Thursday, August 28, 2008

Short Beeps

Busy right now... No time to post. No time Toulouse. Ve-hameyvin yavin.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

From the Diary of Felix Landau

Drohobycz - 12 July 1941... At 6:00 in the morning I was suddenly awoken from a deep sleep. Report for an execution. Fine, so I'll just play executioner and then gravedigger, why not?... Twenty-three had to be shot, amongst them ... two women ... We had to find a suitable spot to shoot and bury them. After a few minutes we found a place. The death candidates assembled with shovels to dig their own graves. Two of them were weeping. The others certainly have incredible courage... Strange, I am completely unmoved. No pity, nothing. That's the way it is and then it's all over... Valuables, watches and money are put into a pile... The two women are lined up at one end of the grave ready to be shot first... As the women walked to the grave they were completely composed. They turned around. Six of us had to shoot them. The job was assigned thus: three at the heart, three at the head. I took the heart. The shots were fired and the brains whizzed through the air. Two in the head is too much. They almost tear it off...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Music (Cover) Monday

Just came across this JC Penney commercial which is a spoof/cover of the Simple Minds video for the Breakfast Club. It's actually a pretty good imitation, although I don't really get it who their target audience is. I don't know - have a lot of teenagers seen The Breakfast Club?

And here's the original:

Trivia for those who made it to the bottom of the post:

The Breakfast Club was filmed in fictional Shermer, IL, at the Shermer High School, which is really Glenbrook North High School. The shul Congregation Ezra Habonim, of which I was a member at one point in my life, holds their High Holiday at Glenbrook North...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In praise of philosophy...


Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.

Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.

David Hume could out-consume
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,

And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.

John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.

Plato, they say, could stick it away--
Half a crate of whisky every day.

Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle.
Hobbes was fond of his dram,

And René Descartes was a drunken fart.
'I drink, therefore I am.'

Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed.


Furthermore the LORD spoke unto me, saying: 'I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people;
let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.'(Deut 9:14)
When I reed* these lines, what strikes me the harshest is that God has absolutely no qualms about starting over. I guess human beings look at the lives of the two million people He is about to destroy and say - there is value in keeping these people alive - even if they are sinners, perhaps there is still a spark of good in them and their good will overcome their bad. Perhaps their children or their children's children will produce the next Moses or Galileo.
But like a child who destroys the sand castle he spend the whole day working on to rebuild a better one, or like a writer to burns his manuscript, or like an artist who wipes the oil from the canvas, God decides that He can just start over and do as good a job, if not better. The notion of time invested in the current work is absent. The notion of effort is meaningless to God.

In a way, this aspect of God is almost a personification of the Universe. The Universe is indifferent to the lives of human beings. If we were to all perish in a nuclear holocaust tomorrow, the Universe would not weep. Instead, the cockroaches will survive, and perhaps, ten thousand years from now, some mutant shrew will evolve into the next sentient being and build a civilization which will start the next downward spiral toward its own destruction.

*Like George Bernard Shaw and Led Zeppelin, I've decided to drift from 'standard' orthography to make sure people understand my meaning correctly. In this case I want to make sure that people see I am using the present tense and not the past.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kosher Koprophagia

So, my six year old asked me today if he had two sets of digestive tracts, one for eating dairy and one for eating meat. I replied that we have only one, and that is why we wait between meat and dairy.

He thought about that for a while, and said very seriously - "This is why poop is not kosher. Because it is mixing dairy and meat. We can't eat dairy and meat together and that's why we can't eat poop!"

Monday, August 18, 2008

Music Monday (part deux) Asturias

Since my first post generated some comments, and since I didn't post last week, I thought I would put up another tune. While Zack Kim was doing a fingertapping technique, this is classical Spanish guitar. Nice and fast plucking... Nice acoustics in the recording.

Barrack Amoeba

Did you know that the reason why today you may be craving some salty potato chips is not because you are a glutton, but because the bacteria in your digestive tract are telling you that they need more salt?

I didn't until I read it in the Sept issue of the Atlantic. Upon further investigation, it turns out that these bacteria can be pretty effective communicators. Though probably not quite as effective as Barrack Obama :)

Here is an article in Wired magazine:

The notion that microbes have anything to say to each other is surprisingly new. For more than a century, bacterial cells were regarded as single-minded opportunists, little more than efficient machines for self-replication. Flourishing in plant and animal tissue, in volcanic vents and polar ice, thriving on gasoline additives and radiation, they were supremely adaptive, but their lives seemed, well, boring. The "sole ambition" of a bacterium, wrote geneticist Francois Jacob in 1973, is "to produce two bacteria."

New research suggests, however, that microbial life is much richer: highly social, intricately networked, and teeming with interactions. Bassler and other researchers have determined that bacteria communicate using molecules comparable to pheromones. By tapping into this cell-to-cell network, microbes are able to collectively track changes in their environment, conspire with their own species, build mutually beneficial alliances with other types of bacteria, gain advantages over competitors, and communicate with their hosts - the sort of collective strategizing typically ascribed to bees, ants, and people, not to bacteria.

Georgia on my mind

A recent issue of the New Yorker had an article about the rise of Chinese nationalism. In this article, I read a paragraph that impressed me strongly.

“Because we are in such a system, we are always asking ourselves whether we are brainwashed,” he said. “We are always eager to get other information from different channels.” Then he added, “But when you are in a so-called free system you never think about whether you are brainwashed.”

The coverage of the Russian-Georgian conflict by the mass media outlets in the US has been so unilateral and so sloganistic that it reminded me of the press in a dictatorship. I don't want to get into the details of the conflict; for those who are interested in finding out how this conflict unfolded can easily find the information online.

I am not sure what to think about this? Is it the case that the government has begun to somehow manipulate the press? I cannot think of any other reason for such unilateral and simplistic presentation of information.

Music Monday

Watch this Korean kid fingertap Bach's prelude and fugue #2 in C minor on two electric guitars...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This ridiculous world we live in...

During World War II, the Manhattan Project mobilized much of Berkeley's physics research in the effort to produce the first atomic bomb. Though Oppenheimer had asked Bohm to work with him at Los Alamos, the top-secret laboratory established in 1942 to design the bomb, the head of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves, would not approve Bohm's security clearance, after tip-offs about his politics (Bohm's friend, Joseph Weinberg, had also come under suspicion for espionage).

Bohm remained in Berkeley, teaching physics, until he completed his Ph.D. in 1943, under an unusually ironic circumstance. According to Peat (see reference below, p.64), "the scattering calculations (of collisions of protons and deuterons) that he had completed proved useful to the Manhattan Project and were immediately classified. Without security clearance, Bohm was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place!" To satisfy the university, Oppenheimer certified that Bohm had successfully completed the research. (Wikipedia)

More on Bohm's ideas and their implications later this week (bli neder)...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm back, baby!

The surgery seems to have gone well. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Thanks to everyone for the good wishes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Looking for a source

"When Elijah the prophet set out to discredit the false prophets of the idol Baal, he built an altar on Mount Carmel and sacrificed an ox there. The Talmud points out that after the First Temple was built sacrifice was forbidden any place but there. Elijah's altar would normally have been forbidden, then. However, as the sages taught, if we know someone to be a prophet of impeccable sanctity and piety, that person even may suspend one of the Torah's laws temporarily (except the one forbidding idol worship) for the purpose of sanctifying God's name."(JewishMag)

Does anyone know what the source of this idea is? Seems like a great way to justify a free-for-all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Brief Entr'acte

Blogging will be non-existent this week as I am in Boston accompanying my father for his surgery.

For those so inclined, a few prayers for Pinchas ben Basya would not go unappreciated. For those uninclined, just send some positive energy towards New England.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

If I were to sit under a tree and tell you the sadness we have to suffer, the leaves of that tree would fall like tears.

The institution of a cultic prostitute exists to this very day in India...

[Serving the Goddess]

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thomas Kinkade

Kudos to suitepotato for alerting me to where they are lampooning Thomas Kinkade's work with some creative photoshopping. Let's just say they are not fans.

Here's an example:


He's nine years older than me. I still have time :)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Stalin the BaalHaBos

Solzhenitsyn and his wife Natalya had not long been married when war broke out. He joined the army in 1941, got himself transferred to artillery school, graduated in 1942 and was sent to the front.

Solzhenitsyn commanded a battery at the Leningrad front and was twice decorated. Near the end of the war, Solzhenitsyn and a friend in another unit discussed how badly Stalin was conducting the war—and how badly he wrote the Russian language. Foolishly, they continued such comments in letters, lightly disguising their references to Stalin by calling him khozyain, "master," or balabos, an Odessan Yiddish slang word meaning "busybody."

SMERSH read the letters. In February of 1945, having fought his way through Poland and into East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, interrogated, beaten, and taken to the Greater Lyubyanka prison in Moscow.

Time Magazine, Sep 27, 1968

Die Klonkriege

Why does it sound so evil in German?

Apropos, having a duel with lightsabers must feel really weird. I've actually tried fighting someone with a steel sword (not a real fight). It takes a lot of energy to swing those suckers for more than a few minutes. Plus, there is the fact that the sword has momentum - you can't just stop a swing without serious exertion. But a lightsaber is essentially weightless...

No-Music Monday

Instead, please enjoy one of my favorite works by Magritte - The Empire of Light