Monday, February 28, 2011
The InVenture prize is given to indivituals or teams of Georgia Tech undergraduates who have entered their inventions to the competition. The finalists for this year have been announced. I am especially impressed with those that will help solve problems in the developing world, or health. Congratulations to all the finalists!
Friday, February 25, 2011
I love Gail Collins' writing, and a splendid example of it is from her most recent New York Times column:
"One thing that never changes in Washington is the difference in metabolism between the House and Senate. Have you ever watched pet-rehabilitation shows like “The Dog Whisperer”? The House is the deranged Pomeranian that yelps and throws itself against the window and tears up the upholstery 24/7. The Senate, meanwhile, is like a narcoleptic Great Dane you can hardly rouse for dinner."
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Hooray! The Attorney General has issued a press release saying that in at least some cases the Department of Justice will not defend the Defense of Marriage (DOMA) act, which enshrines discrimination against LGBT people at the federal leval. Hopefully this will mean the end of this unfair law.
The Sunlight Foundation, which does great work on making government more transparent, has just launched a free online game "that pits you against the special interests and lobbyists spending increasing amounts of money to overcome the puny levels of congressional willpower. And how do you protect your congressional reps? Using snowballs, of course."
Amazing News : You walk in and your dog is blogging. - Loldogs, Dogs 'n' Puppy Dog Pictures - I Has A Hotdog!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Three percent of their services are for abortion. Three percent. Remember why Margaret Sanger started the organization - she was sick of women dying of too many pregnancies, sick of families doomed to poverty by too many mouths to feed. Tired of husbands and wives begging her for information on how to prevent pregnancies - information that it was against the law to give out.
For those of you interested in the academic study of science fiction, SFRA is an organization that shares your interest. The latest issue of the newsletter has an article about visiting the Georgia Tech science fiction collection, with a shout out to my colleagues in our archives department.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Recently I read a novel with a number of young, very bright characters. For much of the book, though, they find life meaningless and empty and it drives them to spend most of their lives partying and taking drugs, as a way of relieving the tedium. They value very little. And in the few days since finishing the book I've come to realize that I hate this attitude more than any other. To me life always has meaning and value, no matter how bad it gets. To me the meaning of life is - meaning - being a part of life, a participant in it, a lover of that which creates.
I offer myself as an example, because to an outside observer my life might seem to have little meaning and little value. I live fairly isolated without a lot of social contacts. I have no romantic relationship. I am, in fact, a steroeotype, a spinster librarian with a cat. Yet there has never been a time I felt my life had no meaning. My job may not change the world, but it is one I like and think I've finally gotten to be good at. It may not change the world, being a librarian, but maybe it helps someone else do better work who does have the capacity to change the world. In that there is meaning, and there is value. I work with people I hold dear, and in that there is meaning and value. I withdrew from most social contacts after enduring levels of emotional pain that almost killed me. I survived, and in that there is meaning and value. I survived thanks to dear friends who helped, including one who was simply there, to see to it that I did not end. In that there is meaning and value. I stopped believing in having to have someone else to complete me, and that has become a happiness in and of itself. My social contacts may not be many, but to me they are golden, and are with both people who live near me and I can be a physical part of their life, and people from afar with whom I can interact by the miracles of modern telecommunications, people who are no less dear to me for only being seen once in several years. In that there is meaning and value. I am so surrounded by the outputs of human creativity in the forms of books, tv, movies, and music, that I can never get bored and I can experience life through making connections to the imaginations, the minds, hearts, spirit, and experiences of others. In that there is meaning and value. I care about the problems of the world, though they overwhelm me and I don't often have much to give to help change them. I like to think that sharing items that express a passion for changing lives for the better has its own meaning and value.
And I am but one small life. If there is meaning and value in me, there is meaning and value times the billions of people in this world. There is meaning and value in the natural world. My cat lives an even more circumscribed life than I do, yet she has great value for me. The natural world has beauty that lets spirits soar, and that has value. In the last few generations, we have come to understand how close to infinite the unverse is. Some people believe that makes us small and insignificant. I've never understood that. The great universe fills me with awe, and seeing its beauty I feel a part of it, and in that I find meaning and value.
I find meaning and value in that people feel connected to something greater than themselves, and find it matters little to me whether it is a God or Goddess, a deity that started the universe running and then stood back and watched it unfold, or a deity that takes an part in the world. Equally I value the people who believe in no deity, but find that a reason to be care more for thier fellow humans and the world because there's no one else to fix things. For those who through spirituality find an experience of love, and in my own life I sometimes have, I am in awe.
I find meaning and value in the heroes, and the great artists and creators. I could start naming them and fill books with their names. We'll always have Shakespeare. Galileo. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu. Margaret Sanger, whom I've thought of often this week and how she was motivated by not being able to stand seeing so many women die in childbirth, or living in dire poverty from too many mouths to feed. Jon Stewart and other comedians who use humor as a weapon against cluttered thinking. Van Gogh. Those who have created fictional worlds that connect us more deeply to what it means to be human. Dr. Who. Sherlock Holmes. In each of these there is meaning and value, and how can anyone be bored in a world where there is so much creative output? Ballet. Symphonies. Rock and roll.
And maybe as many would see my life as a failure, I feel especially for the failures. Those who were in too much pain to survive. I was almost there, But something in my core believes that nothing and no one is ever lost. That if nothing else, memories survive. So that if this planet reaches the ultimate failure, and dies, of its own pollution or war, we were here. We existed. We had meaning and value. We'll always have Shakespeare - and Paris.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Cyoot Kitteh of teh Day: Exterminate? Ai Exterminatez U, Weerd Robot Fing! - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
|Title||Skybowl (Dragon Star, Book 3)|
|Tags||fantasy, series, dragons, telepathy, sunrunners|
|This is the 3rd book of the second series by Melanie Rawn set in the world of Sunrunners, who ride light to communicate and raise fire. The two trilogies take the world through a series of crises, ending with an invasion by a grim foe that kills without mercy.Four of the six books are over 500 pages, so reading the whole series is a real commitment. In the middle of the fifth book, after trying to keep all the characters and events straight, some might wonder if it is worth it. But in the end, it is well worth it. The characters got inside my head more than almost any others I've read. Highly recommended.The six books in the series are, in order, Dragon Prince, The Star Scroll, Sunrunner's Fire, Stronghold, The Dragon Token, and Skybowl.|
|Publication||DAW (1994), Paperback, 776 pages|
|ISBN||0886775957 / 9780886775957|
Friday, February 11, 2011
Don't know what will happen next. Don't know if the country will move more towards a more religiously-based government. Don't know what it means for Israel and the Suez Canal.
But it has been a marvelous thing to watch, to see a people fight so hard, and almost entirely peacefully, for their freedom. The Egyptian people have my admiration and respect, and I hope they wind up with the freedom they have earned.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The word comes from the book Among Us, by Jo Walton (thanks, Anna, for the book recommendation). If heliotropic describes flowers whose faces always turn toward the sun, bibliotropic describes those of us whose faces always turn towards books. That's me! :-).
I have a Google alert set up for "wicca". It was my first Google alert and I did it mostly to learn what Google alerts were like, and it has provided a variety of intersting posts over the years, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Recently there have been a spate of articles from Christians on how to "talk" - i.e., proselytize - to Wiccans/Pagans (Wicca is to Pagan as Baptist is to Christian). Part of it is driven by a recent Catholic publication on how to convert Wiccans.
If your only interest in me is to convert me, I'll pass on the conversation, and feel that there are some things I'd like you to understand. First, while there are an increasing number of Pagans overall, and more that have grown up in a Pagan family, a large number, perhaps the majority of Pagans, grew up in Christian households. We became spiritual seekers and many of us, on finding Paganism, felt like we found that which we were born to be. It fit us, as Christianity did not. My point, though, is that we probably know as much about Christianity as you do. Sometimes more, because the last couple of centuries of Biblical scholarship are addressed in very few churches, and I for one have read quite a bit on it. I get that you are excited and happy about your religion, and I delight that it fills your spiritual needs. It did not meet mine. For while I do think there's some validity to the idea that all religious paths lead to the top of the same mountain, I also accept the idea that different religions address different ideas at their core. I think most Christians would agree that the concept of salvation is at the core of Christianity. This is not a concept that resonates with me or many other Pagans. The reason is that I believe (most days, anyway) in reincarnation, and that every soul lives a cycle of lives until it learns all it needs to know to return to that which is the center of the Universe, call it God, Goddess, All That Is, or something else.
So I enjoy conversations about religion, it is an endlessly fascinating topic. I'm willing to tell you about my beliefs if you want to hear about them, but have no thought to convert you. What fills my religious needs may not fill yours, and if you found what does for you I'm happy about it. What I'd like is the same respect from you.
Friday, February 4, 2011
This New York Times article gives a more realistic assessment of the Muslim brotherhood and why the U.S. should not panic about it. (1) They're not that influential in Egypt; and (2) they forswore violence many years ago. Do I like them? No. Do I agree with them on any issue? Probably not. But too many in the media and maybe in the government are panicking that more Egyptian democracy means that government would be led by the Muslim Brotherhood. An excellent book by an expert on the region is Juan Cole's Engaging the Muslim World. Cole is also a blogger.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
For the parents among you. From Neat New Stuff:
"The Best Children's Books - Teachers' Picks for Best Books for Kids
Browse for Caldecott and Newbery Award winners, Teaching Science, Teaching Math, World History, American History, Language Arts, Character Education, and Popular Authors. More categories are promised for the future. I've already added some of these books to my grandchildren's library list."
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
This has become an important subject for me, a baseline on our educational system and whether that system provides citizens who are informed voters. The scientific evidence for evolution is among the strongest for a scientific theory, but so many people in this country are never taught that it is. The people who deny evolution, willfully, because it interferes with their religious beliefs, are, IMHO, doing severe damage to the whole concept of education and to the ability of the U.S. to compete internationally in business and technology.