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Entries from blogs tagged with “International affairs”

“Optic Nerve” - Blogisode #4

The teddy bear was the white elephant that day at Millie's Coffee House. I met Mia there that afternoon for the sole reason of giving it back to her, but somehow it remained in the paper bag between us, unmentioned but not ignored.She took her tea bag out of the cup and placed it carefully on the saucer. She'd been timing it. Sorry, if I sound suspicious, but I can't help it. I notice stupid things like that."So, what made you become a vegetarian?" Mia asked. Just for the record, please know I'm groaning right along with you. There're few conversation starters I dislike as much as that one. "I guess I must be the poster girl for protein deficiency: Is it that obvious?" I asked. Seriously, I didn't even go for the soy latte this time. This girl was good."You might as well have had a PETA sticker on your car," she said. I laughed and made a mental note not to walk to our cars together. I racked my brain trying to decide what trite comment I could use to explain my dietary choice this time. Maybe that video of the slaughterhouse I saw in high school? Or how about the time I cried when I first read Charlotte's Web? "I killed a cat once." I went with the truth.Mia put her cup back on the saucer without drinking it. "Was it an accident?""No." I could tell from the way Mia was blowing on her drink that this freaked her out a bit. So, I gave it to her straight.I told her how my parents had gotten divorced and we'd moved out of the only house I'd ever known. I told her how my mom had given me the job of wrangling our three cats and stuffing them in the blue car with all that was left of our lives. I got the first two all right. They were real timid. Animals always know when stuff is going down. But there was this one calico with a bent ear named Noelle that simply would not budge. She gripped her greedy claws into the only piece of furniture left in the house. A brown easy chair my dad used to park himself in to watch the news. I remember sitting with him on Sunday mornings to read the comics. And so did this cat. She was claiming it as her own. So I closed the door on her. The new homeowners wouldn't be there for another month and there wasn't a crumb of food left in the place. We were in Pennsylvania by the time my mother realized we were one cat short.Mia had stopped looking at me. Her face was turned to the window. "What is it?" I asked."You shouldn't feel so much guilt," she said. "The cat is fine." I turned slowly to follow her gaze. And there, several blocks away, farther than I should have been able to see, was a calico cat gazing out of a bookstore window. Its ear was bent.

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Bush Admin Info Planting Scandal

he Bush administration is once again forced to deal with a government agency planting information in the media. Two years ago the Bush administration got into trouble when reporters discovered that the Pentagon had been planting stories in Iraqi newspapers and even paying Iraqi reporters. More recently FEMA conducted a "news conference"in which the questioners were actually FEMA employees. Steve McIntyre is reporting on Climate Audit that NASA has been using one of its employees in apparent violation of NASA regulations to operate an ostensibly private web site promoting NASA's claims about an alleged "global warming" threat.http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2536The employee, Gavin Schmidt, claims to be operating the web site RealClimate on his own, but NASA provides him the income that allows him to do so.Schmidt is described as a climate modeler which is NASA's term for the glorified fortune tellers who claim they can predict what will happen in the distant future even if they cannot predict what will happen with hurricanes a few months in advance. NASA has financed studies of questionable scientific value such as one on the supposed affect of global warming on tornadoes.http://my.telegraph.co.uk/reasonmclucus/september_2007/bogus_nasa_study.htm One Florida business owner is attempting to sue those who falsely predicted an active hurricane season this past fall.Schmidt's supervisor at NASA, James Hansen, is a known advocate of the Al Gore's global warming religion. The site allows Schmidt to criticize those who question IPCC and NASA claims about climate without it being apparent that the government is behind the site. They can also use the site to criticize NASA director Michael Griffin for not accepting their alarmist claims. Democrats may have trouble taking advantage of the scandal because they support the claims of catastrophic climate change supported by Gore and Hanson.For those who don't see anything wrong with NASA's incestuous relationship with the RealClimate site, what would you say if a high ranking military officer still on the Pentagon's payroll were operating an ostensibly nongovernment site supporting the Bush administration's handling of the conflict in Iraq?

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Is Earth Doomed?

Are we all doomed? Is earth about to be absorbed in a manmade black hole? Will a strangelet turn the earth into "strange matter"?Walter Wagner and Luis Sancho are convinced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will produce a minature black hole that will suck up the rest of the planet and are attempting to use the American court system to shut down the project. They have filed a lawsuit against the European Centre for Nuclear Research, or Cern, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the National Science Foundation.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/01/scibang101.xmlAlthough the U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over Cern, action prohibiting U.S. agencies from participating could stop the project.The concerns of Wagner and Sancho aren't new. Alarmists expressed similar concerns about the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island, N.Y., in 1999. That facility began operation in 2000 and we're still here and, if theories about black holes are correct, we are not inside a black hole.The LHC is no more likely to destroy the planet than the RHIC. The ability of humans to destroy life as we know it other than perhaps with an all out nuclear war, is greatly exaggerated. We are more likely to wake up Mothra or Godzilla than we are to turn the earth into a black hole.We live in a age in which the movie industry likes to scare people with disaster movies. Unfortunately, people like Wagner and Sancho as well as Al Gore cannot separate the real world from the make believe world of the movies in which humans have the ability to create major disasters through very minor activities.The suit against LHC should be thrown out of court, but the lawsuit could succeed because American judges sometimes suffer from the delusion that they can decide scientific theories by listening to lawyers argue in court. Five scientifically ignorant U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled in Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency et al . that the carbon dioxide humans and other animals regularly exhale through their normal breathing process is a air pollutant. This same carbon dioxide is essential for plant growth which in turn provides the food animals need to live.A comment to my previous post indicates some readers may not understand my concerns. I very much support empirical science. Unfortunately, some people who call themselves scientists don't understand what makes empirical science different from other intellectual activities. These individuals are behaving as if science were some form of religion."There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors" - J. Robert Oppenheimer

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What are you doing during Earth Month?

Earth Day was initiated in 1970. I am old enough to remember. There was even a time of the day that we were supposed to stop and do something regarding the environment. I was teaching in a small college and stopped class to play a couple of environmental songs by Pete Seeger. Almost 40 years of Earth Days! With a median age of 35 in the US, half of us have never known April without an Earth Day. This year it is April 22. What a concept. Set aside a day to celebrate and express concern for the earth. Just as Earth Day moved beyond an hour of the day to an entire day, the number of environmental concerns that have come to public attention since 1970 now require more than one day. April has become Earth Month and there is no shortage of events in Lawrence, nationally or internationally. Check out http://ww2.earthday.net/~earthday/ to see what is going on. Locally the Lawrence Sustainability Network has a list of events. Just go to their website and subscribe to their newsletter http://www.lawrencesustainability.net/One event that I will participate in is "Read-Out, Sing-Out, Speak-Out, Act-Out, Dance-Out etc on Earthcare". More than 100 people will come together on Saturday April 5 at the gazebo of Watson Park at 7th and Kentucky to perform. From 8 am to 8 pm your friends and neighbors will read, sing, act, speak or dance in 10 minute segments. Everyone will be celebrating the earth. There is only one ring at the gazebo but it should be quite a circus. Walk, bike or take the T downtown and join the fun.

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Average Global Temperature Is Impossible

Discussions on global warming often refer to 'global temperature.' Yet the concept is thermodynamically as well as mathematically an impossibility, says Bjarne Andresen, a professor at The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, who has analyzed this topic in collaboration with professors Christopher Essex from University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick from University of Guelph, Canada. It is generally assumed that the atmosphere and the oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years. The reason for this point of view is an upward trend in the curve of measurements of the so-called 'global temperature'. This is the temperature obtained by collecting measurements of air temperatures at a large number of measuring stations around the Globe, weighing them according to the area they represent, and then calculating the yearly average according to the usual method of adding all values and dividing by the number of points. "It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth", Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average 'global exchange rate'.If temperature decreases at one point and it increases at another, the average will remain the same as before, but it will give rise to an entirely different thermodynamics and thus a different climate. If, for example, it is 10 degrees at one point and 40 degrees at another, the average is 25 degrees. But if instead there is 25 degrees both places, the average is still 25 degrees. These two cases would give rise to two entirely different types of climate, because in the former case one would have pressure differences and strong winds, while in the latter there would be no wind.A further problem with the extensive use of 'the global temperature' is that there are many ways of calculating average temperatures.Example 1: Take two equally large glasses of water. The water in one glass is 0 degrees, in the other it is 100 degrees. Adding these two numbers and dividing by two yields an average temperature of 50 degrees. That is called the arithmetic average.Example 2: Take the same two glasses of water at 0 degrees and 100 degrees, respectively. Now multiply those two numbers and take the square root, and you will arrive at an average temperature of 46 degrees. This is called the geometric average. (The calculation is done in degrees Kelvin which are then converted back to degrees Celsius.)The difference of 4 degrees is the energy which drives all the thermodynamic processes which create storms, thunder, sea currents, etc.These are but two examples of ways to calculate averages. They are all equally correct, but one needs a solid physical reason to choose one above another. Depending on the averaging method used, the same set of measured data can simultaneously show an upward trend and a downward trend in average temperature. Thus claims of disaster may be a consequence of which averaging method has been used, the researchers point out.What Bjarne Andresen and his coworkers emphasize is that physical arguments are needed to decide whether one averaging method or another is needed to calculate an average which is relevant to describe the state of Earth.Reference: C. Essex, R. McKitrick, B. Andresen: Does a Global Temperature Exist?; J. Non-Equil. Thermod. vol. 32, p. 1-27 (2007).http://www.uoguelph.ca/%7Ermckitri/research/globaltemp/GlobTemp.JNET.pdf

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Prophets, Fortune Tellers and Science Fiction Writers

Three groups attempt to foretell the future: prophets, fortune tellers (psychics) and science fiction writers. I've never read Nostradamus, but some people claim he predicted such 20th Century events as WWII. I have read some stories by H.G. Wells written about 1900 in which he predicted airplanes,super highways, television and even something similar to the Internet. Fortune tellers sometimes call themselves "psychics" to get people to believe they have some special ability, but they tend toward vague predictions about "meeting a tall dark stranger". Prophets sometimes claim they receive information from some deity. Science fiction writers merely speculate about what could be instead of trying to predict actual events. Scientists normally don't attempt to predict anything more than what will happen if you mix chemical A with chemical B or apply a force to an object. Astrophysicists do claim that the sun will eventually expand and become cooler, but that is in the distant future. They don't attempt to predict what the sun's exact output will be in future years except to state that the output will fluctuate. They have only recently developed equipment capable of measuring the sun's energy output other than by counting sunspots. It should be obvious that it is impossible to determine future earth temperatures without knowing how much energy the earth will receive from the sun. Climatologists who claim they can predict the future climate of the earth are nothing more than glorified fortune tellers. Predicting the weather even a day or two in advance is still not an exact science. They may be accurate more often than the average fortune teller, but they still make major misses such as predicting the 2006 and 2007 hurricane season would be very active instead of almost quiet. In 2006 they predicted that California would have a wet winter instead of a dry one. (L.A. Times Feb. 2, 2007)Those climatologists who claim they can predict climate years in advance are either ignorant or they are deliberately lying like the fortune tellers with their crystal balls, or whatever fortune tellers use today. The claim about having computer programs that can predict future climate is a lie, because computers lack the computing capacity to do so.

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Peopling of North and South America

The antiquity of humans in the "New World" was something that perplexed prehistorians for much of the 19th century. During the early days of the United States, the going theory was that the natives (who many referred to as 'savages') were a population that came in and destroyed an earlier and greater civilization. The many eathworks and mounds that people were encountering as they explored further and further west were thought not to have been created by the current inhabitants. This earlier civilization that the natives were supposed to have destroyed was attributed, among other things, to the lost tribes of Israel. Finally, people realized, through archaeological and skeletal analyses, that the 'savages' and the Moundbuilders were one in the same.This realization led to further questions. The primary question was how long they had been here. Secondly, where they had come from? During the late 1800's, there was a concerted effort to determine the length of time that humans had been present in North and South America. The first site to suggest that humans did in fact exist alongside extinct Ice Age (Pleistocene) animals was the 12-Mile Creek site in Logan County, KS. The site was originally a paleontological excavation of extinct Bison antiquus (1/3 larger than modern buffalo). Within this bonebed, the investigators found what was undeniably a human-made projectile point. Realizing what they had, the investigator (Samuel Williston) returned to Lawrence and held a meeting to reveal what they had found. At the meeting, Williston passed the artifact around the room so that people could see for themselves. The point, however, never made it all the way around the room. The popular rumor is that a pharmacist's wife from Baldwin City, who was especially sensitive to the Biblical implications of the find, pocketed it. Paleontologist Larry Martin allegedly spotted the missing artifact at a garage sale sometime in the 1990's. He ran home to get some money, but the point was gone by the time he returned. Thus, the antiquity of humans in North America remained unsettled.Finally, in 1926 near the town of Folsom in NE New Mexico, a bison bone bed was excavated that settled the issue. An African American cowboy named George McJunkin had found the bones eroding from an arroyo after a flood in the early 1900's. Sadly, McJunkin was no longer around by the time his site was excavated. The excavators were recovering distinctively human-made stone tools in direct association with extinct bison. Ales Hrdlicka, a physical anthropologist who primarily studied skeletal traits, had issued a strict set of criteria that a site proving the antiquity of humans should meet. Many people visited the site just to see for themselves. It became the first unequivocal evidence that humans had existed alongside and had hunted extinct animals.Then, in the 1930's, another site in New Mexico, now known as Blackwater Draw, began producing these same artifacts--now known as Folsom points--in association with these same extinct bison. More importantly, however, human artifacts began turning up in layers below the Folsom materials--artifacts that were in direct association with extinct mammoths. These artifacts were name Clovis points, after the nearby town of Clovis, NM. Slightly prior to that, these same artifacts had been found with mammoth bones at the Dent site in eastern Colorado. Had the folks at Dent realized what they had, Clovis points, like Folsom and 12-Mile Creek, would have been named Dent points. Clovis and Folsom still stand as the names for both the distinctive projectile points and the people who made them.The Clovis and Folsom 'cultures' or 'complexes' has been dated at numerous sites through radiocarbon and accelerator mass-spectometer (AMS) dating of organic materials from archaeological sites. Clovis is generally thought to date between about 11,500-10,800 radiocarbon years before present. If one looks at it in terms of actual calendar years, this roughly equals about 13,400-12,800 actual calendar years ago. Clovis artifacts are found in every continental US state and from Canada southward to Mexico and Central America. Clovis-like artifacts have even been recoved from Venezuela at the Taima-Taima site. The Folsom people came immediately after the Clovis people, and lasted for about 500 years. Folsom points are found primarily on the High Plains from Canada south to Texas. Recently, researchers are beginning to realize that Paleoindians (the term archaeologists use for humans who were here during the Pleistocene or Ice Age) also utilized mountain environments.The debates surrounding how Clovis people first arrived here, or even whether they were actually the first to arrive, is a stinging debate within anthropology today. I will go into those various debates in later posts.For images of Clovis points (from a semi-scientific view) go here:http://lithiccastinglab.com/gallery-pages/2003novemberdrakecachepage1.htmFor a some images of Folsom points go here:http://www.smu.edu/anthro/QUEST/Projects/Folsom/FolsomPointsCAVO.htm

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Science Becoming a Religion

Empirical science and religion differ in some fundamental ways. Scientists look for questions to ask. Priests (preachers, rabbis, etc) just provide answers. Science has theories that are subject to change. In 1896, physicists believed that atoms were the smallest particles of matter. A year latter J.J. Thomson overturned this theory by reporting his discovery that atoms were actually comprised of smaller charged particles he called "protons", "electrons" and "neutrons". Later research demonstrated that Thomson's particles were comprised of even smaller particles. Religion has truths that are to be accepted without question. Those who question these truths may be treated as heretics. Real scientists encourage questions. They even ask questions about established theories including aspects of the Theory of Relativity and try to find ways these theories might be wrong. Stephan Hawking demonstrated what a real scientist does when he suggested he had been wrong when he suggested that information cannot escape from a black hole. Physicists have a model of the atom they are satisfied with, but that hasn't stopped them from checking to see if they might have missed something. They are currently colliding heavy nuclei to test the model.Religion gets its truths from prophets or deities. Science has to do things the hard way by conducting repeated observations and experiments. Science cannot verify theories about physical processes that cannot be examined. Some people who call themselves scientists want science to become a substitute for religion, or at least function more like a religion.. Some believe that science can provide an explanation for events in the distant past that is so accurate it cannot be questioned. Such a claim is illogical because insufficient information is available. For example, those who talk about greenhouse gases state they can precisely determine past temperatures by examining tree rings or ice cores. The width of tree rings depends upon availability of water and the amount of time temperatures are within the range the tree can grow in, not average temperatures. The religious fanatics of the greenhouse gas religion have been accused of practicing censorship of those who disagree with their doctrine. The subject of the origin of the universe and life on earth has traditionally been the province of religion. All the popular theories originated in religion. The idea that "all of creation" came from explosion of what modern scientists call a black hole comes from the Secrets of Enoch which may be the original source of the Genesis account. http://almightywind.com/enoch/enochsecret.html The idea of humans being related to apes comes from the ancient Tibetan religion. http://www.tibetan-buddhism.com/North American and other beliefs suggest one species could change to another form.Science can only deal effectively with the present. It cannot observe or manipulate the distant past to verify theories. The subject of the origin of the universe and life on earth is interesting and scientific studies of the present might provide useful information, but science cannot provide a definitive answer to the question of how the universe or biological life came to exist. Science can only say what might have happened.

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Vet4Freedom

Vet4Freedom: Once again I respectfully disagree with you. You never answered my last questions: 1. Bush said we went to war because Saddam was a tyrant & he had "WMD's." We now know 1. There never were any WMD's (which is what the UN already had said). 2. We killed Saddam. 3. So what is the excuse this time that we are still there killing our kids? 4. We have stood by silently watching millions of people being murdered in Africa......why aren't we saving them? (oh that's right....they have no oil!).

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Could Lawrence be the next Austin?

Okay, so admittedly I am not the biggest Wilco fan but I think the idea of a downtown concert is pretty smashing. I went to South By Southwest four years ago and one of my first thoughts (after "hey, capitol cities don't have to suck") was "why couldn't Lawrence have this kind of event?" Just imagine cruising down Mass Street with a wristband that could get you into any club where you could sample a variety of music. You could check out The Danny Pound Band at the Replay Lounge and head over to the Bottleneck to see The Buzzcocks and maybe even catch The Hives back at the Granada (Those are just some of my favorite shows I've seen over the years, so feel free to fill in your own blanks). Now throw in some dude with a guitar in the back of Kief's Dowtown Music, a jazz trio at Signs of Life and serve burgers at Liberty Hall (ala Alamo Drafthouse) and we got ourselves a winner. Since moving here from Los Angeles, I have heard many incarnations of film festivals ideas for this town, so perhaps combining the two would just be the way to go. While we're at it, why not throw in the art walks at the local galleries during this time so they can get exposure as well? And if we want to get really crazy, throw the reading festival into the mix and it will be one all-inclusive art festival.Ambitious? Certainly, but didn't I read somewhere that this place was only as big as we think? Okay, I'm not sure I know what that means exactly, but it must be something about the sky being the limit. Kansans tend to be a bit self deprecating, and yeah, Jon's Stewart's assessment of this state being "flat and boring" might not have helped any, but in Lawrence we have a place here that defies the mold.There is a lot of talent in town and it's been my experience that visitors tend to fall in love with this unexpected beacon in Kansas. Instead of living in the shadow of Kansas City's inflated suburbs, Lawrence should capitalize on the artistic vibe of a cool college town. It has the potential to be the Austin of the Midwest with its own unique Kansas history. So, the big question is why hasn't this happened yet? Well, this kind of undertaking would take money, support from the community, corporate sponsorships and a founding organization with the connections and direction to make this happen: Any takers?

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Jafs:

Jafs: I couldn't agree more...if we look deep enough we may very well find that the enemy is us. But America has to have enemies.....we HAVE to keep our multi-billion dollar "defense" industry intact (even though we have enough Nukes to destroy every living creature on the planet). Don't misunderstand me, what happened on 911 was not & never will be justified, but the Cold war is over.....so now we wage war against Terrorism. Keep those dollars coming in!

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Insights from the Rail

Health Care, Agriculture, and Utilities. Just a regular Monday at the Kansas legislature.Admittedly, I am not a Kansas political junkie. News media and occasional casual conversations are the extent of my participation in the legislative process. Perhaps it is time to learn my way around, so I accept the challenge to take a day off to watch and listen. The Capitol building itself is familiar. The dome, rotunda, and renovated chambers especially the senate with its ornate art work, are a Kansas treasure. Eight o'clock Monday morning finds me at the lower east entrance where a guard assesses me harmless. I locate the press room and Lawrence Journal World's Statehouse reporter Scott Rothschild. We pick up a Senate and House Calendar from the Document Room on the first floor. These may be downloaded from the internet at Kansas Legislature I scan the calendars of both chambers, circle the committee meetings of interest, and then fit them into the day.Scott is off to the no smoking debate while I attend the meeting of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. There are at least fifteen interested people waiting with me. At the stated starting time, there is an unexplained cancellation and they quickly disburse. I slip up a floor in time to catch the Senate Utilities committee meeting before it is on to the House visitor's area to wait for the call to order. Following opening formalities, there appears to be general disorder on the floor. I happen to sit next to a person who knows the procedures well. He informs me much of the talking is in fact a way of getting things done even if a person is up front is formally reading a bill or amendment. It is obvious from the debates legislators spend many hours working in committees before a bill or amendment comes before the entire house. They speak persuasively either for or against, often quoting constituents of their district. The House session spends a great deal of time discussing a bi partisan health care bill that includes a program to fund insurance for poor families, a plan that enables workers to deduct premiums, longer interim insurance in a job change, and dental care for pregnant mothers. Politics are present when members point out for the record they are making compromises for the good of the entire bill and the people of the State. Listening to the debate lets me know the state is seriously looking at this important topic. The House works through the lunch but at their adjournment, I still have time to rush to the House Budget Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. From there it is on to the formalities and business of the Senate. My assessment is the political health of our state is good. While I feel a little impatient with the procedure, our elected officials talk and work together-and apart, but that is the process. Certainly if I feel strongly about an issue, I can speak. On the other hand, if I write or call, they listen. Young people were present in the halls and chambers the entire day. They are there as Pages and groups on tours. Their participation is encouraging for the future of Kansas as well.Click on picture for slideshow of Kansas Capitol

A view from the Rail
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Nine seconds of art.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Mar/25/puryear_button.jpgSeveral years ago I read that visitors to art museums spend an average of nine seconds viewing any individual work. I can't give you a reference, so don't quote me. Does anyone out there know the study? As an avid museum visitor I was horrified by this finding. Then I started observing my behavior and those around me. Try counting 1001, 1002, 1003, :. 1009 in front of a work of art. It really has to be engaging to grab that much attention. Perhaps this is due to my lack of knowledge of how to view art or our attention span related to the constantly changing television images.Last week I spent more than my allotted nine seconds per item viewing the sculpture of Martin Puryear at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. This exhibit of 45 of his sculptures that span 30 years of work is remarkable. These works of Puryear are mainly in wood and are deceptively simple in design. There are circles or loops that look like he went to a forest and found some vines or supple branches that he simply twisted into a form that I would love on my living room wall. Spending more than nine seconds with these works reveals much more complexity. On the other end of the scale is a work entitled 'Desire' that fills an entire gallery and measures nearly 10' x 20' x 24'. It is a spoked wheel with an axle that rests on a pillar. This work requires much more than nine seconds to grasp. It is surprisingly beautiful. On http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/index.html# Puryear says of this work that he is interested "in how things are made and how things are done." Me too. The skill required to use 5 different types of wood fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses is amazing. Standing in the gallery I could only imagine how it was designed and constructed. And time. This work was dated 1981. I imagine it took a good deal of that year to complete - perhaps millions of seconds.This exhibit goes through May 18 and is worth the drive to Fort Worth.

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“Optic Nerve” - Blogisode #3

I was ten minutes late for my appointment but Marjorie just smiled and got me in there right away. I guess it pays to be on a first name basis with the receptionist. Dr. Berg's assistant, on the other hand, was not so happy to see me. "The doctor will be with you in a minute. He started on another patient while he was waiting," she said and reached over to lift my headrest. "That's okay. I'm not in any hurry," I said. The corner of her lip raised up just enough to let me know me she wasn't concerned about my convenience. She went for the brown grocery bag at my feet. Inside was that teddy bear I was supposed to return to Mia after this check up. "Let's just move this out of the way-" "No!" I said, much too loudly. "I mean, no, it'll be fine."My outburst must have taken her aback because she stole an instinctive look down at the bag. Then I saw something Steve would later tell me was just my imagination. But real or imagined, for the tiniest second I swear I saw a look of fear wash over her face.The door flew open. In came the whistling lanky man I once thought was God. The nurse nodded at him and dropped the bag right where it was. Dr. Berg was too busy looking at my file to notice. "How's the world looking to you today, kiddo?" he asked.I thought about telling him it was somewhere between DaVinci and Dali but settled on "Incredible." "A miracle, ain't it?" He rolled his chair in front of my legs and slid a black Zorro mask in front of my face. I rested my forehead against the padding, feeling an odd sense of protection.He fussed with the mechanics for a few seconds then asked me to read the bottom row of a scrambled mess of vowels and consonants. I took one quick look and rattled off those letters like my social security number in college. "That's 20/20, kid." He was equally impressed when I read off the word scramble from my other eye. He looked at me a moment before telling me he wanted to just check one more thing.The letters were smaller this time but I could still make them out. After every letter he said "yes," as if I'd accomplished something. I read them slower than I needed to, just to milk the suspense.After the last 'yes' he tore off my mask. The barriers were gone between us. "So, tell me, how does it feel to have better than perfect vision?"

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Starting Out

Greetings!I am a Military Historian somewhere between Right and Left. As I sat here musing about a title for this blog, I tried to think of some profound and catchy title:not to much success. Then, I just realized as I was thinking, what best describes where I am at:I think this about catches it up as briefly as possible. In this blog, I am going to attempt to write (interestingly) about a multitude of issues that I hope you find engaging. They will be orienting from a person who is keenly interested in issues that delve into military/political/international topics. However, I am not sure where it will ultimately end up as I actually write. It may end up discussing topics of a very dry nature, of interest to only those, like myself, who have flung themselves into a journey (seemingly neverending as it sometimes feels) of earning a Ph.D. in History. But, hopefully, it will also render some good, cogent, and difficult questions, musings, and observations regarding current events and society at large. I hope for the latter, but fear it may fall into the former. I will endeavor not to fall into one of the most dangerous traps of doctoral students who fret over every word written preventing them from simply writing what they think. We are a neurotic bunch when it comes to writing:always concerned how it will be critiqued by our advisors and compatriots. I will simply try to write without much revision (except as necessary for clarity and grammatical purposes that is the best compromise I can make).Writing a blog is a new experience, unlike the other writing we (students) have to do. I appreciate the patience. I hope to post frequently as I establish my rhythm. So:welcome!

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Hey Lester!

Lester: Here are the undeniable facts: 1. Bush invaded Iraq because Saddam was a tyrant & he had "WMD's." 2. We now know that there never were any WMD's & Saddam is dead. 3. So please explain to the world why the Hell we are still there? 4. OK, I'm listening..........

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Obama’s Speech on Race: Did it win you over?

Okay, I'll admit it: the Reverend Wright scandal may have raised some doubts in my mind about Obama. It wasn't his character that I began to question but his judgment. Why would a politician have so close an association with someone who made such strong remarks? And why would his campaign not be prepared with a prompt and strong response to this controversy?And then came his speech in Philadelphia. Rather than trying to bury the issue, Obama took race head on and delved into the roots of his pastor's remark. He broke down some truths on the history of minorities in this country and made it relevant to issues like immigration and health care. To me the most powerful part was when he said he could not disown the reverend any more than he could his white grandmother for some of her remarks. Being Italian and Mexican (sure, that one's by marriage, but it amounts to the same anyway), I certainly have my share of "grandmothers." I listened to this speech right before I saw the second episode of HBO's John Adams series and I was struck by the import role that oral and written statements play in history. Whether or not Obama gets the candidacy may still be up in the air, but I think this work stands on its own as a comment on race in America today. I only wish it came earlier.

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4-H Learn by Doing

What do St. Patrick's Day and 4-H have in common?The answer is green and lucky four leaf clovers. The clover with four H's signifying Head Heart Hands and Health is familiar to many local residents who are current or former members of the Douglas County 4-H club program or clubs in other parts of the state or country.4-H clubs formed in the early 1900s teaching young people new farming and homemaking practices. "Learn by doing" was the motto. Over the years, emphasis expanded to include personal development by encouraging public speaking, talent and judging.Dr. Virginia Moxley, Dean, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University, is an alumnus of Kansas 4-H. She appreciates the opportunities 4-H offers kids to learn from each other.

I think the greatest thing about 4-H Community Clubs is the opportunity they afford for kids ranging in age from 7-18 to learn from each other. Children today can choose from a variety of youth organizations and activities that provide the opportunity to learn. But, in most organized youth activities, the youngsters are segregated by age and led by adults.The magic in 4-H Community Clubs is that young members interact directly with older members who have clear memories of what it felt like to practice skills for the first time. These older youth mentors learn through their interactions with younger youth the skills of coaching and leading and nurturing talent. Those of us who benefited from the wisdom and coaching provided by older members in our community clubs passed the skills along to younger members--and I, for one, continue to draw on those capabilities everyday in my work.
Douglas County has an excellent selection of 4-H clubs in all areas of the county and the city of Lawrence. With summer approaching, now is the time to explore what 4-H has to offer. With the current emphasis on living green, children will learn gardening, cooking from scratch and care of animals. My personal favorite was the sewing project because the project meetings were fun.Interested? Call Emily Morehouse, Douglas County 4-H Program Coordinator at 843-7058 for information about Douglas County 4-H Clubs. Visit the official Kansas 4-H site for information about camps and other activities.
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“Optic Nerve” - Blogisode #2

The first thing I heard when I woke up wasn't 'good morning' or 'how are you?' but the unpleasant rip of tape being pulled from unwilling skin. In two seconds flat, both plastic eye shields were off my face and in my boyfriend's hands. "It's better if you do it fast," Steve said. "Better for who?" I asked rubbing the sting away. My eyes lashes were sticky with eye drops and whatever LASIK residue had crept out of them overnight. But I pried them open and focused in on Steve's face. And it was like someone had taken the Mona Lisa out from behind glass. He'd kill me for saying that, but it really was true. Something about the smile and the closeness.He peered at me curiously. "What is it?" I asked, expecting the worst."Nothing. Your eyes just look bigger, that's all." The phone rang. For some reason, I shrank away. Then I got over it and answered. "Is this The Girl Who Got Her Eyes Fixed?" said the voice on the other line. And don't go thinking I'm getting all cutesy on you, that's just how she said it, capitals and all. "Um, yes," I said, after a glance around the room confirmed they really were fixed."I think you have my teddy bear." Another glance around the room confirmed that this, too, was true. "Oh, I'm really sorry. It was just all a blur after the operation, and-""Literally," she said, cutting off my explanation where it needed to be. "Don't worry about it. Marjorie told me you have your follow up at four. I could meet you there.""Who's Marjorie?" I asked. "The receptionist. At the Laser Center.""Oh, right." Incredible. The receptionist had a name but I was simply The Girl Who Had Her Eyes Fixed."I'll see you then," she said and was just about to hang up when I asked for her name."Mia," she said up but didn't ask for mine.

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Unintended Consequences of Child Abuse Reporting

The evolution of the way child abuse is reported and investigated has helped many children and is now putting some at risk. Public policy has unintended consequences both positive and negative. The negative consequence that I am concerned with is the use of the child abuse and neglect reporting system to screen people who work with children. The way it works is that an agency submits a name of a prospective employee or volunteer to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and they report back any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect attributed to that person. This is viewed by many as adequate to determine if a person is safe to work with children. It is no longer adequate. Many agencies go further than this limited screening but not all.Explanation of why this no longer works requires a brief review of how we got here. Child abuse and neglect have been part of human history and through the ages communities have responded in a variety of ways. It was only in the 1960s that states developed child abuse and neglect reporting systems when we determined that child abuse was a problem requiring state intervention. This starts with people reporting suspected abuse or neglect and professional staff investigating to determine if it occurred and if the child is safe. If there is evidence that the child was abused, the report is confirmed. If the child is not safe, foster care is the most frequent response. Day care licensing standards were a parallel development in Kansas and nationally. These legislatively determined standards include restrictions on who can work in a child care facility. Someone who committed an act of child abuse and neglect (KSA. 65-516) is specifically excluded from such work. The easiest way to determine if someone has committed such an act is to ask SRS to check their records.If someone is going to be deprived of their livelihood (a job) because a state agency said that they abused or neglected a child, how can we be certain that the person making the decision was correct? That question was addressed in federal lawsuits with some courts determining that the answer was to require a high level of evidence that abuse occurred for making such a finding (for example in the Northern District of Illinois in April 2001). Typically states used something like preponderance of credible evidence as the standard to make this decision. Kansas adopted the much higher standard of clear and convincing evidence in 2004. I could not locate their reasoning but I think that it related to depriving people of jobs based on a low level of evidence that abuse or neglect occurred.The result was a nearly 50% decrease in substantiated reports. In 2004 SRS investigated 15,840 reports of abuse and neglect and substantiated 3,878 (24.5%). In 2005 they investigated 14,146 reports and substantiated 1,954 (13.8%). The SRS website says that this rate is now 8.8%. There are now a lot fewer people with a record of a finding of abuse or neglect in SRS records. So when an agency only uses the SRS child abuse and neglect reporting system to screen volunteers they are less likely to find a history of abuse or neglect. Neither do they find out if the person has a felony conviction for a crime against persons. You need to check with the KBI for those records. If you are involved with an agency serving children in whatever role, ask how they screen volunteers. If they only use the SRS child abuse reporting system, suggest that they do better.

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