merry christmas to all

It's not a front in the culture wars.
It's not a political statement.
It's not a time to force your beliefs (or lack thereof) on everyone else.

Lighten up.


Be around the ones you love.

And have fun.



It's something I value and strive for. So rather than recapitulate recent events in the horse race, I'll simply quote this guy.

So Paul has to rake in a cool $5 million in one day to be mentioned in the MSM, and Obama just has to walk into a church. And Huckabee just has to smile. Well fuck.


I'm pretty sure the Huckabubble© will burst, and as much as I'd like to see Obama take Clinton out, Democrat primary voters have a nasty habit of nominating the candidate most likely to have been a hall monitor. (The previous Clinton being the obvious--and most successful--exception.)

You know...even if you aren't inclined to support Ron Paul, you have to admit that it'd be fun to watch all the heads exploding if he actually won.


podcast bleg

So my lab moved last week.

That's really no big deal, but an unpleasant outcome of this is that I've lost radio reception at my bench. (I'm in an interior space now. Very interior.) I didn't really appreciate how much the constant presence of NPR smoothed over those marathon sessions of benchwork that have become the norm for me lately.

I can stream all kinds of stuff at my desk...but that's in another room, and asking someone whose desk is in the lab to play stuff for me on their computer (and crank it up so I can hear it over the hood and incubators, please) seems a bit of an imposition.

However, I have rigged up a pair of computer speakers that I can plug my iPod into and it works quite nicely. So I am becoming a podcast geek.

Anyway, I've subscribed to all the NPR stuff I like, as well as other fairly obvious stuff (Scientific American, The New Yorker, Ricky Gervais) but I'm interested to know if anybody has come across anything I might not have heard of. I figure for the next few months I've got probably 25-30 hours a week where I am at the bench for very long periods, so I'm up for trying anything to fill the time.

Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.


tooting my tiny piece of the horn

I'm allowed to post a favorable review, if I can only take 1/150th (less than that, really) of the credit for what's being reviewed, right?

I hope so:

In celebration of that anniversary the Choral Society commissioned American composer Steven Sametz to compose a new work in honor of [the conductor's 20th anniversary with the group]... The poetry speaks of stars and light, birth and rebirth, angels and peace.

The music of Part I of "Thou Whose Birth" begins with a first inversion F-sharp major chord (A on the bottom, C-sharp and F-sharp above) sung by the sopranos and altos. In three measures the chord resolves and is picked up in the second phrase as a G-major triad by the tenors and basses. It is an utterly unexpected and jaw-dropping sound.

It was pretty fun to sing, too.

I'm the last person on earth to be offering advice to parents, but...parents: get your kids involved in music. Really. Just do it. They don't have to become concert pianists to have something they will be able to enjoy for the rest of their life.

And you never know...they may get the opportunity to perform something amazing that no one has ever heard before.


romney's speech on religious (non)tolerance

Here's the problem with Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

Mormons believe strange things. (In broad strokes) they believe that you lived a pre-mortal life, that your life on earth (what the rest of us call "your life") is just one step in the process of learning the difference between good and evil, that you retain your essential personality (and, importantly, gender) after death, that you will get another body at some point in the future depending on how rightous (i.e., Mormon) you are, with Satan and his immediate associates being banished to some place called the outer darkness, the merely wicked to the "telestial kingdom" which is more or less like hell, (but only for 1000 years), the basically good non-Mormons getting to live in the "terrestrial kingdom" which actually sounds pretty decent, and the good Mormons getting to shag and make spirit babies in the celestial kingdom for all eternity. (Compiled and quickly summarized from here and here.)

I've left a lot out here--mostly because I don't care to get much deeper into it myself--but this pretty much covers the really big theological differences that Mormons have with evangelical Christians. (There's also some stuff about God having a body and Jesus showing up in North America to preach to a tribe of white people, not to mention the whole magic underwear thing, but let's not pile on the Mormons, OK? Seriously. They make good neighbors.)

The thing is...none of this is objectively sillier than what evangelical Christians believe. What makes the Mormon four-tiered afterlife stranger than the Christian two-tiered one? What makes a God with a human-like body stranger than an amorphous spirit who is (according to most modern church doctrines) omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent--and yet, is somehow either bound by his own arcane rules of sin and redemption, or disinclined to bend them for the benefit of his people (whom he loves!)

I could go on, but that's a book, not a blog. And it's been written several times over by better writers than me. The only real difference is that there are a lot more evangelicals than Mormons around. So a 2000-year-old Jewish guy preaching a kindler, gentler version of God, being executed by the government, rising from the dead, and ascending to heaven and by so doing making it no longer necessary for people to slit the throats of livestock and set them on fire to make God happy and get into heaven--that makes perfect sense, BUT...that guy showing up in North America a few years later to preach a gospel of celestial procreation is cultish and weird.


Honestly, I have nothing against Mormons or evangelicals. Really, I don't. I just don't share their beliefs. However, neither do I buy into the politically correct nonsense about "respecting the beliefs of others", because respecting the beliefs of others makes absolutely no sense. Either your beliefs are better than everyone else's, or they aren't. And if they aren't then what's the point, exactly?

I believe my beliefs are better than yours. Deal with it.

I do, however, believe in respecting people, if they are worthy of that respect. And I base that judgment not on what people believe, but what they do. Of course, Mitt Romney and the people to whom he was pandering yesterday clearly would not extend me the same courtesy.

Until it becomes socially acceptable and politically feasible for an atheist/agnostic to be out of the closet, this country can lay little claim to meaningful religious tolerance.



Congratulations to Rob, Jana, and Jackson on the arrival of Ella and Jonathan.


weekend math

A = $4 table wine that's actually good, enjoyed with dinner and purchased from the newly-opened Trader Joe's that doesn't involve a 40-minute drive to the most hateful place in the known universe = awesome

B = Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout, a birthday gift from the neighbors = really awesome

C = Homemade eggnog enjoyed while decorating the Christmas tree = super awesome

A + B + C consumed consecutively on Saturday = a very sluggish Sunday



So I turned 30 a couple of weeks back and had been thinking I would have something to say to mark the occasion, some sort of semi-profound pronouncement, a glimmer of the accumulated acumen of my first three decades to reveal upon entering my fourth, a nostalgic reflection on what was and a melancholy meditation on what wasn't, a folksy fulcrum upon which to pivot into unadulterated adulthood.

Or failing that, I could at least string together some cool-sounding words in a marginally clever manner. Because the truth is that I've really got nothing here.

I guess what's different, if anything, is that I know it. Maybe that's the point.

I'll get back to you at 60 and let you know.