst of these may be the romantics. Charlatans and jackals do mischief. Romantics — those in possession of absolute truth, who dream of “changing the world” and even human nature — can wreak lasting harm.
Common good calls for sacrifices
July 3, 2011
The Douglas County Department of Enlightenment and Coercion paid me a visit the other day, along with the Lawrence Office of Environmental and Social Supervision. Also in attendance were representatives of the Free State Bureau of Restrictions and the Pioneer Office of Entitlements. I counted 42 cars and trucks, each driven by a single individual. (Separate vehicles give individuals quiet time to dream up new regulations and growth prevention initiatives, I learned.)
Killjoy revels in life’s miseries
June 5, 2011
“Our days are a web of petty miseries and is there a greater blessing than to be the ashes of which oblivion is made?”
U.S. must adjust expectations
May 1, 2011
Comparisons between the Roman Empire and America are commonplace but also of enduring interest to pessimists seeking the secrets of decline
Going goofy in a Google world
March 6, 2011
Google: There’s no escape from it. Today, you must google or be utterly marginalized, exiled to the peripheries of society like a pariah dog. And yet, who does not feel a profound sense of foolishness every time he googles, or advises someone else to google or pronounces the word, “google?” When I say “google,” I feel as if I should be wearing diapers, drooling and sucking my thumb.
Film spurs thoughts on meaning of life
February 6, 2011
Lee Siegel, a New York columnist, recently criticized the Coen Brothers’ film “True Grit” for expressing the post-modern view that life is meaningless. He compares it to the original John Wayne version in which “vital characters apply their will to the world” and have meaningful connections with other human beings. By implication, Siegel ratifies the belief that actions have consequences and that justice will ultimately prevail.
Trees speak for themselves
January 2, 2011
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Why are those mundane words so poignant, so uplifting?
The growing public-private wage gap
December 4, 2010
A Lawrence resident who’d lost his job in the current recession might have been miffed to read about city employees getting a “longevity payment.” And a fan of fiscal responsibility might have felt a flicker of disbelief when he read that this lagniappe was to be paid for by dipping into the city’s savings account.
Euro vs. dollar spurs weighty analysis
November 7, 2010
Monetary theory is beyond the understanding of most of us. The “quantity equation,” the plasticity of V, the difference between M1 and M2 — it all sounds like so much mumbo jumbo uttered by witch doctors. But monetary reality is what really counts. And you can learn most of what you need to know about that — easily, but not cheaply — just by taking a trip to Europe. There, the fact that the Euro is worth 40 percent more than the once almighty dollar hits you with wonderful force. If the dinner check is for 100 Euro, your actual cost is $140. Instantly, you experience an un-American sense of inferiority.
Economics far from an exact science
October 3, 2010
“Economics offers much to teach us,” proclaimed a letter to this paper, written in response to an editorial arguing that a new Lowe’s outlet would contribute tax revenue and jobs to the Lawrence economy. “Economics shows this to be incorrect,” wrote the letter writer. Someone interested in a discussion might have said that the pro-Lowe’s editorial was “debatable.” But apparently, in the writer’s view, the lessons of economics are chiseled in stone, beyond debate. You could almost hear a gong of finality, accompanied by a Mosaic voice stating, “Enough said.”
Galaxies put life in perspective
September 5, 2010
I read the other day that the observable universe contains a hundred billion galaxies “with more stars than our beaches have grains of sand.” For some reason, I find that comforting. Of course, it makes me feel puny and insignificant. But it also puts my ego and its worries into perspective. In the presence of 100 billions galaxies, the entity which I affectionately refer to as “I” is a particle of astonishing triviality.