Friday, March 31, 2006

"God is not a Republican... Or a Democrat"

I finished an awesome book yesterday.

I'm still processing a lot of what's in it but regardless of your political/religious views (or lack thereof) consider it highly recommended. It's a really interesting critique of government in America today - both the Left and Right get a lot of heat, maybe even more on the latter - while urging people of faith (any and all faiths) to act for common good. I picked the book up from the library after watching a DVD of a speech Wallis gave at a CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference. Some of you may recognize his name as a head honcho with Sojourners or from Call to Renewal or just as one of Bono's friends, but even if you've never heard of him you'd probably think that his views make a lot of sense. One of his most quoted points is that there are over 2,100 verses in the Bible about helping the poor, yet social justice and helping the underprivileged is rarely on the hearts and minds of American "Christians". I don't want to make this entry too lengthy but if you've read the book feel free to mention your favorite part or point (or your least favorite part and biggest critique) in the comment section and we'll let dialogue ensue from there. And if you haven't read the book, you should.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I'm gonna puke.

Seriously, folks, I read things like this and it honestly makes me want to hurl.

People out there are actually going to pay thirty six bucks for a 24 pack of chicken flavored vitamin enriched bottled water... for their dogs. I don't know what's worse, the creeps getting rich off of it or the jerks that will actually buy it. Did you not get the memo that over 1,000,000,000 people in this world lack safe drinking water??? Do you not care that 4,500 children die EVERY DAY because they have no access to water that you're gonna take and beef up with goodies for your canines??!?

I'm all about dogs as awesome companion animals, but don't you think there's a point where the human race should get a higher priority? Don't fault me for asking - literally - where's the humanity?

Friday, March 24, 2006

The "Science" of Prayer-Based Healing?

I read an interesting article this morning (click on "interesting article" for the link") about scientists attempting to run studies testing the healing properties of intercessory prayer. You won't be surprised to read that the findings are "at something of a crossroads." As with all inaccurate science it's being reported now even though "the largest, best-designed project is being published in two weeks. Its eagerly awaited findings could sound the death knell for the field, breathe new life into such efforts, or create new debate."

It could "create a new debate"? No way!

Part of me wanted to cheer for the study all the way. I wanted all of it to read like this:
San Francisco cardiologist Randolph Byrd, for example, conducted an experiment in which he asked born-again Christians to pray for 192 people hospitalized for heart problems, comparing them with 201 not targeted for prayer. No one knew which group they were in. He reported in 1988 that those who were prayed for needed fewer drugs and less help breathing.
But then I stopped to really think about it and, really, what good does that tell us? The faithful take it as sure evidence and the skeptics critique it as bad science. And the article brings up a good point too - how do you quantify prayer? Would those that received daily prayer do better than those with weekly prayer and those with five prayers a day do best of all? And what about the prayers, as in the ones who pray? Would a pope's prayer invoke more healing than a six-year-old's requests? Perhaps there would be bonus effects from a prayer who spoke in tongues or those that truly interceded for their prayees?

What do you think of it all?
Do you agree with behavioral researcher Richard Sloan?
"I would like to see us stop wasting precious research dollars putting religious practices to the test of science," Sloan said. "It's a waste of money, and it trivializes the religious experience."
"There's nothing we know about the physical universe that could account for how the prayers of someone in Washington, D.C., could influence the health of a group of people in Iowa -- nothing whatsoever"
Or maybe you side with Rev. Raymond J. Lawrence?
"God is beyond the reach of science. It's absurd to think you could use it to examine God's play."
Or maybe you're more hopeful and waiting for more proof like John A Astin or Mitchell W. Kurcoff?
"Yesterday's science fiction often becomes tomorrow's science," said John A. Astin
"When quantum physics was emerging, Einstein wrote about spooky interactions between particles at a distance," Krucoff said. "That's at least one very theoretical model that might support notions of distant prayer or distant healing."
Does the whole thing belong more to the Twilight Zone or Time Magazine?
*All quotes are borrowed from MSN article from The Washington Post, as linked above, for purely conversational debating purposes

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

World Water Day - March 22!

Not sure if this is a "holiday" on most people's radar but it's definitely one to take notice of. Please use it as a day to think twice about how much we take clean water for granted. From your morning coffee to your nightly shower and every trip to the water fountain in between, be thankful for safe water. According to UNICEF/WHO, the lack of clean, safe drinking water is estimated to kill almost 4,500 children per day and yet it's rarely talked about and never seen on the news. The first step in changing the world has to be awareness so hopefully this will open some eyes. Click on this link or the picture above to access to learn more.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Be a Leprechaun in 3 Easy Steps!

Many of you have requested pictures of me with my temporary - yes, I repeat, temporary - St. Patty's hairdo and alas, I regret to inform you that I successfully avoided camera coverage all day. Plus, do you really think I would post pictures here and voluntarily submit myself to embarrassment and humilia.... wait, on second thought, don't answer that. Sorry, though, no pictures. What I didn't tell you all before is that Tony also went to work with neon green locks so he can not only vouch for the lime colored mane I sported but can affirm the oddness of looks received by strangers when donning such a do. And so that you can all gain some appreciation for what I looked like, I present to you the Do-It-Yourself Leprechaun Kit!
STEP 1: Go to Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Meijer or some other local temporary hair color vendor and purchase one can of Jerome Russell B-Wild Temporary Color Spray in Jaguar Green*.

STEP 2: Follow directions on can to coat hair with color spray. Ignore line of directions that says "Use in Well Ventilated Area" and proceed to inhale fumes from the spray. Once your hair has achieved a proper state of green (and/or you begin to feel dizzy) proceed to Step 3.

STEP 3: Act like a Leprechaun. This can include any number of activities including dancing a jig, frolicking in clover or simply approaching anyone who will listen and loudly stating in your best Irish accent "Aye aim a Leprechaun!!!"
Hours of fun guaranteed. Enjoy.
*I have no idea why it's called Jaguar Green as I have certainly never seen, heard of, or imagined a neon green Jaguar - either the animal or the car. Feel free to speculate the color naming system on your own.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy S. P. Day!

I was getting some strange looks on the train this morning.

Some were amused. Some were a mixture of shock and horror. Some smiled and said "Happy Saint Patrick's Day". There were plenty of raised eyebrows and more than a few glares of outright scorn and disdain. Part of me met these visual greeting with confusion until I remembered....

"Oh yeah! I dyed my hair neon green for St. Patrick's Day this morning!!!"

For those that ever find themselves in a similar predicament I offer the top five responses to the question, "Why is your hair dyed green?"
(5) I'm going to a costume party after work - I'm the Chicago River!

I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just on my way to my new job at the nuclear power plant. We had a slight mishap yesterday but so far it's going great!

Why should I tell you about me hair?!? Yer just after me Lucky Charms!

I got a new hair colorist named Anne Shirley.

A Leprechaun pooped on my head.
Happy St. Patty's Day everyone!
(Number 2 is for the Anne of Green Gables fans and the title of this blog is for SP himself!)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

On Music...

I was looking over my last few posts and it seems I've been blogging a bit too much about books lately. And seeing as how my next post will likely be about the engaging non-fiction I'm currently engrossed in, this one's going to be about music. I've realized that lately I'm not that into music anymore. Not to say that I don't still love to listen to music, but I can't even recall the last CD I purchased and it seems that a lot of what I hear on the radio lately sounds like everything else I've heard a million times before. I suppose the problem might be that I really don't have a favorite genre of music. Truthfully, I thrive on variety and get bored with any one thing (Alternative, Rock, Pop, R&B, Showtunes, Country, Christian, Metal) if I listen to it for too long. Even within my obscure list of favorite albums that I can listen to start to finish, no skips and never get sick of, it's the artists that combine flavors of different genres that can hold my attention the longest (i.e. New Miserable Experience from the Gin Blossoms). So now I'm seeking new artists, or old artists doing new things, to listen to. In the meantime I've succumbed to tuning into the Classic Rock Station, which - although I rock out to it - should in all honesty be renamed the "You Heard this On a Car Commercial" Station (i.e. Bargain by The Who, Barracuda by Heart, and Satisfaction by The Stones - am I right or am I right??). As for the current stuff, Jack Johnson is climbing my charts but any recommendations of songs, singers or bands not currently on my radar are much appreciated. No American Idol songs or performers if you please.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Hosting a Habitat for Humanity Fundraiser this weekend. Lots of planning. Lots of stress. Lots of caffeine too. The resultant brain meltdown manifested itself in an email I wrote to Tony earlier today:

You know what else would be cool? If instead of Habitat for Humanity they had Habitrail for Humanity and they built human sized Hamster houses for people. They could have cool running wheels in funky primary colors and plastic crawling tubes connecting all the different rooms. We wouldn't have to go to the gym anymore cause we'd get workouts running around the house. I'd especially like to see the cool lookout tower room. And they could even have giant water bottles sticking out of the side. Then we could give up Brita water pitchers for giant water bottles and never have to deal with dehydration or running to the fridge for water again. That would be flippin' sweet. I wanna be a hamster.
Or not.

Blame the Dew.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Alchemist's Daughter

I'm reading an interesting novel right now called The Alchemist's Daughter by Katherine McMahon. It's a historical fiction about a girl growing up in the early 1700's who follows her father's footsteps and teachings into the world of "Natural Philosophy" - what we would today call Biology. As a scientist, it's an interesting read for me because there is so much scientific knowledge that I take for granted. Daily calculations of molar concentrations, molecular weights and percentage solutions come so naturally to me that it is difficult to imagine a time before the theory of the atom. One of the large scientific debates in the novel is over the nature of fire - which was considered a primary element along with water, air and earth - and the prevailing thought is the idea of phlogistation. Fire was thought to release a material called phlogiston and an item would only be flammable until it took in as much phlogiston as it could hold. Hence when a candle is burned in an enclosed space, it will go out when the air has become saturated with phlogiston. Of course such notions seem ridiculous today - and part of me wants to scream about elemental oxygen to the characters - but there is certainly merit in the creativity of the thinkers of that age.

Oftentimes it's obvious to look at inventions - the printing press, lightbulb, steam engine, cotton gin, telephone or radio - that have changed the course of history and daily life as we know it. However, it is much less often that we think about the ideas that have impacted the world in massive ways. Revolutionary inventors are usually listed as Whitney, Edison, Bell, etc. where as Galileo, Newton, and Rutherford were geniuses as much and more. The ice breaker is often raised "What's the greatest invention before sliced bread?" but I'd like to open the discussion "What's the greatest IDEA before slicing bread?"

Think creatively and defend your answer.