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Entries from blogs tagged with “The Arts”

Have You Changed Your Mind?

A favorite online read is Edge which bills itself as representing the third culture. The third culture refers to those intellectuals who bridge the sciences and the humanities, what C.P. Snow referred to as the "Two Cultures". One feature of Edge is a series of contributed response to some important question of the year. This year's question is "What have you changed your mind about?" and the responses are quite fascinating. At least the scientist's responses should put to rest the notion often bandied about by non scientists that scientists are inflexible and dogmatic.Here are some mind changers worth checking out:Paul Davies used to be a committed Platonist. About time he came around to my type of thinking.Lera Boroditsky has decided that language can change our sensory perceptions after her experimental data contradicted her original and long held belief.William Calvin has changed his mind about global warming after visiting Greenland.Roger Bingham has given up evolutionary psychology..or at least what had been the prevailing notion of how the human mind worked.Finally on a pessimistic note but he may be right, Lee Silver concludes that in contrast with what intellectuals like to often believe:" While its mode of expression may change over cultures and time, irrationality and mysticism seem to be an integral part of normal human nature, even among highly educated people. No matter what scientific and technological advances are made in the future, I now doubt that supernatural beliefs will ever be eradicated from the human species."What have I changed my mind about? Over time I have gradually shifted my belief in the balance of nature, now believing that the biological world consists of populations opportunistically evolving and that the balance of nature, like design, is an illusion.What other mind changers are out there? How have your beliefs changed?

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20,000 Kansas poor children are without health insurance.

President Bush gave us a New Years present with the signing of the SCHIP legislation (Health Wave in Kansas). This legislation extended government subsidized health insurance for children in families with limited income through March 2009. Without this extension Kansas would have serious problems maintaining the Health Wave program. President Bush twice vetoed this legislation because Congress, controlled by Democrats, wanted to extend the program to more children. But that is not the story here.Kansas Action for Children reports that there are 20,000 children living below the poverty line without health insurance (http://www.kac.org/ftp/File/Publications/KC_datanotes2007.pdf). This is 39% of Kansas children without health insurance.A White House statement dated December 19, 2007 praised Congress for passing SCHIP legislation that President Bush could sign. This statement said that this is an "important program for America's low income children." There seems to be a contradiction here. What was debated was not health insurance for children living in families below the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the health insurance program for these children. SCHIP is for children in families above the poverty line. The debate was where to draw the line for eligibility. Should it be at 150% of poverty, 185% of poverty, 200% of poverty or higher?Why isn't Medicaid working for the 20,000 Kansas uninsured children living in poor families? There are many answers. For one, consider a single mother with one child living on less than $13,690 a year. That is the current poverty line for this family ($17,170 if she has 2 children). Incidentally, the US Census reports that more poor children live in married couple families but their challenges are similar. So mom needs to get to her job (81% of women heading poor households work according to the US Census), keep food on the table, take care of child care and, by the way, get to the SRS office and take care of Medicaid applications and requirements. This includes the issue of proving that you are a US Citizen. When did we last see those birth certificates?She needs help. More attention, both individually and collectively, needs to be given to these families and you can help.1.Statewide advocacy organizations need to focus on getting children in poor families enrolled in Medicaid.2.Local social service organizations need to advocate for these families and remove whatever barriers exist to Medicaid enrollment. 3.What about a house to house survey in poor neighborhoods that identifies poor families and provides assistance with enrolling in Medicaid?4.Friends and neighbors can volunteer to help enroll poor families5.Friends and neighbors can question local social service providers on their efforts to help poor families enroll in Medicaid or Health Wave.By the way, think about the economic benefit to the local community if the medical expenses of all poor families were covered by Medicaid rather than the local community through donations to organizations like Health Care Access.

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Science in 2007

The end of a year unavoidably brings various "top 10" or "Break through" lists and science is no exception. So much happens in science and technology that a single list may not be meaningful. So I decided instead to sample some of these science lists which you can look at for yourselves.Popular Science has a "Best of What's New" issue online. Their innovation of the year goes to a private company called Nanosolar which has found a way to cheaply produce a low cost coating that can convert solar energy to electricity. Popular Science is mainly oriented toward applied science and technology, so I am pleased to see that they also chose to recognize advances in detecting planets orbiting other stars. Some of their picks are potentially very disruptive technology. Take the Meraki Mini. This is a Wi Fi device with an important difference:"...add more Minis, and the network can blanket acres. So instead of all your neighbors paying an ISP, you could let them tap into your connection. To boost the whole network's bandwidth, just plug any of the Minis into another wired link."This could be very disruptive to local broadband companies. Heads up Sunflower!Science Magazine has a very different list in their Break Through Issue more oriented to basic science. The Break through of the year is not really a single break through per say but a recognition of how faster cheaper DNA sequencing methods are making it possible to really study genetic variation in humans. These methods have the potential to provide new insights into disease as well as human evolution, but also raise privacy and ethical concerns.Runners up include a new technique for reprogramming cells, new semi conductors and superconducting compounds, and strangely enough a brute force proof that checkers between players with perfect foresight leads to a draw. May seem almost intuitive but demonstrating this has involved new techniques in information processing and artificial intelligence that may be useful in other areas such as deciphering sequences of DNA.The Guardian has a biology laden list. The human genome is tops as it was in the Science list, but they also included the finding that skin cells and other sorts of cells in the body can be reprogrammed relatively easily to behave embryonic stem cells. If this discovery pans out, it could much of the ethical debate about harvesting stem cells from embryos to rest.Finally Scientific American has a "Top 25" list. Not presented in any particular order the list, has some overlap with the Guardian's list but also includes the spread of hospital infections caused by antibiotic resistant staph bacteria (Can you spell evolution?). Climate change received a lot of play on this list as it did on most of the other lists including a special report. One intriguing change that is often ignored in the popular press is the resurrection of nuclear power as a serious option including a proposal to build the first nuclear power plant in this country in 30 years. Nuclear technology has not stood still since the 1970's and reactor builders claim that today's designs are much more efficient and safe.As should be clear, many of the top stories of 2007 really are a recognition of technological or scientific trends that began before 2007. For instance, over at Space.com the big space events in their Top 10 list include planetary flybys, the successful Bigelow space station prototype, along with the privatization of space flight, and more space activity from Asian countries, especially China and Japan.It is hard to believe that the Space Age is 50 years old taking Sputnik as the starting point. Considering all the optimistic predictions made early in the Space Age, it may seem we haven't done much- remember the movie 2001. But given the cost of getting into space we have done pretty well. For instance, advances in robotics have taken us in directions and provided us with opportunities for exploration that we didn't envision in the late 1950's. Who would have thought that a pair of mechanical rovers would have allowed us to learn so much about Mars!I hope people enjoy looking at these lists...what is big in science in your mind? What trends are being ignored? What's coming up next?

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Unity Politics Anyone?

I just read an article about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's upcoming meeting at the University of Oklahoma. The goal of the day long session will be to discuss ways to break down the barriers of party lines in an attempt to increase efficiency in the government. This novel idea (yes, any idea involving government and efficiency is pretty unheard of these days) is called unity politics. There are some heavy hitters on the guest list, including former presidential candidate Gary Hart, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Chuck Hagel and former senator John Danforth.I have to say, I am quite intrigued by this notion of bipartisan politics and independent candidates. What about a McCain-Lieberman ticket? And surely, Ralph Nader belongs on somebody's administration. How about Ron Paul and: okay, I'm not sure who Ron Paul would team with, but you get the picture. Hey, if Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda could team up on The West Wing, the idea must not be too outside the realm of public consumption.Seriously, though, I think most Americans agree it is time for change. Our two party system has stymied things for too long and most of us are ready to shake things up a bit. Bloomberg and friends may have just the political muscle and funds to make that happen. I am not saying they will necessarily back the best candidate, but it sure would stir the pot and allow for some more options out there. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting and can't wait to see what might come of it. Of course, there is always the possibility that nothing will materialize and this session will be gridlocked just as much as Washington. But political change begins with discussions and I say who better to start the discussion with your neighbors? So, let's hear from some Lawrencians: what are your dream teams for candidates- bipartisan, independent or otherwise? You can even throw in a few just for laughs if modern politics has gotten you really jaded.

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Sedum and Ice

Of course my wife is nothing like I portrayed her in my last post, and she got me a macro lens for Christmas so I can take even more pictures of critters only a biologist could love. After Church today I taken with this sedum in my garden peeking through the snow. sedumandiceBy the way, I am addicted to flickr and clicking on the image will take you into my public photo stream.

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The Abominable Snowman in Lawrence?

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2007/Dec/30/rabbit1.jpgThursday morning I received a call from my wife asking me if I had seen the footprints in the yard. She had noticed them when she was leaving for her job in Topeka."Definitely human footprints only the person was barefoot and my boss said that there could be a homeless person living in the woods.""Kay, that sounds really unlikely to me but this is Lawrence, and we've had other strange things happen such as the escaped cows in our backyard..so I will go look."So out I went and I did find some prints, but they were not very deep..."Hey Kay nope not human, I think rabbit""But they look like bare feet you can see the toes and everything.""Nope rabbit""Well how do you know? Were you there? After all you can't test anything that happened in the past""Kay, I have seen rabbit footprints before and these are rabbit.""Just because you are trained as a biologist doesn't mean I am wrong...you are just plain dogmatic. They looked human to me. You are being dogmatic.""This is just based on experience...Kay look at this picture. I wasn't about to freeze my toes off here but notice how much deeper my shoe print is than the the ones like you found."http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2007/Dec/30/rabbit2.jpg"I still think they are human. Why do you always have to explain everything away as something ordinary? Just a rabbit...huh maybe they are that hobbit man or a gnome. A baby Sasquatch. There all kinds of strange sightings even in Kansas.""Kay I am a scientist and we look for the simplest explanations first.""That is silly, all you scientists think alike. It is some sort of liberal group think. You need to think outside the box. Maybe you should go work for the government.""What does that have to do with anything?""Well everyone knows those government scientists fake data..if you are told to think rabbit then you're going to think rabbit.""Besides that rabbit idea is just a theory and scientists deal with empirical facts-not interpretations."Sigh...fortunately at that point my cell phone died.Note: Any relationship to current public discussions about evolution or global warming is purely coincidental.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2007/Dec/30/rabbit4.jpg

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Add Him to the List

I've only gone to KU basketball games for the last few years. Hearing Hank's announcing at the games seemed so natural that I thought nothing of it. I assumed he'd been doing it for years.The first time I remember hearing Hank Booth as announcer was at the Jaycee's fireworks display, back when it was held in Memorial Stadium.Recently I've written about some of the things that I remember about Lawrence and many have added their recollections. By training and by inclination I'm an engineer. I prefer facts to opinion...even when the opinion is my own.Hank Booth is every bit as much a part of Lawrence as is Dragstrip Road, the Sunset Drive-in, or Woolworth's. That's an opinion.College football and basketball are all about the money. That's an opinion, too.KU basketball games won't be the same without Hank Booth as announcer.That's a fact.Add him to the list of things we remember about Lawrence.

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The Best and the Worst—Music 2007

http://www.lawrence.com/blogs/sludge/2007/dec/10/topalbums2007/After reading this blog on lawrence.com, I outlined my picks for the top ten of 2007 with a comment. Of course, I was not satisfied with this, and felt that it was necessary for me to further explore the year in music. My top twenty albums, honorable mentions, and bottom five albums for 2007 are as follows: (NOTE: THIS LIST IS NOT IN THE RIGHT ORDER. INSTEAD, IT SHOULD BE READ BACKWARDS. FOR INSTANCE, CASSADAGA SHOULD BE NUMBER 20, NOT NUMBER 1. WHAT IS LISTED AS NUMBER 2 SHOULD REALLY BE NUMBER 19, AND SO ON. I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, BUT I CANNOT CHANGE IT.)20. Bright Eyes--Cassadaga | Why, you might ask, am I including this on my top 20 list? True, many were quick to bash Cassadaga for its country-esque vibe, something that until now, is unheard of on a Bright Eyes record. However, like most everything he does, Conor Oberst makes it work, and work quite well. Good examples of this are "Four Winds" and "Soul Singer in a Session Band."19. Battles--Mirrored | The avant-garde instrumental rock on this album takes a bit getting used to, but songs like "Tiji" and "Atlas" help smooth the ride. If you want something differnet, this is the album to check out. It could very well be the future of music.18. Great Nothern--Trading Twilight for Daylight | This album was on sale at the iTunes store for $7.99, and I liked the song "Home," so I decided to check it out, and was not disappointed. Great Northern combines duet-style vocals with electric and synth sounds to create this indie pop gem.17. Sara Bareilles--Little Voice | What's not to like about this album? It's creative, it's fresh, and "Love Song" is taking the airwaves by storm. Don't be fooled by the popularity; it's good.16. Lily Allen--Alright, Still | Lawrencians were up in arms when Allen canceled her show at Liberty Hall, as they should've been. Alright, Still is full of hooks and features the smash hit "Smile." Do you need anything else?15. Ben Lee--Ripe | Ben Lee first made his first big splash when "Catch My Disease" came out in early 2005. The rest of that album, Awake is the New Sleep, is much less memorable, however. Ripe is the perfect ending; the one Awake never had.14. Amy Winehouse--Back to Black | English soul girl Amy Winehouse certainly has a lot of problems, but she knows how to make music. Does anyone know if she ever did go to rehab?13. Bruce Springsteen--Magic | The E Street Band seems to bring something to Springsteen's albums that is not there when they aren't. Magic, like the Rising, featured the E Street Band. And Magic, like The Rising, is a great album.12. M.I.A.--Kala | M.I.A. is not your Avril Lavigne, Hannah Montana, or Rihanna. She never will be. No, her music is much more interesting and insightful. Kala is rhythmic and beat-laden, but it is a record we all should listen to and appreciate.11. Band of Horses--Cease to Begin | The haunting guitar riff of "Is There a Ghost" and Ben Bridwell's wail of "I could sleeeeeeep" is the perfect beginning to Band of Horses' second album, Cease to Begin. That's not all, though. "Ode to LRC" and "Detlef Schrempf" complement it nicely.10. Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals--Lifeline | Soul, folk, and blues all come into play on Lifeline, yet another gorgeous record by Ben Harper and his gang. From the catchy, country soul chorus of "Fool for a Lonesome Train" to the instrumental beauty of "Paris Sunrise #7," BHTIC make it happen.9. Spoon--Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga | On Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, you will find Spoon's classic wiry rock, but you'll also find a touch here and there of soul and blues. This strategy may not work well for most bands, but it doesn't feel the least bit out of place on this album. See "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb."8. Feist--The Reminder | It would seem unethical and irresponsible to not include this album in a list of the year's best albums. Most know this albm only for the infectious hook of "1234" and its respective video. But songs like "My Moon My Man" finish it off.7. Iron & Wine--The Shepherd's Dog | Sam Beam has come a long way from his whispery bedroom folk days and seems to now have gotten into traditional indie rock and 70s rock. That said, The Shepherd's Dog exhibits a wide variety of music ranging from Beam's past ("Carousel") and his more recent work ("Boy with a Coin").6. Modest Mouse--We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank | Modest Mouse has never made a true dud of an album. Ever. That includes this album, which is one of their best. From the "Float On"--esque to songs that sound like Bloc Party's "Kreuzberg," this is definitely NOT a dud.5. Radiohead--In Rainbows | Unless you've been living in a cave these past few months or just don't pay attention to the news, you'll probably know that Radiohead recently offered this entire album as a pick-your-own-price download over the Internet. Maybe this wasn't the smartest move, because giving out music this good just seems wrong.4. Kanye West--Graduation | There hasn't been a rap album this good since, well...Kanye's last album. "Stronger" is the best rap song in the last seven years, and has there ever been a true rap album with a hook as cool as on "Good Life"? Hip hop may not be dead yet, but if it weren't for this guy, I dunno...3. Arcade Fire--Neon Bible | Was there a sound that spoke for the entire year in music better than the chilling organs that open "Intervention"? No way, Jose. "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations" isn't too bad either, especially when Win Butler cries, "Nothing lasts forever, that's the way it's gonna be / There's a great black wave in the middle of the sea."2. Wilco--Sky Blue Sky | Pitchfork is usually one of my favorite places to read record reviews, but a 5.2 out of 10 for this album? Seriously. From Tweedy's opening words of optimism (Maybe the sun will shine today / The clouds will blow away / Maybe we won't feel so afraid) to the plain awesomeness of "What Light," listening to this record didn't really leave me with a 5.2 feeling. Try about 4.3 points more.Drumroll, please...1. The Shins--Wincing the Night Away | This album is nearly perfect; there are no bad tracks, and everything works. One could argue that Wincing is much more mainstream than Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow, but it works well for James Mercer and his posse. "Australia" and "Phantom Limb" are more poppish, but amazing tracks all the same. The finale, "A Comet Appears," is so strikingly beautiful that no words in my vocabulary will suffice. Wow.HONORABLE MENTIONS Fionn Regan--The End of History Matt Nathanson--Some Mad Hope LCD Soundsystem--Sound of Silver Foo Fighters--Echoes, Silence, Patience, Grace The White Stripes--Icky Thump Peter Bjorn and John--Writer's BlockBOTTOM FIVE Arctic Monkeys--Flourescent Adolescent (Sorry!) The Killers--Sawdust (I love them, but this album was BORING) Bjork--Volta (I just don't get it.) 50 Cent--Curtis (Ugh.)The worst album of 2007: Soulja Boy Tell 'Em--Souljaboytellem.com Oh. My. God (Awful).

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A desire for amputation?

While traveling to Disney World the other week, I picked up a copy of Scientific American Mind to keep myself from being too bored on the flight. One by Sabine Miller called "Amputee Envy" concerns what she terms "Body Identity Disorder" (BID). People with this extremely rare disorder desire to have one or more of their appendages removed, and some actually have such discomfort that they request that the appendage be removed. A summary of the article is here.I had heard about this sort of thing and chalked it up to being a sexual fetish. The reality appears to be much more complex. Some appear to be seeking attention rather than any sort of sexual gratification. But most interesting to me is that at about two thirds of the disorder report that amputation will enable them to express their "true" identity. Thus, there may be a parallel between this disorder and Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is of personal interest to me. Indeed there are some interesting parallels-both disorders arise early in life, and sometimes the discomfort (which can be extreme) is only resolved through surgery.One might think that these sorts of identity statements are merely part of our modern cultures preoccupation with identity or authenticity, but some cases of BID appear to arise from irregularities in how the body is mapped out in the cerebral cortex. Indeed, sometimes temporary cases of body image problems result from brain tumor, injury or disease. When the disease or injury is fixed, the body image problem goes away.The article also address the issue of surgery for BID cases. Some ethicists argue that, as in the case of certain types of GID, if the person is fully informed of the risks and is not psychotic then surgery ethical. Other ethicists consider this wrong headed and that the Doctor must protect the patient from his or her "irrational desires."Again this sort of debate parallels that about Gender Identity Disorder. Since Gender Identity Disorder is much more common, there is actually standard of care called the Benjamin Standard of Care to provide a way to select those most likely to benefit from sexual reassignment surgery. So lots of interesting things in this article to chew on. What makes our identity? Is it merely socially constructed as some would have us believe? How much is changeable about our identity? What are the boundaries of ethically acceptable medical intervention?There are lots of other interesting articles in this magazine...so you might look for it at your newsstand or for purchase online at www.SciAmMind.com.Citation: Sabine Miller(Dec 2007/Jan 2008) Amputee Envy Scientific American Mind 18(6) pp 60-65Other links:BIID-Info.orgWorld Professional Association for Transgender Health

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WIC participation helps prevent obesity.

An Associated Press article from Thursday December 27 brought attention to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. The news was that 3 stores that specialized in serving WIC participants were going out of business. More than 30 people commented on the article in the Lawrence Journal World. It is clear from the comments that the program and its benefits are not well understood including the fact that there are many other stories that supply WIC products. Let's change the headline Children who participate in the WIC program at age 4 are at significantly lower risk of being overweight. This is according to a RAND Corporation study of 2004 (Rand Working Paper 172). This wasn't reported yesterday so it is not "real" news. Previous research has found that WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight and reduces the cost of maternal and neonatal care. While not news, many people do not know of these substantial benefits. WIC basics WIC is a program that was originally intended to prevent hunger by providing food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women. This is an overly simple description of the program. Complex rules and regulations make a concise description of who is eligible and what they receive impossible. To check out the details go to http://www.kdheks.gov/nws-wic/wic_nutrition_prog.htm. The Department of Health and Environment administers the program in Kansas under regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture that Congress charged with developing the program.The rules are not complex because KDHE or USDOA are large government bureaucracies. They certainly are. The rules are complex because we don't trust poor people to make good decisions. We don't want people that are not really poor to benefit and we don't want people buying caviar when they are suppose to buy milk. Of course some people make bad decisions but our paranoia probably adds more cost to program administration than fraud would. The Rand studyThe findings of the Rand study that children who participate in the WIC program are at reduced risk of being overweight are quite impressive. Childhood obesity is a problem with major future health care consequences. A program that reduces the likelihood of obesity may significantly reduce future health care costs. We already know that WIC participation reduces maternal and neonatal care costs. Are WICs benefits due to the food that the family receives or the nutrition education they receive? The study couldn't determine that. It is likely that it is some of each. Were the children in the study different in some way that would explain the results? The study found that the WIC children were less well off than others. In other words those most in need were participating in the program.This study demonstrates that WIC is a program that reaches children and families who need it and produces substantial benefits. We should all be supporters.Reaching out to poor women and childrenA disturbing finding in the RAND study is that only 38% of eligible children between ages one and four use WIC. More than twice as many poor children could be receiving these benefits and are not. Data for Kansas or Douglas county are not available but it is likely that there are local women and children who could benefit from the program but are not participating.If you know a struggling mother with young children, ask if they know about WIC. Volunteer to help determine if they are eligible. The KDHE website is useful for that and it identifies Gayle Sherman of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department as the local contact.

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Has the Assassination Changed Your Opinion of the Candidates?

Experience was the buzz word on the campaign trail today as Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a political rally. It has all the stuff screenwriters dream of. A courageous woman with a tragic past: allegations of political corruption: a return to politics to restore order to a troubled land: and finally, a tragic ending. But what will the coda for this film be? Will Al Qaeda gain control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, or will some other leader emerge out of Bhutto's shadow?With all these questions in the air, America felt the all too familiar twinges of concern over national security today. And who better to assuage these fears than the '08 presidential candidates. The future leader of our nation is out there- he or she will put us at ease:. right? Well, maybe. Let's see how they fared.McCain and Clinton seemed to take center stage as they were seen as the most "experienced." I bought McCain's grandfatherly assurance that he knew all the players in this game and could take on this challenge if given the reins. Clinton, I found to be smooth and confident, but does the word "experienced" fit her? I'm not so sure. As first lady, she did meet with foreign leaders, including Bhutto, but does this really translate to foreign policy experience? I say this in light of the recent information that has come out on her lack of involvement in the White House affairs during Bill's presidency (and I don't just mean Monica). Perhaps, we are supposed to accept Bill's experience as her experience, but this seems a bit condescending for our first female candidate. I liked the way Edwards stepped up and called Musharraf on the phone. Okay, maybe not much came from it, but I give the guy points for taking some action, not just putting out a press release.Giuliani made an attempt to connect the events in Pakistan to 9-11 in order to prove he had experience (there's that buzz word again). But, as McCain pointed out, Giuliani was involved in post-crisis problem solving, not necessarily anti-terrorist dealings.At the bottom end of the scale, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama seemed kind of awkward with their responses to the tragedy. At least Hillary seemed comfortable with her statement on the assassination. My guy, Obama, was a bit disappointing. He has strong opinions on Pakistan and Musharraf, so why did he seem so unprepared? You think someone on his campaign staff would have helped him get his act together before he picked up that microphone. If you are pitching yourself as an agent of change, use that to your advantage and turn the experience question on its head (i.e. the way we have been doing things has not been working, so let's try something new).Well, yesterday, it was immigration; today it is national security. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But in politics, you should always be prepared.

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The Death and Life of Ice Cream

I want to post something other than YouTube videos, and will when I have the time. For now, though, please enjoy the YouTube featured video, "The Death and Life of Ice Cream."

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Benazir Bhutto

The stark news ricocheted around the world today - Benazir Bhutto assassinated. Newspaper headlines will try to summarize the tragedy in tomorrow's editions and many columns will be written about her life and the impact of her death on the world's political scene. How can we ever hope to capture the life and courage of the first woman to become head of Government in an Islamic State? In the US, and even Ireland and the United Kingdom, we take it for granted that woman have the right to hold the highest offices in the land. Such rights are not automatic for women in Islamic countries. The achievements of Benezir Bhutto took the kind of courage that goes beyond words, and only those closest to her will know what it cost.She knew the risks she was taking as she tried to return to Goverment. She was willing to pay the price that sadly ended in her death today. Her husband has lost his wife, her children a mother - and women all over the world have lost a living symbol of the strength and courage of the feminine spirit.

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About this global warming stuff…

My wife and I returned from Florida last Friday just in time for last week's snow. And as I write, it is snowing again. But the discussion section in the Lawrence Journal World is hot today because of a column by Cal Thomas in which he accuses Al Gore and other believers in global warming as being fundamentalists. He cites a global warming skeptic "Paleoclimate scientist" Bob Carter as writing""In one of the more expensive ironies of history, the expenditure of more than $50 billion (U.S.) on research into global warming since 1990 has failed to demonstrate any human-caused climate trend, let alone a dangerous one..."This is an interesting comment which flies in the face of the general scientific consensus. So who is the average person to believe? This is important because if Gore and the vast bulk of climate scientists are right then we have an environmental problem that can't wait another 50 years to fix. We are going to have to make both personal and policy decisions either directly or indirectly about this issue.The first thing we need to do is cut partisanship out of the loop. Second of all we need to look at the information that is out there and try to evaluate it as best we can. Fortunately there are several good sources of information. The U.S. government's EPA site (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/) is much improved in terms of its coverage and I strongly recommend exploring its links. Another site is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Warming FAQ which gives a quick synopsis the current consensus on global warming. There is plenty of room to discuss what sorts of solutions - free market, government incentives and mandates, individual action but denying what we are doing to the environment is not productive.As for non governmental sources, Science Daily keeps tabs on climate change at http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/earth_climate/global_warming/ and this is perhaps the site for the latest developments in our understanding of climate change.If you are a regular blog reader, a good unbiased site is Real Climate (http://www.realclimate.org/). This blog's contributors are climate scientists-not geologists and not ideologues. Of course look at some of the advocacy sites on the left and the right-what ever your ideological fancy, but do yourself and civilization a favor and check the claims that are made on those sites against each other and come to an honest judgment for yourself about where the truth most likely is. Don't just believe some numskull on the left or the right because you agree with their ideology, unless the numskull happens to be me of course.In the interest of full disclosure I am pretty much in agreement with the scientific consensus but some of my conclusions about where we stand probably go beyond the scientific consensus:1. Global warming is real and not just an artifact of changes in data collection.2. Much but probably not all of recent global warming is due to human activity including burning of fossil fuels but also deforestation and increased agricultural production.3. Global warming may be to the point that we can do little to affect it quickly.4. Climate change happening more rapidly than we thought possible even five years ago and may be happening more rapidly than many populations can adapt to.5. There is no magic bullet to solving global warming and we probably will need to make some uncomfortable choices concerning energy sources and (dare I say it?) some sacrifice of living standards.6. Poorer countries will be more severely affected than developed countries.7. We have exceeded the ability of the planet to sustain our current population, and global warming is interacting with other human disturbances to bring about an irreversible biodiversity crisis.8. There is still hope for our species but our environment is going to become biologically impoverished in ways we might not like.Of course all comments are welcome; just play nicely.

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Merry Christmas From Your Candidates

'Tis the season for eating too much cookies, maxing out your credit cards and, wait a minute: groan inducing political ads?Now that the Iowa Caucuses have been moved up to January 3rd, campaigning has spilled onto the holiday and left us with these sometimes humorous, occasionally embarrassing media clips. And, yes, Virginia, there actually is one that touches on the true meaning of Christmas. It all started with a seemingly innocent bookcase. Mike Huckabee's ad caused quite a stir when a cross shaped bookcase was seen behind his head while he spoke about Christmas. People wondered whether this was an overt evangelical message or merely a coincidence. I think it's a bit of a stretch to call this Christian propaganda, but the filmmaker side of me does find it hard to believe that no one called this "coincidence" to the candidate's attention during the filming. With directors, production designers and cinematographers involved in even the most basic productions, there are usually a lot of eyes on the video tap to pick up on visual symbols, intentional or not. Moving on to the more innocuous, meet-the-family ads: Barack Obama and Ron Paul both had some serviceable spots with the obligatory cute family members getting in the holiday spirit. These festive ads are meant to show us that they are not just politicians but, in fact, "real guys." I think it would have been more real to see them loafing on the coach after turkey dinner or getting into arguments with family members, but that's just me.John Edwards took the gig more seriously and drove home the issue of those without homes. This somewhat dour message stood in contrast to his soft lighting and cheerful sweater. I think if you are going to take a gritty approach to the holiday you should get out of the studio and hit the streets. Use the visual medium of television to get your hands dirty. Unless you are afraid of messing up that $3,000 haircut. Moving on, the next two political ads are quite simply in bad taste. With a forced attempt at humor, Hillary Clinton finds a gift under her tree for universal pre-K. It just feels condescending. A gift from her? Aren't we the taxpayers? But even this wasn't as bad as Giuliani's Jerry Lewis impression as he tries to ham it up with Santa over fruit cakes. Come on guys, leave the acting to Fred Thompson.Last but not least is John McCain's Christmas ad. I was a little skeptical at the opening- a slow motion image of McCain's POW days. It set the stage for something a bit heavy handed. But then, he tells a heartfelt story about how his guard wrote a cross in the dirt on Christmas day. He touched on the universality of Christmas and left us with the feeling that he is just the guy to bridge cultural gaps. There was nothing subliminal, false or cornball here. I couldn't help but remember that episode of "30 Rock" where Tina Fey says there's an 80% chance she'll tell her friends she voted for Barack Obama when she actually voted for John McCain. So, take them or leave them, love them or hate them, it just goes to show you politics don't take a holiday. Personally, I was hoping that Mitt Romney would have had an ad where he said he "saw" his father ride with Santa Claus, but you can't get everything on your list.

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How I found my feminism.

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2007/Dec/22/well-bahaved.jpgphoto from factoryjoe at flickr.com I found my feminism in two difference places; in my family and in books. I am grateful to have been raised without gender-segregated treatment. If I wanted toy cars, fine. If I wanted an American Girl doll, fine. I got an Equal Rights Amendment bracelet for my 18th birthday from my mom, which was given to her on her 18th birthday by my grandmother.While I am infinitely thankful to have such a wonderful family, I would not be the feminist I am today without the summer of 2005. I had just moved out of the dorms at the University of Kansas and into my first real apartment. Faced with endless amounts of free time and no TV, I turned to the Lawrence Public Library for entertainment. But after I had watched all the James Bond and Alfred Hitchcock movies I could stand, I needed something else.Seeking an alternative, I decided to learn more about feminism. I had always known that I valued and respected women, but I did not know the theories, the movement, or the struggles behind that belief. It all started with bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody and Madam President: Women Blazing the Leadership Trail by Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis.I spent that whole summer working my way through all the feminist books I could find at the library. And from then on, I have been educating myself (formally and informally) about every form of feminism imaginable. The more I read, the more I felt like someone finally understood how the world really worked and could articulate that understanding. There is gender influence in every single action we take in every day. It is often small and hard to find, but it is there.How did you find your feminism?

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Just about …. and more

A few years ago, I took my husband to the Tate Art Gallery in St. Ives, Cornwall. The building is pretty impressive. It overlooks the sea, and catches the light of the sun as it travels around the Bay.We arrived early and found various piles of dust and dirt as we moved up the stairs."Wouldn't you think they would have cleared that up before the place opened," I remarked.We arrived on the first floor and along the side of the wall in one of the galleries was another enormous pile of dust and dirt."What's all that dirt doing lying around here?" I asked the attendant."That's not dirt," she said with a sniff. "That's part of the exhibition."She directed me to the details of the artist near the pile of .... art.It didn't quite end there. In another room our eyes were assaulted by piles of rotten carrots placed strategically on the black tiles of what looked like a large checkers' board; the white tiles were untarnished by the putrid vegetables. The "work" was titled something like "Desperation."I haven't quite looked at carrots in the same way again.The "mother" Gallery, the Tate (Modern) in London, has now found a creative way to get rid of the dirt piles and carrots. A large crack, with a title, has appeared in one of the gallery floors. You would be forgiven for thinking it might be called "Cracked," or "Art is not all it's cracked up to be," but it isn't. It's titled "Shibboleth," and it's supposed to symbolize racial and class divisions. Apparently it's getting great reviews. I know I'm probably missing the point somewhere along the line, so maybe I need to be enligtened. When do cracks and piles of dirt turn into pieces of art? I've noticed several cracks in my garage floor today as well as piles of dirty salty grime (leftovers from last week's ice,) and I'm now looking for a suitable title for a possible masterpiece. I know I might have to do some rearranging to get the full artistic effect but I'll give it a try. How will I know if it's art? I wonder if I need to get a licence from the City in order to charge a fee? Any ideas about what I should call it, and what it might represent?

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Lawrence, The Way We Remember It

Here are the answers, based upon what I know and what was said in the comments, please let me know of any errors. 1. Where and what was Griff's? A burger place on 23rd, located approximately across from where Mongolian BBQ is now, It was in an unusual A-frame building 2. What major retail chain had a store where the Antique Mall is now located. (Hint, it has moved again since then). For extra credit, where did it move to before moving to its present location? J.C. Penney's, It moved to occupy the Montgomery Ward's location near 23rd and Iowa before moving to its present location. 3. Name a store that is now located where Woolworth's used to be located. Kinko's, Saffee's, Chipotle 4. Bucky's originally had another name, what was it? Sandy's. An article this week reported Bucky's closing. 5. Where did George's Hobby Shop used to be located? The Malls, 23rd and Iowa. It moved to Paper Warehouse, before moving to a building behind. Someone also reported it being at 19th and Mass, if so, that was before my time. 6. What was the name of the drive-in theater that was located on 6th Street near where Sonic is now located? Sunset Drive-in 7. There was yet another drive-in theater in town, where was it? For extra credit what was its name. Please tell me, I don't know. This was before my time, I'm told it was the Chateau on 23rd street, near where Laird Noller is now. Or was it the Lawrence Drive-in? 8. Where was the Vista drive-in located? On 6th street. The "Olympic" pool was down the streeon on the other side. 9. What is the name of the restaurant that occupied the building where Bambino's is now? Cornucopia, the only place I've ever eaten quiche. 10. Where was the "Campus Hideaway" located? Just north of South Park.There were a number of us who remember going to the Sunset, climbing on the train, and seeing Leo Beuerman. Other recollections (a partial list)The church at the corner of 6th and Maine, followed by Alfie's?, now Taco John'sQuantrill's Flea Market.
Drake's Bakery
Lion/ Red Lion (are these the same?)
Litwins
T,G,&Y
Bob's Big Boy
Sub & Stuff (I remember the Spicy Italian)
A&W
Shakey's Pizza (later Valentino's)
Gibson's
Putt-Putt at 31st and Iowa
Rusty's IGAs
Don's Steakhouse south of town on Iowa, before my time.
Liberty Hall and its long history.
Calhoun'sMcRory-Otasco
Raney Drug
Tin Pan Alley
LeMans Arcade
Dairy King
Mr. Steak (free birthday dinners)
Drag Strip Road
...Didn't see Jenning's Daylight Donuts mentioned. Did anyone ever go to the the Aqua Forum to get tropical fish? I remember it on the east edge of town on 23rd Street before it moved to the Mall, behind where Wendy's is now... until is closed There was also Jayhawk Tropical Fish.Thank you, everyone, for a nice (I might even say wonderful) trip down memory lane.

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How do you Deal

Cue cheesy music and twinkly lights. Audience applauds as polyester-suit-clad Bob Talksalot prances onto the stage.BOB: Hello Ladies and Gents, welcome to "How do you Deal," the game show where parent contestants get to try out responses to the news that their child has just read the results of the school play auditions and found that their name was not included on the cast list. I am your host, Bob Talksalot. Let's play!Cue music and applause.BOB: Contestant Number One Little Jaynie has just come home in tears because she didn't make the play:What do you do?DAD ONE: Well, I'd call that director right away and tell him that he's obviously blind if he can't see how much talent my Jaynie has. Why everyone else has always said that she has got dramatic talent, the way she can cry on cue and all. I would demand an immediate explanation, and I would tell that director to look for another job if he can't cast the really talented kids. And I'd make sure the other parents know how unfair that director is.BOB: Thank you, contestant Number One. Contestant Number Two, same question.MOM TWO: I would keep her away from those drama types, and never let her audition again. She's too good for them anyway. And then I would write an anonymous letter to the director, and send a copy to the principal of the school, letting them know how displeased all we parents are that only 30 kids seem to get all the good roles. And who cares about things like occupancy limits, and fire codes, and personal safety, and budget limits and presenting a quality performance surely supervising 70 teenagers in the dark can't be THAT difficult for two adults.BOB: Thank you! Now on to Contestant Number Three. What do you do in this situation?DAD THREE: First, I'd ask Jaynie if she had filled out all her audition forms completely. Then I'd ask if she showed up on time for her audition and was courteous, polite, and confident. Then I'd ask her to tell me about her audition what she thought she did well, what she thought she could improve on for next time. I'd ask her if anyone else she auditioned with got cast, and what strong qualities she saw in them that she could model next time. I'd let her cry, we'd talk about disappointments and how they present some great learning opportunities in life this won't be the last disappointment she knows. And a few days later, I'd encourage her to ask the director when she could find some time to talk about what skills she could improve for her next audition, and to inquire how to be a member of the technical crew.BOB: Judges?Cue sound of dinger and wild applause from the crowd.BOB: Congratulations, Contestant Number Three! You know How to Deal, and so will your daughter! In fact, she's more likely to see her name on the cast list at the next audition, AND she'll get to participate in this current production by being on the crew. After all, I wouldn't look or sound this good without all the technical assistants! (laughs) Thanks for playing. See you all next time on "How do you Deal."Cue cheesy theme music, and fade out.

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Crush on Obama

I wanted to like Hillary, really I did. I was rooting for her in much the same way as I root for womenfilmmakers. I go out of my way to see even the most mediocre sounding premises and manage to overlook theoccasional bad dialogue and unimaginative camera workin the interest of women directorship. But unless I am in a really "you go-girl" kindof mood, even I must admit it is just not justifiableto like most of these movies. Or, in this case, this candidate.Hillary is in a difficult position, I'll give herthat. A woman president would be hard to take for somepeople. Heck, my old school cinematography professordidn't know what to think of me as a female Directorof Photography. But a chick Commander in Chief? I canonly imagine the fun he'd have with that one.So, understandably, Clinton is trying very hard not toappear soft or give any indication that her womanhoodwould affect her leadership. But as a result ofdistancing herself from her estrogen, Hilary ismissing one of the things that our sex is know for passion! And this is one thing Senator Barack Obama has goingfor him. I was cruising around in a rental car that had XMradio during the time of the Jefferson Jackson dinnersand got to hear all the candidates back to back. (Sidenote- XM station POTUS 08 is one of the coolestthings ever- I lived in LA for eight years and alwayshated the traffic, but that week with POTUS, I didn'tmind it a bit.) I was still in that "maybe Hillary"mode when Obama put in his two cents and that's when I wouldn't be voting for a woman this time. I was actually moved by a political speech and I didn't see it on the History Channel.I know that voting decisions are supposed to be blindto issues like gender and color, but the idea of ayoung girl seeing a female president get inauguratedprobably biased my first look at these democraticcandidates.But in the end, you have to go with your heart. And ifObama is elected, he will also be an inspiration to manychildren for years to come. There's a handful of promising women directorsemerging lately (like Kimberly Pierce and PattiJenkins, to name a few), so it's only a matter of timebefore we get our first female president. Hopefully,she's one worth caring about.

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