Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Vista blues:
"In my view, we lost our way," Vista's manager, Jim Allchin, wrote in an e-mail (later posted online) to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and chief executive Steve Ballmer. "I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Well, whaddya know?

I am:
Robert A. Heinlein
Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.

Which science fiction writer are you?

(But...I thought I was Gene Wolfe...or James Blish...)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Charles Krauthammer:
There is no free lunch. Producing energy is going to produce waste. You pick your poison and you find a way to manage it. Want to do something about global warming? How many global warming activists are willing to say the word nuclear?
He nails it, as usual.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One of the reasons I can't get that worked up about so-called militant atheism is because I believe its major proponents are whistling past the graveyard. There is a threat out there...and it could destroy our way of life. But it isn't religious fundamentalism. As Victor Davis Hanson points out, it's something that should be much more obvious to rational people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Andrew Sullivan and Ben Stiller Sam Harris debate religion, God and fundamentalism.
(Sorry, couldn't resist. I mean, that's who the poor guy looks like...)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Charles Krauthammer on the latest promising development in stem cell research:

This is a revolutionary finding. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy. It is routinely drawn out by needle in amniocentesis. The procedure carries little risk and is done for legitimate medical purposes that have nothing to do with stem cells. If it nonetheless yields a harvest of stem cells, we have just stumbled upon an endless supply.

And not just endless, but uncontroversial. No embryos are destroyed. The cells are just floating there, as if waiting for science to discover them.

Even better, amniotic fluid might prove to yield an ideal stem cell -- not as primitive as embryonic stem cells and therefore less likely to grow uncontrollably into tumors, but also not as developed as adult stem cells and therefore more "pluripotential'' in the kinds of tissues it can produce.

If it is proved that these are the Goldilocks of stem cells, history will record the amniotic breakthrough as the turning point in the evolution of stem cell research from a narrow, difficult, delicate and morally dubious enterprise into an uncontroversial one with raw material produced unproblematically every day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The always fascinating Scott Carson is on a roll:
One of my colleagues, who specializes in philosophy of science and who is a militant atheist, has said that you’d have to be a moron to be a realist about science these days (I wish he would say what he really thinks one of these days). In short, I don’t think that evolutionary theory, either in its Darwinian or neo-synthesis form, compels us to either nominalism or anti-essentialism unless we presuppose materialist reductionism. If you make that a priori assumption then, sure, lots of things will follow that are not very congenial to the view I’m defending. Like Aristotle, however, I am an anti-reductionist.
Why I love Kevin Smith:
“I’m not a visual person,” he admitted. “I like dialogue. I’m interested in character [development].”

It’s true that crafting lovely prose isn’t the creative endeavor that best leverages the Mac’s engineering feats. Is this heresy in a crowd of Macophiles? (Your correspondent happens to be working on a PC, not that this prose is lovely.)

A friend finally gave Smith an iPod which he says he let sit on his desk for months before discovering the elegant UI that permitted even one such as he to embrace the 21st century--hence, Smith’s conversion to the Apple-way-of-life, and his presence here today. (It’s all beginning to make sense now, right?)

So now even Smith has found a deep appreciation for the, uh, seminal influence of Apple’s artistry. And this is when Smith finally prognosticated, and on far more than just the future of digital film-making:
“We have the iPod, the iPhone, the iTV...[and] next we’ll have the iF**k. All we need is a little hole in the iPod and there won’t be a reason for [us] to be around anymore. It will be the end of civilization, thanks to Steve F---ing Jobs.”

Somehow, it still sounded like a compliment.
I met Smith briefly at a Los Angeles writer's seminar back in November 1997. He is truly an unassuming, funny guy. And I really admire his dedication to the word. Literally. No matter how off the cuff his screenplays sound--he makes his actors stick to what he wrote.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This is so depressing.
I wish the story ended here, but, unfortunately, it does not. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops told Corrierre della Sera yesterday that “when Archbishop Wielgus was nominated, we did not know anything about his collaboration with the secret service.” This, of course, flatly contradicts Wielgus’ admission and apology, which expressly and repeatedly said that Wielgus had fully disclosed his past activities to the Holy Father and the appropriate Vatican dicasteries, which had to include the Congregation for Bishops. In light of the curious language used in the Vatican Press Office’s statement from December 21, which asserted that the Holy See knew all about Wielgus’ past and never actually denied the accusations against him, it would seem that Re’s statement to Corrierre della Sera is not correct.
Why are we surprised to find that so many people think the Church is run by knaves?
(And idiots, it goes without saying.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

There Must Be Some Mistake Here! Dept.
Fascinating discussion over at Maverick Philosopher, in which Richard Dawkins (inadvertently!) hearkens back to Thomas Aquinas.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Excellent interview with Heather MacDonald posted at Razib's...
So in the American Conservative piece I wanted to offer some resistance to the assumption of conservative religious unanimity. I tried to point out that conservatism has no necessary relation to religious belief, and that rational thought, not revelation, is all that is required to arrive at the fundamental conservative principles of personal responsibility and the rule of law. I find it depressing that every organ of conservative opinion reflexively cheers on creationism and intelligent design, while delivering snide pot shots at the Enlightenment. Which of the astounding fruits of empiricism would these Enlightenment-bashers dispense with: the conquest of cholera and other infectious diseases, emergency room medicine, jet travel, or the internet, to name just a handful of the millions of human triumphs that we take for granted?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's resolution for 2007.

In their own words, as Barbara Forrest makes plain in her excellent summary:
The legal defeat of ID is forcing Wedge strategists to seek new markets for their creationism and to work their conservative Christian market more thoroughly. They are peddling ID abroad: DI has added international signatories to “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” Even during the trial, they held an ID conference in Prague. Domestically, Dembski has been reduced to riding the coattails of conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who devoted four chapters of her latest book, Godless, to attacking evolution. These chapters contain the standard creationist canards, but with Coulter’s recognizable stylistic stamp: “Imagine a giant raccoon passed gas and perhaps the resulting gas might have created the vast variety of life we see on Earth. And if you don’t accept the giant raccoon flatulence theory for the origin of life, you must be a fundamentalist Christian nut who believes the Earth is flat. That’s basically how the argument for evolution goes.” Coulter credits her ability to write these chapters to “the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas.” Dembski acknowledges his assistance: “I’m happy to report that I was in constant correspondence with Ann regarding her chapters on Darwinism —indeed, I take all responsibility for any errors in those chapters.” He has dubbed Coulter “the Wedge for the masses.”
Here is my resolution: that IF the above antics are what conservatives approve of, encourage, and more importantly, plant into the brains of their children, THEN I am happy to declare that I no longer consider myself a conservative. Who, who has any respect for intellectual honesty, courtesy and dignity, really would?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How about a little good news to start the New Year?
For now, it's worth popping that leftover bottle of champagne. Somalia's homegrown fanatics and their al Qaeda allies are on the run; the Ethiopian military is hunting down wanted terrorists (including several implicated in the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania), and our enemies have lost a safe haven, a money-laundering capital, a smuggler's paradise and a launching pad for subversion.