Sunday, October 30, 2005

Link of the Day -- Bloglines

So if you're anything like me, you enjoy reading quite a number of blogs. Now if you were jumping from blog to blog to check if there had been any updates, you'd be in for quite the time-waster. Well, lucky for us, there's a service to help us. It's called a blog reader (aka: news reader, RSS reader, or aggregator).
I use one called Bloglines. I like it because it's web-based, and thus accessible from any computer I'm at. Basically, all you do is sign up and add feeds (directions to the blogs you like) and it will show new posts whenever they're made. Very handy. There are several competitors out there, and so find one you like and get in the game.
If you read more than like 3 blogs, it's definitely worth it.
And, of course, add my blog.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is Gold Worth It?

Gold recently reached a 17-year high. It's a pretty precious metal. But has it become too precious? A recent article from the UK calls into question whether the world's lust for golden jewelry is worth the cost to obtain that gold.
A £1,000 wedding ring - equivalent to one ounce of gold - creates up to 30 tons of toxic waste.
To obtain just that one ounce of gold costs the environment dearly. Most of the world's large deposits of gold ore are no longer and mining companies are left to leach out gold particles with a liquid cyanide solution, which is extremely toxic to all living things.
Cyanide is a toxic chemical - one teaspoon of 2 per cent cyanide solution is enough to kill a human being.
Literal lagoons of cyanide are all that remains in areas where all the gold containing ore has been stripped from the earth. Spills from those lakes leak into the area, wreaking havoc on the environment.

All of this for us to satisy our thirst for golden trinkets. Is it worth it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What makes a monopoly?

So this past week has been frustrating. My cable Internet service was out. I returned from NYC and the next day, out went the Internet. Talk about frustrating.
Needless to say, this isn't the first time my ISP has let me down. Shall I name names? Of course, because the service I have is through the only option I have, Comcast.
Let me just say, I know lots of people unhappy with their Comcast service, and especially after the last week, I'm included. After almost a full week of waiting, a tech rep had to come out only to find out that my connection had its place holder on the Comcast server switched and that's why my service was out.
It's frustrating, because Comcast is the only choice I have. Not only that, but their prices are very high. It makes me wonder, are they becoming a monopoly in many of the Chicago areas where a competitor doesn't exist?
Well, Wikipedia defines a monopoly as "a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a kind of product or service. Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods."
Others have also pointed out that Comcast may be behaving more and more like a monopoly.
Comcast is abusing its monopoly status by giving consumers less choice at a higher price.
Personally, I think they're dangerously close to abusing their sole cable Internet presence in my neighborhood. I pay double the price my parents do in my hometown for Internet. That's a pretty high premium to provide the same service in a city. I'd switch if I could.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

New York, New York...

..the city that doesn't sleep.

Last weekend, my wife and I had the fabulous opportunity to take a trip for a long weekend in New York City. We had an absolutely marvelous time. There's not much we love more than some time together trekking through a place we love to visit. We did a lot of walking and eating and saw some of our favorite parts of the city. We stayed down in the East Village and spent much of our time there or in the West Village.

While I won't be able to give a full report on our trip, here's some of my observations from NYC:

  • The city doesn't sleep. The song is true. By our place, on Friday and Saturday night, each block was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of people out and about. And it went on for blocks. It was so cool to be surrounded by such a vibrant place.
  • If you're a store that largely subsists on selling ice cream related products, such as sundaes, it would behoove you not to run out of ice cream for 3 days. (we checked back twice, finally arranging for them to sell us the toppings and we went and got ice cream elsewhere.) Nevertheless, it was still a store we loved. Next time you're in NYC, check out Peanut Butter & Co.
  • Due to the ridiculous prices NYC hotels were running at, we took advantage of a way to find a place to stay you may not be aware of. We rented someone's apartment directly from them while they were gone for the weekend. These sorts of places can be found on that lovely site called Craigslist. Luckily, we found a wonderful place. Thanks Jen. Check out our host's gallery here.
  • This was the first time I had ever been to Brooklyn. We jaunted around the borough for an afternoon. There are parts of it that downright feel like Chicago. (Or do parts of Chicago feel like Brooklyn?) A couple pretty neat neighborhoods were toured.
  • On Sunday, we grabbed some lunch from a deli on the Upper East Side after church and took it down into Central Park. We were soon treated to a show put on by a photographer shooting a couple's (we presume) engagement photo. He directed them all over some rocks near our bench, expressing frustration when other unaware park-goers wandered into the background. Pretty classic.
  • As you probably heard, NYC and the Northeast had been getting a lot of rain. Lucky for us, it only rained on Friday while we were there. That, of course, was enough for us to be glad that was all we got.
  • We ate out a ton of course. The last day, I officially overdid it. But it was worth it. The two favorite restaurants we went to were a cozy Italian East Village dinner place called Supper and a traditional American with a touch of the Midwest Greenwich Village place called Home. They come recommended.

All in all, it was a great weekend trip. We found it both relaxing and fun, a refreshing time together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A question about The Answer

The NBA has issued a new dress code for its players that will go into effect on November 1. This new code is displeasing to some of the players, but it only applies when they're on official NBA business.

In the picture below, how many NBA dress code violations do you see?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

White Sox in World Series!

Congratulations to the 2005 American League champion Chicago White Sox! Their stellar pitching, stifling defense, aggressive base running, and timely hitting made the talented Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim look like an average team.

If the Sox go on to win the World Series, it will be interesting to see how/if the dynamics between Chicago's two major league baseball teams will change in the future. For a fun trip down memory lane, you can read Westy's post on this subject from June 18.

Who do you think should have been the ALCS MVP? Here's my vote:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Urban Planning Made Fun

Chicago Metropolis 2020, a local planning agency, has released an online game, called Metro Joe, targeted at youngsters to familiarize them with the planning challenges facing the Chicago area. I thought I'd point you towards it, because lo and behold, it's kinda fun.
As a civil engineering/urban planning dual major student, I have to admit that there might have been at least a little push towards those degrees from the wonderful game called Sim City, which gained popularity right as I was going through junior high and high school.
Maybe this game will do the same for some kid out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Commoditization of Today's Young Athletic Stars

Today Andy Katz of ESPN had an interesting blog post pointing out that former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is still recruiting the top junior basketball player in the country, O.J. Mayo.
Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is still recruiting top 2006 recruit O.J. Mayo. We're just not sure for whom.
Why is that a big deal? Because Bob Huggins was fired and doesn't have a job. So he's recruiting this player to whatever presumed job he's going to land. Does anyone else feel like that treats young Mr. Mayo like he's just a commodity?

To top that off, notice with what nonchalance Mayo drops to Katz the names of his other suitors:
Who else is calling Mayo?

"Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Michigan State and just about everybody else," Mayo said Tuesday.
Is this too much too soon? Hmm, it must be easy for this young man to keep his head small and on his shoulders.

Well, maybe not. Apparently Mayo and fellow big-time baller recruit Bill Walker have made some enemies at their school. Is this related to the awestruck treatment they've received since they were kids and maybe come to expect? I don't know the circumstances, so I can't say, but you be the judge.

It's a fine line between exaltation and exploitation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stop the randsanity!!! (Just kidding, please keep it going.)

Last New Year's Eve, I went to the wedding of two college friends of mine, Tony Guerrero and Lisa Baker (now Guerrero too). It was a lovely celebration and the first time I had seen them both in quite a while. Fortunately, I've been able to see them a few more times this year (including Costa Rica night and GameWorks for Lisa's birthday). However, I still felt like something was missing recently... perhaps subtle yet profound... but I wasn't sure. Then it hit me: I hadn't received an LoL in like forever.

For those of you who don't know, Lisa used to send e-mail updates about her life to friends and family. Back in 2002 when she started the LoL, these updates were weekly. Over time, they became less and less frequent. Then one day, like I said previously, it just sort of hit me that it had been like forever since I had received an LoL.

Of course, the first thing that crossed my mind was to be like Sherlock Holmes and try to solve this mystery. I thought about sending Lisa an e-mail to inquire about the matter, but decided that it might be a touchy subject. So I gave up on the Sherlock Holmes track and decided to reminisce about the good ol' days instead.

The first thing I realized was that I had been taking the LoL for granted all this time. How could I have been so stupid? But hey, the LoL was a great ride while it lasted. (Did you know that the word "randsanity" was invented by Lisa in one of her LoL's? True story.) And of course, I'll never forget the shoutouts. To be mentioned by Lisa in an LoL was the highest honor she could electronically bestow upon a person. (I wasn't going to say anything about this, but yes, one time I was the recipient of an LoL shoutout.)

Oh, the memories. Sadly, they had apparently come to an end... but wait, what's this new message in my inbox from Lisa Guerrero? It couldn't possibly be..
LoL#54: Multitasking while Multitasking
Disclaimer: Okay it's been forever since I've
sent an LoL and my address book is on the
fritz so if you weren't ever on "the list"
before sorry if you're confused. LoL stands for
Life of Lisa or Lisa on Life or Lisa Online
or whatever and it was once a weekly e-mail from
me that became a monthly than a quarterly and
is now a once in a blue moon quasi-humorous
rambling e-mail from me. For a further history
see The Archives at MSN Groups

So I'm back. I know it's been a long time and
for those of you that actually read these, sorry
to disappoint. I don't know if I've just been
overly busy lately or just uninspired, but
work's been a bear so I haven't had much time to
spew all my crazy ponderings into an e-mail for
y'all. Not that today is much slower, but I tend
to have these brief breaks throughout my day
(waiting for centrifuges to spin, purification
columns to drip, cells to plate, etc....) and I
thought maybe I could string a bunch of breaks
together to create something of a coherent e-mail.
But before I continue I have to go warm up my
cell media in the water bath. Be right back....

....Okay where was I.... Oh yeah I wanted to tell
you all about my super spiffy trip to Washington
D.C.!! It was way cool. Tony just changed jobs
and he had a week vacation paid out from his old
job so I took some time off and we went to visit
his dad in DC. We spent most of the trip museum
hopping which was quite convenient since there
were no lines and everything was free. I'll give
you the play by play of what we saw/did in one
sentence but keep in mind this was over four
days: Dulles Airport, Natural History Museum,
President Bush (in his limo), Sculpture Garden,
White House, US Treasury, White House Visitor
Center, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Castle,
rode the metro, coffee with Barack Obama & Dick
Durbin (IL senators), Senate gallery tour, Botanic
Gardens, Air & Space Museum, American History
Museum, Chinatown, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam
Memorial, Korean War Memorial, WWII Memorial,
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington House,
Air & Space Museum Annex, and back to Dulles
Airport. It was an awesomely full trip! Now that
things are more routine again - actually my
centrifuge just beeped. Hold on....

Sorry. I'm purifying SPARC (it's a protein...
'nuff said) today which means every 20 minutes I
have to add more PBS to the columns in the
centrifuge. I'm also running a proliferation assay
which requires a one hour incubation after adding
reagents to my cells followed by two plate reader
applications. And then I'm treating a different
plate of cells with two different growth factors
and eight dilutions of SPARC. As well as
answering the phone, signing for packages,
placing orders, refilling tips, checking on
mice, etc. etc. etc. Hence (as you noticed from
the title) I dedicate this LoL to all of you
considered to be Masters of Multitasking!! But
seriously, people, what's the deal with
Multitasking anyway??? Doesn't it really just
indicate that -

*phone call*

- we're all just overworked? That's what
interviewers want these days is a "Multitasker"
which basically means they want to hire the person
who will do the most things at once. How crazy
is that?!?!?? I'm certain that once upon a time
it was quite acceptable and perhaps even applauded
to compile a "To Do" list and methodically check
off the items one by one, yet in this day and age
we would call someone like that slow and
inefficient. This is the Age of The Multitasker.
And note we're not looking for Dualtaskers or
Tritaskers, no we want MULTI!! The more the
better! In fact even e-mail has thrived because I
can send a message to all 43 of you with the click
of a single button. But let's not stop there.
Consider if you will a grand phenomenon known as
The Lunch Meeting. No, you can't take precious
time out of your work day to do something as
mundane (and hopefully relaxing) as eating lunch.
That would be a waste of time! Instead we need
to -

*sorry had to show our new medical fellow where
the syringes are kept*

- use that precious lunch hour for more business!!
And then there's the more overlooked expanders of
multitasking. Take for example voice mail. It's
no longer good enough just to talk to someone on
the phone. We need the capability to take
someone ELSE'S call while we're talking. Or even
worse is Call Waiting. When you utter that sweet
little "Hold Please" aren't you basically just -

*centrifuge again*

- telling the person on the line that you'd
rather be talking to someone else? And how about
the brilliant invention that is the TiVo?
Granted most people have some generic cable
company provided DVR system but everyone calls
them all TiVo's anyway. And I like how "TiVo" is
suddenly an acceptable verb as in "I won't be
home to watch Lost tonight, could you TiVo it for
me?" That cracks me up. But I digress, the
genius of this product is that you can tape one
thing and watch something else. Even in
something as purely leisurous as TV watching,
we've found a way to multitask.

Anyhoo, I have a point here *shocking isn't it?*
and I just remembered what it was. See, I was
talking to a pastor friend of mine the other day
about taking some time out from all the work
I've been doing at church. I'm no longer going
to be leading a small group of high school
students and am transitioning into working more
with the service ministry (where Tony and I
are both involved) and working to get students
involved with service projects. But I was
telling him that I've been feeling spread too
thin and that in trying to do too many things
I wasn't giving my full heart to any of it.
He told me very simply "Sometimes you just
have to focus on One Thing." I laughed rather
cynically considering all that typically goes
on in my life and replied "Easier said than
done." But rather than accept my attitude he
came back with "Better done than regretted."
I think I at first took his comment to mean
that I should just have one ministry in my
life but when I thought about all that I care
about in life (family, friends, work, church,
self, home, etc etc etc), two things came to
mind: God and Finger Eleven.

Let me explain. There's a Finger Eleven song
that came out sometime last year and it's
called "One Thing" and the lyrics to the
chorus are : "If I traded it all, If I gave
it all away for one thing... Just for one
thing. If I sorted it out, If I knew all about
this one thing, Wouldn't that be something?"
And in thinking about those lyrics I realized
that God should and needs to be my One Thing.
All the rest can be better cared about if that
first part is true. What would life look like
if instead of trying to do a million things
for the church I "traded it all" for making
God my priority? How much calmer and less
hurried could I be "If I sorted it out" and
"If I knew all about" God and His plans for me?
As the song says "Wouldn't that be something?"
So maybe this is where the truth and the good
side of Multitasking comes in. We need to
start with our One Thing. With that in focus we
can handle everything else that we need to deal
with. And maybe that is easier said than done,
but I'm certain it's better done than regretted.

Multitaskfully Yours,

lisa :)

p.s. For those newbies on the list, sorry if
this failed to amuse you. My last e-mail was
all about an annoying air freshener so you
can check out the archive for something more
entertaining if you like.

p.p.s. Here's the full lyrics of the song
for anyone who cares:
Restless tonight cause I wasted the light
Between both these times I drew a really thin line
It�s nothing I planned and not that I can
But you should be mine across that line

If I traded it all,
If I gave it all away for one thing...
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out,
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldn't that be something?

I promise I might not walk on by
Maybe next time but not this time
Even though I know I don't want to know
Yeah... I guess I know I just hate how it sounds

If I traded it all,
If I gave it all away for one thing...
Just for one thing
If I sorted it out,
If I knew all about this one thing
Wouldn't that be something?

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Scientific discovery has indicated that we may live in a universe that features 11 dimensions (or ten or twelve). 11, you say?!? What are all of them?
For years, cosmologists have been saying that the universe would make a lot more sense if only it had more dimensions than the four we perceive — that is, three spatial dimensions plus time.

If there were, say, 10 dimensions or so, the equations linking gravity and atomic forces into a "theory of everything" would work out just fine.
Hmm, so how exactly does this work? If there are really ten, eleven, or twelve dimensions, where are they? Why do we only experience three? Well, scientists believe they may have discovered a reason.
In a paper due to be published in Physical Review Letters, two physicists propose that the kind of cosmos we live in represents one of the most likely results of something you could call the "battle of the branes."

That's not a typo: We're not talking about gray matter here, but rather different levels of dimensional spaces, known as branes. In cosmological parlance, a two-dimensional space, or membrane, is a "2-brane." A line is a 1-brane, a particle is a 0-brane, and we perceive space as a 3-brane.

Harvard's Lisa Randall and the University of Washington's Andreas Karch did some heavy-duty mathematical analysis of a scenario in which an expanding 10-dimensional space holds a variety of branes.

If two branes intersect, they are annihilated and their energy is dissipated. "The net result of all this is that you reduce the number of branes," Karch explained. And because of the 10-dimensional geometry, some types of branes are more likely to survive than others.

When you bring it back up to 10-D (actually "nine-plus-one" D, since we're talking about nine spatial dimensions plus time), the math indicates that the 3-branes like ours hold a special status. "A 3-brane is the largest brane that doesn't get destroyed by its cousins," Karch said.

The findings are consistent with the idea that our whole universe is a 3-D region within a wider, flatter 10-D realm. Such regions "could be like sinkholes in which gravity is localized," Karch said. And ultimately, that could help explain why gravity works the way it does.

The other class of dimensional space that shows a good survival rate is the 7-brane — which doesn't apply to our particular sinkhole in the cosmic roadway, but turns out to match the expectations of string theorists.

"Several versions of string theories require the existence of 3-D and 7-D branes; indeed, the particles that constitute matter — such as quarks and electrons — can be considered open strings with one end planted on a 3-D brane and the other end planted on a 7-D brane," Phillip Schewe and Ben Stein of the American Institute of Physics [said].

The quest could lead theorists forward to that fabled "theory of everything".
This is all somewhat difficult to comprehend. And that's exactly it--our human brains cannot fathom any more than the four we understand. (if you would like to give it a try, Lisa Randall has written a book called Warped Passages in which she attempts to)

As we ponder the universe around us, these findings cause me to wonder what this means. The way it all comes together seems to me to point to something behind the patterns. It's interesting that the numbers 3 and 7 come out. Where else do those numbers take on special meaning?

A recent book, Beyond The Cosmos by Hugh Ross, has gone so far as to say just that-- that the multidimensionality of our universe could point to God. I'd encourage people interested in this to follow up by reading a couple of these books. Personally, I find it compelling that science could point us to God. I do believe that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and I also think we eventually will find that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Catholic church on the Bible

In a surprising development, the British leaders of the Catholic church there have released a document called The Gift of Scripture, which says they no longer believe the Bible is totally true.

Say the Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland:
We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision.
Seemingly, this document has been approved by the Pope, and will be disseminated throughout the world.
The bishops' document was recently presented in Rome at the Congress to celebrate the forty years of Dei Verbum, and to Pope Benedict. The delegates to that Congress, gathered from every continent, will ensure widespread distribution of The Gift of Scripture. The document deserves the same wide distribution in our own countries.
This truly is a peculiar document. The bishops state that The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, but say that,
We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.
That's a little confusing to me. So basically they're saying that they have the special ability to determine now almost 2,000 years after most of the New Testament was written exactly what is right and what is wrong in the Bible? That does not seem logical or plausible. Shouldn't it either be true or untrue in totality? How can it be God's word if it's not?

This position, of course, is exactly opposite that of fundamentalist Christians who believe the Bible is inerrant. The bishops, however, go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach. "Such an approach is dangerous," they say, as it may cause some people to feel they have a mandate.

Stunningly, in the foreward, the authors say,
People today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true.
I ask, is this really helping people find the truth?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Never Give Up

Scientists in Florida stumbled upon the remains of a Burmese python that tried to eat a six foot alligator whole. Both died in the struggle.

It's quite a gory sight. This is what happens when two creatures used to being king of their domain encounter one another. The python is obviously not native to Florida and, according to officials, is a burgeoning problem. They were likely first introduced to the area when a pet owner got rid of their snake and have quickly begun wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem.

To be honest, the scene reminds me of the famous frog-bird cartoon:

And let this be a lesson to you. Don't ever give up.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Slippery Slope

A recent report from the U.K. says that the institution of marriage in that country is more troubled than it ever has been.
Marriage is on the rocks in Britain, with the proportion of unmarried people set to exceed that of married people within 25 years as more men and women opt to live together without constraints.
This is indicative of the decline in conventional successful marriages since the middle of the century. Statistics are not much different here in America.

Similarly, in a sign of changes to the institution of marriage, the first legal 3-way civil union in the Netherlands also was conducted last week. Said the groom (there were two brides):
I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both.
Thus, the relationship now has all the legal rights of marriage.

Some have asked, "Why is gay marriage any of my business since it doesn't affect me?" Well, I point to these happenings and say, "Do you see?"

First it was divorce. Now that is 'okay' by societal standards. Next comes gay marriage. If that movement is successful in our country, is it any question the next step would be 3-way polygamous unions as is already happening as illustrated above?

This is the prototypical slippery slope. Once the slide begins, it is very, very difficult to stop. Let us band together and hold onto our marriages as sacred. This is an establishment, a covenant, created by God, which we have no right to destroy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Piiinnnk is my favorite color...

Did you know that at the University of Iowa, the visiting football team's locker room is completely pink? The lockers, walls, carpet, doors, showers, sinks, urinals... everything. The thinking is that pink will have a calming effect on the players, perhaps causing them to lose a little bit of their aggression and thus not perform at optimal levels.

Personally, I think this is brilliant and would strongly encourage my own Fighting Illini to implement this strategy. I for one would be messed up in the head if I had to dress in such an environment. (I'd probably feel like a sniffly 7-year old waiting to see the pediatrician.)

Of course, there's at least one person at Iowa who's opposed to this tradition. (Must be a Michigan fan.)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Leno v. Letterman

Of the following two guys...

...who do you think is the better late-night comic?