Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Google Earth

Well, Google has done it again. Maybe that's why their stock is soaring...
The newest application from Google is called Google Earth. It is the next generation of their prior maps and satellite photos feature.
Though difficult to describe in words, let's just say that this is one of the most fun applets I've used in quite some time. And the best part? It's free! Basically a fully-loaded user-friendly GIS application is now out there for any of us to use. PC World says,
Google Earth is that spellbinding; it ranks among the best free downloads in the history of free downloads.
This piece of software allows you to jump to most addresses in the USA or cities in the world. You can dynamically pan in and out with various layers, in addition to the aerials, turned on. Not only that, but you can tilt and rotate your view dynamically. As well, buildings come in as 3D if you choose (in certain areas). Seriously, although I love maps, and thus may be biased, it's one of the coolest things I've seen online in awhile. It gives one tremendous hope for the potential the future holds for computing.
I would encourage everyone who enjoys technology to download it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Billy Graham

One of the great evangelists of our time has just completed what will likely be his last revival in America.
Billy Graham preached to an estimated 230,000 people this weekend in Queens, New York City.
Truly, it will be an end of an era when this man dies.

Friday, June 24, 2005


So Tom Cruise has made a little noise lately...
This morning, he was involved in a somewhat tense interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show. Basically, he was espousing his viewpoint that psychiatry is not a real science and that antidepressants should never be used. This is of course based on his religious belief in Scientology.

So many at this point in time may be wondering, what exactly is Scientology? We know that many stars 'follow' it, but what is it all about? Well, let's see if I can fill us in a bit.
The basis of Scientology is this:

Earthlings were invaded millions of years ago by alien souls sent here from outer space.
Wow, that sounds a little out there! So the idea is that only through Scientology can you rid your soul of its alien invader.

Scientology was invented in 1951 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author. He had just written Dianetics:The Modern Science of Mental Health, a book used as a basis for Scientology. Since then, the religion has grown to a claimed size of ~8 million people. The belief system is much more complex than can be completely analyzed here, but there are several places that have done it for us:
  • This site offers a thorough scholarly review of what Scientology is all about, including comparing it to and analyzing whether it could coexist with other religions.
  • This site claims that much of what Scientology teaches is a lie.

Suffice to say that if you practice a religion, it is likely incompatible with Scientology. For instance, Hubbard called Jesus' crucifixion a false memory and considered Christianity to be false. Of course from Christianity's perspective, Scientology would be considered a cult.

Personally, I find it difficult to believe that a serious seeker of truth would find it in Scientology.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Gay Marriage

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday ran an article on the anti- gay marriage movement in America. Although poorly titled, once you got into the article, it did give an interesting picture of the movement's frontline activists. Much of it was quite fair and it is a good primer for someone unfamiliar with the issues being fought over.
However, one main line I disagreed with the author on was this:
But, of course, the Christian activists aren't vague in their opposition. For them, the issue isn't one of civil rights, because the term implies something inherent in the individual -- being black, say, or a woman -- and they deny that homosexuality is inherent. It can't be, because that would mean God had created some people who are damned from birth, morally blackened.
This last line is a typical misunderstanding of evangelical Christianity. In fact, not only has God created "some people" who are by rights "damned", but we all are. For it says in the Bible (Christianity's handbook) that "all" have sinned and thus fall short of God's standard. Someone practicing homosexuality is no different than you or I in the fact that we sin. Thus, the central premise of Christianity is that we are redeemed not of ourselves but because of Jesus.

This has ramifications on this issue because if this is what the author, after all his interviews and interactions with activists, thinks, imagine what the gay couple in one brief, contentious conversation would. The lesson that the Christian community must communicate is that we all are wicked but we all are offered grace.

In the author's conclusion he says, in describing an encounter between a lesbian couple and an anti- gay marriage activist, that:
What was expressed as love was received as something close to hate. That's a hard gap to bridge.
And he's right, that is a tough gap to bridge, however, for Christians, that is the task.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Virtues Of Dirt

So which do you think is healthier for your child? If you keep them scrubbed and very clean or if you allow them to be quite a mess? While not quite that cut and dry, the hygiene hypothesis says it's the latter.
In today's Chicago Tribune, an op-ed piece asks parents to let their kids be kids and put those antibacterial wipes away. Bring on the pets and dirty playmates because it could keep your child healthier.
I have to admit, it makes a lot of sense to me.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Chicago's Team?

As you know, Chicago has two baseball teams. In a metro region this size, there should be no problem supporting both of them. Right?
Sadly, that isn't so. The Tribune says:
Total paid attendance for each club for the three dates: Cubs 19,410; Sox 56,609.
Think I reversed the numbers? Wasn't it the Cubs with more fans? Wrong, think again. The year is 1962, and the White Sox are the hands down city favorites. Crazy, eh?
Crazy because today the situation has reversed. The White Sox are the first place team in the division, but the fans aren't seeming to follow. Meanwhile, the Cubs consistently sell out. Even the Wall Street Journal has an article about the Sox fans' apathy despite their best record in baseball status.
The reasons for the Cubs' popularity over the White Sox today as compared to then are hard to nail down, but most people would say it's because of Wrigley Field. I might disagree. I think it may be because of the neighborhoods around the parks. If the City of Chicago had done a little better job of bringing in/allowing the same types of businesses around the *former Comiskey* Cell as surround Wrigley, I think it would be a different/the same story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Link of the Day -- Paul Shirley's Blog

Who, you might be asking, is Paul Shirley? Well, after reading his playoff blog (on the heels of his successful regular season blog), you'll know he's likely the funniest, most well-spoken NBA player. I'll leave it at that.
You have to read it for yourself. And I will add, my wife was even laughing out loud at parts of this. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I'm back.

And so is the Class Matters series from the New York Times. Sunday's article was a fascinating one about a woman right here in Chicago who has made the jump from extreme poverty to the middle class. It's an absolutely riveting article yet again.
The most dynamic bit to me was the fact that her oldest children (one who had been profiled by the NYT earlier in 1993), who matured while she was still struggling, are stuck repeating the failures she made earlier. This even while her youngest, blessed with things the oldest didn't have, are succeeding.
How little difference might there be between a child who "makes it" and one who doesn't?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wedding Bells

Well, I'm taking off today for my sister-in-law's wedding this weekend. (Read all about it here.) Thus, I may not be posting as often, but if I am able to, consider it a bonus.
Have a great week.
And here's wishing Becca and George a wonderful wedding day and a blessed happy marriage.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Today the Boston Globe published John Kerry's college grades. Lo and behold, guess who did not perform any better than W. Bush??
They attended the same school and likely took similar classes. So is it so obvious anymore which is brighter?
While not a stellar mark on either's record, this likely is somewhat of a surprise to a portion of the voting public.
It's all history now, though.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Link of the Day -- Baby Name Wizard

So if you read yesterday's post, you heard that one of the topics in Freakonomics is baby names. In fact, a whole chapter is devoted to it.
Well, in the spirit of that, let me point you to one of the coolest baby name sites out there. Baby Name Wizard is an applet that allows you to see how a name ranks and has ranked across time. I quickly spent a half hour trying different names and attempting to correlate certain patterns with certain types of names. All in all a fascinating site, which I'm sure you'll waste some time at. Good work to the creator.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Book of the Day -- Freakonomics

Today I finished reading one of the current non-fiction bestsellers, and I would love to recommend it, as I loved it. The book is Freakonomics.
If you've ever asked questions that buck conventional wisdom, this book is for you. It's a book written by Steven Levitt, a renowned economist at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Dubner, a writer for the New York Times, and it is mostly about studies Levitt has completed. He has applied his economics background to largely social science questions and by using his knack for asking the right questions, he has used data to show us a plethora of interesting, and often surprising, things. Being a bit of a numbers guy myself, I immensely enjoyed this book.
If you've ever wondered what caused crime to fall in the mid-90's or what makes a good parent or will my child's name matter, this is the book for you. If you are a fan of turning conventional wisdom on its head, this is definitely the book for you. And if you enjoy a good non-fiction read, and enjoy finding the truth in the world around us, make this one of the next books you read.
You will see I have linked the authors' blog on the right, and from there, you can browse to the book's website. Both are great clicks. Baseball fans take note of some of the comment-generating posts Levitt has made on baseball...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Link of the Day -- The Presurfer

Hey folks, just wanted to throw up a link of the day. Today's is The Presurfer. He calls his blog a Daily Dose of Diversion.
The Presurfer was one of the first blogs I began reading, and the links he finds satisfy the curiousity for quirky links we all have. I'm sure you'll find something there to click.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Darwin on Trial

Last week, the Chicago Tribune ran a profile of Phillip Johnson. He is what some call the 'Father of Intelligent Design.' Being as that has been in the news lately, it is appropriate to examine who Mr. Johnson is.
Most everyone seems to know the issues at hand. The intelligent design movement is one that looks at evolution and sees the holes in it. It also sees indications of beings designed so complexly that they could only have been designed intelligently. Phillip Johnson was one of the first to espouse this viewpoint, and made it widely known through his book, "Darwin on Trial." Another famous example of this perspective is found in "Darwin's Black Box," by Michael Behe.
Now, as many states are attempting to decide whether to teach this concept alongside evolution in their classrooms, I'd encourage you to read "Darwin on Trial" to learn firsthand exactly what the discussion is about. I have read the book, and the fundamental flaws in the evolutionary theory do seem at times to be potentially insurmountable. Of course, it is the best naturalistic possibility we have, and thus, science sticks with it. Would an intelligent creator be a blow to science? That is the question that needs asking.