Monthly Archives: May 2008

Service Notice

Sorry – between work, travel, and social obligations, there’ll be nothing new here until Sunday or Monday, most likely. Apologies as always.

Causes and Cans

Sorry not to have posted anything yesterday; I spent many hours on the road, as well as selling several to my employer. Today also my muse appears to be silent, as happens from time to time — so, looking ahead to resuming our musings on free will, I will simply offer a couple of provocative […]

The Literal Truth?

With a hat tip to our friend Jess, here is a link to a post at the science blog Gene Expression that reports a result which, if true, is hardly a surprise. Related content from Sphere

Godspeed, Kevin

After months of training and preparation, our friend Kevin Kim is now beginning his transcontinental walk, whose theme is interreligious dialogue. He’ll be starting his journey in British Columbia, and heading east. We can follow his progress at his website, Kevin’s Walk. This should be interesting. Related content from Sphere


Good work by Horace Jeffery Hodges at his website, The Gypsy Scholar. See here, and here.

The Phoenix Has Landed

So caught up was I in holiday-weekend bacchanalia that I almost neglected to note that the Phoenix Mars Lander made a successful descent in the Red Planet’s north polar region yesterday. “For the first time in 32 years, and only the third time in history, a JPL team has carried out a soft landing on […]

Have A Go

We’ve had plenty of chat in in here lately about the political Left and Right, and what the words mean. I recently induced, with mischief aforethought, a conniption or two merely by mentioning that I was reading a book that argues (and persuasively, I might add) that Fascism was a phenomenon of the political Left; […]

Odd Man Out

A couple of days ago I linked to Steven Pinker’s discussion of the recent report by the President’s Council on Bioethics, and mentioned that one of the contributors, surprisingly given the overall makeup of the Council, was the irreligious and materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett. In his essay, he is in fine, feisty form. Related content […]


Can anybody explain to me why there is such a flap about Hillary Clinton’s mention of the RFK assassination? It makes no sense to me whatsoever, even taking into consideration that taking offense is the new national pastime. I’m no fan of Mrs. Clinton, but this seems ridiculous. Related content from Sphere

Show Of Power

Having posted some video clips of Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis master Gin Foon Mark a couple of weeks ago, it seems only fair that I do the same for the system I’m involved with these days, Tang Fung Hung Ga. Here, then, is a video (forgive the odd camera angle) of our own […]

What Price “Dignity”?

Steven Pinker, writing in The New Republic, takes aim at The President’s Council on Bioethics for mulish opposition, on largely theological grounds, to a variety of promising medical and scientific efforts. Related content from Sphere

“Too Intelligent And Too Weak”

Well, perhaps “nothing here until Friday at the soonest” was overly pessimistic; I’ll squeeze in one brief item. Following on our post about the pros and cons of conversing with one’s enemies, here is a relevant item from the opinion page of today’s Times, about JFK’s unwisdom in agreeing to the Vienna summit of 1961, […]

Service Notice

Due to a particularly grueling schedule Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll have nothing here, I’m afraid, until Friday at the soonest. I realize this has been happening more often of late, but there it is. At least there’s still no talk of a rate increase. Related content from Sphere

Appeasing Contest

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know that the word of the week is “appeasement”. President Bush popped it up in an address to the Knesset, and Barack Obama, waving off his teammates, managed to get himself under it and make the catch. And now Pat Buchanan, who is clearly off his […]

Dear Diary

A couple of weeks ago my old friend Carl Sturken, with whom I’ve been knocking about since fifth grade, called me up to ask if I felt like joining in a pickup band to play at a 35th reunion for the Princeton Day School class of 1973. (I’m not an official member of the class, […]

Some Sunday Cheer

It’s been a hectic weekend, and there’s been no time for writing. Fortunately, our West Coast correspondent Jess Kaplan has sent along two items of interest.

Service Notice

We’ll most likely be off the air until Sunday or Monday. Apologies to all.

O Frabjous Day

This will be of zero interest to any of you, but in my little corner of Gotham the corks are popping. Here’s why.

Cloudy, With A Chance Of Total Annihilation

From our old friend Dave Pauley comes a link to some extraordinary photos of the Chaitén volcanic eruption in Chile. As Dave points out in his note to me, a local villager could understandably think there were more than “merely” natural forces at work here. Have a look. Related content from Sphere

Microsoft: Business Is Looking Up

If you haven’t heard, embattled Microsoft has now taken aim at Google Sky with its new application, the World Wide Telescope. Have a look here.

Paper Cuts

With a hat tip to our occasional commenter Addofio, here is the work of a most remarkable artist. Go have a look.

A Religious Ramble

For those of you who don’t know, our friend Kevin Kim has a new website, created for the purpose of chronicling his upcoming transcontinental walk — a trek whose purpose is to explore the many parallel currents of religion in America, and if possible to help build bridges between them. The walk itself won’t get […]

From Bad To Worse

From Jess Kaplan comes this story about the disaster unfolding in Lebanon. Hezbollah, and by proxy Iran, now owns this tormented land.

Master Class

We’ll carry on with our meditations on free will shortly, but for tonight — it’s been a very busy weekend, with no time for writing — we have, for those of you with an interest in such things, some videos of the great Southern Praying Mantis master Gin Foon Mark, taken during his recent visit […]

The Hole Story

One of the main reasons that the USA, despite its ethnic diversity, has held itself together as well as it has (well, aside from that little scuffle back in the mid-1800’s) is that we all speak the same English language. But that’s only in the most general sense; American English takes a lush and delightful […]

The Choice Is Yours

One of the most worrisome aspects of determinism, in many people’s minds, is that it means that our deliberation — all our agonizing about the choices we must make in our lives — is a sham. In Daniel Dennett’s excellent book Elbow Room, which I think is one of the best expositions of the “compatibilist” […]

Wake Of The Storm

Once again the despicable military junta that holds the nation of Burma hostage has forced the world to examine the presumptive “right” of inviolable national sovereignty. A horrifying natural cataclysm has just sheared away tens of thousands of its captive and wretched citizens, and laid its principal city to waste, while hundreds of thousands more […]

Pundit’s Corner

For those of you who have been following this somewhat distasteful presidential-election business, here’s Robert Novak’s take on where matters stand in the wake of Barack Obama’s strong showing yesterday. Related content from Sphere

That Reminds Me…

Before I forget, here is another item on the subject of improving the memory: it’s just one of those breezy little magazine-style top-ten lists, but some of the items merit a closer look. Related content from Sphere

Wozniak the Memorious

My daughter Chloë has sent along a link to an article about Piotr Wozniak, the inventor of SuperMemo, a software application that uses some neglected facts about the workings of human memory to help users retain more of what they learn. The system is designed to remind users at specific intervals of items they have […]

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

We learn from today’s New York Times that the new Grand Poo-bah of Turkmenistan, the fabulously yclept Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has begun dismantling in earnest the splendiferous personality cult of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, a.k.a Turkmenbashi. Mr. Niyazov’s image and idisosyncratic worldview had permeated every corner of Turkmen life during his reign, but no symbol of […]

Sam Harris on Fitna

Sam Harris, in a recent article, weighs in on the response to Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic movie Fitna, which appears to be unavailable online at the moment.

Causes and Reasons

Jeffery Hodges left a comment on our last post about free will (and I do apologize for approaching the subject so circumspectly, over a period of weeks) in which he asked if I was making a distinction between causes and reasons. This is an important question — and indeed I am. Related content from Sphere

The Weakest Link

We’ve been brooding lately on the subject of free will and determinism. For tonight, just a few brief remarks; more to come shortly. Everybody wants free will, of course, but the notion itself is one of those things that look clear enough from a distance, but get harder to make out the closer you look. […]

Pain in the Class

It’s already well-known that affluence and education are positively correlated with any number of desirable outcomes: longevity, general health and happiness, that sort of thing. Now we find that it not is only disadvantageous to be poor and ignorant, it hurts. Story here. Related content from Sphere

Mother, Goosed

I’ve accumulated an awful lot of books over the past half-century: I can never part with them, and add several each week, it seems. I’ve got lots and lots of books about history and philosophy and science, but there are hundreds of odder ones as well — and one that popped off the shelf into […]