Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I used to like Ben Stein

He was so funny in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Wonder Years. But now he's just gone off the deep end!

Stein's new movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," [I won't link to it!] is about the persecution of people who believe in Intelligent Design, and the difference between ID and science. Only the movie never really explains what ID is, or for that matter, what science really is!
"The definition of what science is and what should be taught as science in a world in which Asia and Europe are itching to clean our economic clocks by seeing us throw away our considerable lead in synthetic biology, genomics, agriculture and the biomedical, oceanographic, geological and energy sciences escapes Stein and his producers. ... The failure to say what science is constitutes a huge failing in this cinematic cant." Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., Bioethicist at UPenn
This movie is so bad, Scientific American has produced a whole series of articles about it! Just look at the first of the Six Things that Ben Stein doesn't want you to know. Stein even takes his disdain for Darwin to the extreme, espousing the same argument about natural selection that the Nazis used to justify the Holocaust -- that the logical continuation of "survival of the fittest" is the state directed murder of the mentally ill, political dissidents, the disabled, and any other race that is found to be inferior.

... Only if you **actually read** The Descent of Man, Darwin clearly rejected the idea that weaker beings should be eliminated:
The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil.
Meanwhile, the scientists who were interviewed for the film were duped; the standing ovation that Ben Stein gets is a set-up; the "guy who was fired" never worked at the Smithsonian... it goes on and on. Not all scientists are atheists -- in fact, I'm sure many of them take their religion very seriously. And not all religious people eschew science in favor of ID (in fact, I think very few.) But this movie makes it sound like we're headed for a crisis in this country! Scientific American shrewdly points out that Stein is trying to be Michael Moore, and failing miserably.

I think the thing that confuses me the most is how this man, this Jewish man, is willing to overlook Nazi racism (and general lunacy) in order to place the blame on Darwin for the deaths of 6 million. Where did the train go off the tracks? He was a poverty lawyer, a Nixon speech-writer (well, ok, that's not the best thing to have on your resume), a game show host ... I don't get it. Smart people are supposed to be smarter than this.

But this discussion again brings me back to that episode in the final season of West Wing, when Jimmy Smits' presidential candidate is asked about science and religion.
"As a Catholic who attends church every Sunday, I do believe in God, and my faith tells me that there was a designer behind it all," he says. He goes on to explain that it would be difficult to teach science without the principle of evolution, but goes on to clarify, "I don't think it's contradictory to believe in science and believe in God." Finally he explains that he feels intelligent design should not be taught in science classes because it is not a scientific theory. [emphasis mine. And thanks to the Dickinson College Student Newspaper for a recap of this speech.]
Sigh. The battle rages on.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My first Seder

ok, so people will have to sit on the sofa... it's still so neat to have done it all myself! (the food is potluck, so I only had to make the matzah ball soup.) :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back to the real world

I have a whole list of things I am planning to blog about, including "bitter-gate" or whatever you want to call it, but when I found Tim Robbins' speech at the National Association of Broadcasters, I thought I should share it. It goes from a sarcastic history of broadcasting to total sap and utopian wishes for the future, but it's an interesting take on the role broadcasters have had in making our society more divisive, instead of less, and what they could do about it.
This is a nation divided and reeling from betrayal and economic hardships. And you, the broadcasters of this great nation have a tremendous power, and a tremendous potential to effect change. You have the power to turn this country away from cynicism. You have the power to turn this nation away from the hatred and the divisive dialogue that has rendered such a corrosive affect on our body politic. You can lift us up into a more enlightened age.

[...]
The road we are on is leading us to a corruption of our former selves. We are better than that. You can help us reclaim our better nature, our perfect union. It isn't necessarily a matter of country before profit, or of patriotism and truth before personal comfort. There could be money to be made in appealing to our better selves. Wouldn't that be great? And if there isn't and we came out of it a little less rich but more unified and healthier as a nation wouldn't that be something we could all be proud of?
He may be a little too far to the left, but he's a smart guy.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Aloha and Mahalo


Maui is a be-yooo-tee-ful place, even when it rains. The locals kept telling us it a) hadn't rained since January, and b) "doesn't rain like this" (thunderstorms). We must have brought the weather with us. Ah well. It was worth the trip anyway. :)

I highly recommend the DK/Eyewitness Travel "Top 10" books. Of course, I love all of the Eyewitness travel books, but the little ones are easier to carry around. It gave us great information about Lahaina when we drove around there on Friday, and I used it to find the Ioa Valley State Park on Saturday afternoon, good places to eat and shop, and other interesting tidbits.

Top 10 things I did in Maui this week:
1. Ascended Haleakala on a bright Saturday morning
2. Visited Iao Valley State Park
3. Drove (well, rode) around the West Maui Mountains, through Lahaina and Kapalua
4. Ate at Mama's Fish House
5. Ate at Hali'imaile General Store (a very Austin-y restaurant with excellent pork ribs)
6. Walked 2.5 miles on S. Kihei Road every day
7. Visited the Sea Turtles (Honu) at the Maui Ocean Center
8. Saw whales frolicking in the water off the coast of Kahana (NW Maui) -- too far away to take pictures
9. Found the beach in Makena (and got my nice jeans all sandy)
10. Tried on some Aloha fashions at Hilo Hatties

Photos have been posted to Flickr. I'm going to bed to try to get my body back on Austin time.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Through the mountains, the ocean

Iao Valley, location of the bloodiest battle to unite the islands under Kamehameha, in 1790.

The weather in here was grey and misty; the weather at the beach was bright and sunny.

Going up Haleakala!

I jumped out of bed at 6:30am and was on the road to Haleakala (hah-lee-Ah-kah-lah) by 7:15... iced coffee in hand. :) It turned out to be a gorgeous sunny morning. The summit is over 10,000 feet up! I took a bunch of pics, which I'll upload when I get home. I had planned to do one of the short hikes at the top, but it was windy and freeeeeeezing up there!

Driving back down, I passed a lot of people going up... I'm glad I got there early. There were a lot of people doing the bike ride down, too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

West Maui day

Today we drove (we: Tommy, Deb and I) all the way around the northwest part of Maui. Lahaina is mostly a tourist trap... jewelry stores, art galleries (Peter Max!) and cheesy souvenir shops. We stopped for lunch at Cheeseburger In Paradise, and visited the Wo Hing Temple, to get a little Chinese History.
With a little exploration, we found the giant Buddha at the Jodo Mission. (pics will be uploaded tomorrow...) Then we continued our trek up along the coastline. We stopped at an overlook point around Kahana, and spied some whales in the water!
The road around the top of the island is narrow and windy, a lot like the road to Hana - and similar to Rte 101 along Big Sur in CA! I was glad Tommy was driving. :)

Lava flow at Mama's Fish House

this is a pina colada poured over strawberry puree. yum!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pics posted on Flickr

I posted my first day of pictures on Flickr.

This is my fave, it's a pic from the beach at Makena, in the southern part of the island.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I love sea turtles!

at the Maui Ocean Center

Greetings from Maui

No wireless in the hotel! Shocking! ;)
But seriously. Departed Phoenix @ 11am yesterday, but we had to stop at LAX to refuel (or leave a dozen people off the plane...) so we ended up arriving 2 hours late! Ah well, the price you pay to get to paradise.
I drove the roundabout way to Kihei, just to check out the scenery. Gorgeous! No pictures yet, be patient. ;)
Checked into the hotel at 630pm and was in bed by 7- by that time, I'd been up for 18 hours! Of course, I woke up @ 430am and couldn't go back to sleep. Went for a walk along the beach at 630, and was not alone- dozens of people out walking, and everyone says "good morning!"

Having my first cup of strong Maui coffee, and then I'm off in search of an Internet connection.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The White Rose


Paulie brought me a white rose today, that he'd gotten down on main campus. Attached to it was a tag outlining the White Rose Society, a project of UT's Hillel group. The card talks about the 10,000 people who died every day at Auschwitz. There's a conference next week about human rights, and specifically about the genocide in Darfur**.

Being the sap that I am, I got emotional. I am absolutely conscious of the fact that, in Europe ~70 years ago, I would have been put on a rail car and shipped off to the gas chambers like everybody else - I would have been one of those 10,000. I studied World War II and the Holocaust in-depth in college, and visited Terezin when I was in the Czech Republic with mom in 1994. There are whole towns in Poland that simply don't exist any more because all of the people were wiped out by the Nazis. That to me is one of the most powerful parts of the Holocaust Museum in DC - you walk down a hallway, and the names of these towns are etched in the glass around you. And they're gone.

I didn't realize the added significance of the white rose until I found this article on wikipedia:
The White Rose: (die Wei├če Rose) was a non-violent group in Nazi Germany, consisting of a number of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to German dictator Adolf Hitler's regime.
** You don't hear much about Darfur on the news any more... but the Jewish community is heavily focused on stopping the genocide going on there. We have all pledged "never again" -- no matter who the victims are. If you google "Jews and Darfur", you'll see that while the Jewish community is bringing attention to what's going on in Darfur, the President of the Sudan, and his Defense Minister, are convinced that the Jews are lying about the situation, to raise money for Israel. Oy.
It is a supreme irony that in an age when Muslims repeatedly complain that the West does not care about Muslim lives, one of the most consistent voices raised in defence of these Muslim victims is the Jewish one. - the JC blog

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dessert at Cafe du Monde

I don't usually take food pics, but this is the quintessential N'awlins dining experience. We'll see how I do not getting the powdered sugar on my black clothes....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Rainy view from my window

at the Bienville Hotel

greetings from the French Quarter

You can't see the small band sitting in the middle of the street behind that black SUV, playing typical New Orleans brass band music. It was a perfect way to be introduced to the city.