Archive for July, 2007

Weekend Reading 07/12

It’s been a while, but I’ve been working on a few small projects of mine in the past couple of weeks and all I have to say about that is, finally! It’s great to be able to focus my energy on projects that I care about rather than on making it through the school day, even if my update schedule suffers. I’ve also been reading The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky) like mad this week and enjoying every page of it. It’s impossible to find a modern book with so much depth in ideology and character development. I can’t put it down, but I don’t want to finish it so quickly!

I also went to see Michael Moore’s new documentary Sicko, and it was much better than anything I expected. I walked in wondering why I bothered, and came out raving about how excellent it was. It made me realize how lucky I am to live here in Canada – I couldn’t even imagine some of the things people in the States had to go through for health care. At the end of the movie, everyone in the almost-full movie theatre was clapping, and this is Canada… we wouldn’t clap for a film about the American health care system if it wasn’t just that good.

My internet connection was down all week and it drove me insane. The thing that most bothered me about it – strangely – was the lack of access to Wikipedia. I never realized just how many times I use it every day. I have almanacs, atlases, and a full set of encyclopedias on hand at home, but none could give me the same depth and breadth of information as Wikipedia. How much of a Web 2.0 commentary is that?
Lots of links in this week’s post!

Best of the Week – Psychology/Society: Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature (Psychology Today)
The world isn’t politically correct, so why should we act like it? This article lists ten possibly offensive truths about human nature – why most terrorists are Muslims, why blond women are more attractive, why beautiful people have more daughters, etc. (The only one I potentially disagree with is the last one, why sexual harrassment isn’t sexist, but then again I’m not an expert.)

Psychology/Society: Blame it on Mr Rogers: Why Young Adults Feel So Entitled (Wall Street Journal)
Not sure how long this article will remain fully available online – the Wall Street Journal tends to pull articles from public access after a few days. It starts blaming Mr Rogers for telling children that they’re special and perfect just the way they are without having to earn such opinions, then moves on to target overinvolved parents.

Science/Society: Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much (NY Times)
Political scientist Jon Miller comments on scientific literacy in the United States. Some very sad statistics come out of his work: “American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.”

History: An animation of conquest in the Middle East
It’s always been an area of political turmoil. I can’t even count the number of empires that have existed there…

Psychology: Procrastination: Ten Things to Know (Psychology Today)
Ten very interesting facts about procrastination and procrastinators. They’re not blatantly obvious things like “Procrastinators get less done” and “Procrastinators are less successful”… most of them you probably haven’t heard before, ie, procrastinators seem to have more health problems than non-procrastinators.

Humor: Why God Was Denied Tenure and Why Indiana Jones Was Denied Tenure
Oldies but goodies! The first one (God) is my personal favorite of the two, though I’m too young to have really grown up with Indiana Jones, so maybe the full humor of the second one is lost on me. The first one is just gold, go read it; here’s a teaser from the second: “Criticisms of Dr Jones ranged from ‘possessing a perceptible methodological deficiency’ to ‘practicing archaeology with a complete lack of, disregard for, and colossal ignorance of current methodology, theory, and ethics’ to ‘unabashed grave-robbing’. … Moreover, no one on the committee can identify who or what instilled Dr Jones with the belief that an archeaologist’s tool kit should consist solely of a bullwhip and a revolver.”

Religion/Atheism: How to Irritate an Atheist
A list of irritating things that theists often say (I can personally vouch for a lot of these).

Religion/Misogyny: Women and the Bible (Ethical Atheist)
Some disgustingly misogynistic quotes directly from the Bible itself. There are more than two dozen Bibles in my house (no, seriously) and I’ve checked their accuracy; these are direct quotations, no bias. Misogynistic gold from these passages includes asserting that the rape of “captive” women is fair game, instructions for selling daughters, lots of polygamy, blatant incest, and Lot offering the virginity of his two daughters to his male guests.

Politics/Society: Holocaust Survivor Leaving U.S.
The author of this post has an elderly neighbour who survived the Holocaust and is returning to Germany, claiming that he has seen this sort of political climate before – in the years preceding the Holocaust.. Chillling.

Religion/Atheism: Why Don’t Theists Believe What Atheists Tell Them About Atheism?
A: “The answer, I think, is that Christians asking such questions aren’t asking real questions at all… it’s more common for Christians to only ask rhetorical questions about atheism and atheists. They are like parents asking their children what happened to the missing cookie: the parents know very well what happened and are only interested in seeing if their children will own up to what they did…Typically, the religious theist claims that the atheist is somehow “in denial” about the truth.”

Psychology/Creativity: The Creative Personality (Psychology Today)
Guest article by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi about the ten paradoxical traits that creative individuals typically possess, adapted from a much more thorough discussion in his 1996 book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Creative people have the tendency to completely polarize certain traits when it benefits them (e.g., very easygoing and playful in the company of others but extremely focused and severe when working), even traits that are supposed to be constant in someone’s personality (i.e., extroversion and introversion, which very creative individuals can swap between at will).

Gender: Understanding Transgender Children (ABC News)
The story of Jazz, a transgendered 6-year-old girl (formerly boy).

Atheism/Society: The Price of Atheism (ABC News – VIDEO)
A teenage girl in Oklahoma claims to have been ostracized by her classmates and teachers when she revealed that she was an atheist, and left her high school because of their ridicule. (I wonder why her family moved to one of the most religious states in the US if they were all atheists – surely they didn’t expect a smooth reception?)

Caffeine/Fun: Death by Caffeine
Enter in your weight and caffeinated beverage of choice, and this neat little online gadget will tell you exactly how much of it would kill you. (It’s based on the lethal dose of caffeine, but with that many cups of whatever, I’d be more concerned about drowning.)

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