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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Saturday, November 23, 2002

What to Buy for the Geek Who Has Everything?

Via the permalink-impaired John Novak, we have this gift idea for the mathematician on your list:

This looks like a glass cup. But wait -- it has two big chambers connected by a hollow handle. In fact, it's actually a Klein Bottle.

Hot ziggitty -- a Klein Bottle that delivers liquid straight to your waiting lips. Yep - you heard me right. You can drink right from this cup. Pour in beer and it's a Klein Stein. Would you believe Einstein's Klein Stein?

$80 is probably a little steep for a visual joke that very few people will get, but if you're getting gifts for a tenured topologist, it might be worth the price...

Posted at 9:12 AM | link | follow-ups | 4 comments

Religion of Peace Update

The intensifying religious violence in Nigeria is sure to provide more fuel for those elements of the "blogosphere" who attribute everything bad about the world to Islam itself, and call for the destruction or subjugation of the entire Islamic world. There's an instructive note in the third paragraph of the Post's story, though:

This morning, Christian youths in Kaduna turned out in defiance of a round-the-clock curfew ordered by the authorities and launched attacks against mosques and other Muslim targets. Some people, buildings and cars were set ablaze by rampaging mobs.

While radical Islam bears a lot of the blame for what's going on in Nigeria, it's important to remember that even there, Muslims don't have a monopoly on idiotic religious violence.

Posted at 8:47 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Friday, November 22, 2002

Kate Newview, Esquire

Checking the list of people who passed the New York Bar Exam, I see that it's no more lawyer jokes for me...

A good day for good news.

Posted at 11:26 AM | link | follow-ups | 8 comments

All About Networking

I don't have any real strong opinions about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or detailed knowledge of their internal politics, but a friend of mine from college does. And he's gotten a piece about them published in the Christian Science Monitor. Cool.

Posted at 9:16 AM | link | follow-ups | 1 comment

All About Perspective

Tony Woodlief of Sand in the Gears has been doing a series of long posts about what's wrong with libertarianism (count 'em: one, two, three, four). They're fascinating to me, not so much because he's saying anything all that controversial (I'm no huge believer in libertarianism, myself), or because they're brilliantly written meditations on political philosophy (they're too "bloggy" for that) but because of what he finds wrong with it.

Personally, I end up having two problems with libertarianism, at least as I generally encounter it: first and foremost, I think it's a very nice idea, and all, and I love the freedom and responsibility rhetoric, but attractive as the idea is, I have a hard time reconciling it with the empirical observation that people are stupid. Second, I've had enough arguments with people who self-identify as libertarian that basically boil down to "I don't want my tax dollars to pay for X" that I wonder how many of said self-identified libertarians are really in it for the principle, and how many are using it as rhetorical cover for naked greed.

I should hasten to add that the problems I mention are problems primarily with the sort of libertarian I encounter most frequently (they're not bloggers, or I'd provide links)-- there are enough smart and principled libertarians out there (the OBJimHenleyLink for this post) that there's got to be something more to it than what I'm seeing. On my long list of Things to Do One of These Days is to straighten out exactly who believes what over in that area of political parameter space. For the moment, though, those are the main things bugging me about what I see of libertarianism.

In a certain coarse sense, libertarianism rubs me the wrong way by being too conservative. It's really interesting to me, then, to find that Tony Woodlief objects to it on the grounds that it's not actually conservative enough (albeit in a slightly different sense of "conservative"). Several times in the course of those essays, he harps on their drug obsession, as if Libertarians are just better-dressed Rastafarians. (This was particularly striking, as the drug-legalization stuff is just about the least objectionable part of the libertarian policy package, to me... I also can't say I've noticed a large number of potheads among the libertarians I know...) The fourth essay takes issue with "fusing libertarianism and atheism," and complains that libertarianism necessarily lacks strong moral rules (again, one of the more attractive features of the ideology, from where I sit...).

I wish I had a grand, sweeping conclusion to draw from this, but, well, I don't. It's just an observation that, while it may not actually take all kinds, we certainly do have all kinds...

Posted at 8:25 AM | link | follow-ups | 6 comments

Thursday, November 21, 2002

It Was Twenty Years Ago... Yesterday

Wednesday was the twentieth anniversary of the famous "The band is on the field" play in the Cal-Stanford game. And nary a mention from Lundblog?

It's one of the great weird sports plays of all time (and one of the best sports calls ever, up there with "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"), the sort of stuff that even people who have no particular allegiance to either team love to re-hash over and over. And people who were actually involved can never really let it go...

It's amusing to see someone claim that the game was "tainted" by that ending, though. Without that trombone player getting drilled in the end zone, nobody outside of the Bay Area would even remember that game. The "taint" is what makes it famous, just like Fred Brown and Chris Webber made North Carolina's basketball championships memorable-- without the errant pass and the phantom TO, they're just two games among dozens, but with those plays, they're basketball icons.

Posted at 8:21 AM | link | follow-ups | 1 comment

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Move Over, Dr. Atkins

Looking to lose weight? Have I got a plan for you...

Some people swear by low-carb diets, but I've got an even easier plan, without all that fussing about what you eat: Halls Mentho-Lyptus Cough Drops. Three or four of these before lunch will numb your tongue and gum up your mouth badly enough that you won't even want to eat actual food. I particularly recommend the cherry flavor, but the menthol ones work just as well.

Bleagh. If it weren't the last (half-)week of classes, I'd've stayed home in bed.

The worst part is, disgusting as these are, it's still better than hacking and coughing your way through the day.

Posted at 10:27 AM | link | follow-ups | 4 comments

Monday, November 18, 2002

Ahhh, New England

We got a couple of inches of wet, slushy snow last night, mixed with some sleet and rain (freezing and otherwise). Having spent six years in the DC area, I was prepared for a nerve-wracking, sloppy, miserable drive to work.

Instead, at one point, I saw a plow headed in the other direction, its blade throwing sparks off the bare pavement.

I love being back in the Northeast.

(OK, even I'm not wild about the fact that this is the third snowfall we've had, while there are still leaves on (some of) the trees, but still, it's nice to be back in a place where the mere sight of a flake doesn't trigger a mad rush to the store to buy bread, milk, and toilet paper...)

Posted at 10:22 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

The Buck Stops... Somewhere Over There

I haven't picked on Steve Spurrier in a while, but with my Giants having eked out a victory courtesy of the unstable footing in the swamps of Jersey, this seems like a good time for an inspirational quote from the Man Himself, courtesy of the Washington Post:

"I don't know why we did that," Spurrier said. "I don't have all the answers why we try to throw when we don't throw [well]. We try to run and we run a little bit, and then we don't run."

Yes, well, um, maybe we should ask the guy who, I dunno, calls the plays, shall we? Oh, wait...

(Not that I can do too much gloating, what with the Giants being completely incapable of catching the damn ball for most of the second half... Sheesh, what an ugly game...)

Posted at 8:13 AM | link | follow-ups | 3 comments

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