31 August 2005

Feel the Burn

I agreed to webmaster the HCR website at Brasenose, so I had to cycle into the city today to get a login to the server. Of course the bloke I was supposed to see was playing some FPS when I came in and he had to sheepishly mash the keyboard until he found some combination that made his screen go blank. Whenever I feel lazy at work I should just think about all man hours being wasted by IT departments around the world.

I like cycling back up the hill on a hot day. We're getting a last-minute taste of summer here, with temperatures around 30° today, so the trip definitely makes you break out in a sweat. For someone who never got much regular exercise it feels good. It feels like a worthwhile accomplishment. It makes me feel better about myself as a person. I wonder what kind of chemicals get released when you exercise that makes that happen.

Anyway, now I'm just enjoying my slow cool-down at my desk and having some water.

Mark the SharK

Bellhorn's first game as a Yankee? 0-4. No strikeouts, though.

23 August 2005

Intelligent Design

The New York Times recently featured a beefy two-part article about the debate between scientists and proponents of "intelligent design". The spooky thing about this most recent attempt to insert religion into science is the way they paint their perspective as a scientific alternative. By publishing popular books and an occasional paper in a scientific journal (the reviewers must've been asleep at the wheel) they have created the illusion that there is actual scientific debate concerning the validity of the theory of evolution.

The proponents of intelligent design try to fool the public into believing that this is a scientific debate by presenting a series of scientific-sounding arguments against evolution. All of their points are straw men couched in mixed metaphors, but they seem convincing to non-scientists. This mendacity is illustrated by their use of the term "neo-Darwinists" to describe their opponents (who comprise essentially all of mainstream biology), as if Darwinism is a cast-off relic of an earlier time recently resurrected by crop of crazed atheists.

These quacks become insidious when they try to push their agenda on the American education system. They encourage school systems to "teach the controversy" and let students make up their own minds. This position is dangerously agreeable to lots of American parents: It has a certain free-speech air of reasonable discourse about it, which makes it seem very American; furthermore most Americans do believe in God so they're relieved to have some compromise which apparently reconciles science and religion.

If this attitude becomes widespread it represents a deadly threat to science education. The academic window-dressing of intelligent design is immediately transparent to a scientist, but not so to a 7th grader curious about biology. Presenting intelligent design as a scientifically viable alternative to evolution is a criminal deception of the young. This is made worse by the fact that many scientists dismiss intelligent design in crass terms that offend faithful people who don't really care that much about evolution anyway. Discussion of the nature of the Creator belongs in churches, mosques and synagogues, not in biology labs.

TransAtlantic Fan

New photos available from sporting events on either side of the pond. First some pictures from the epic day I spent at Fenway waiting for 5 hours for them to finally call the game vs. the White Sox because of rain. Laurie, Mike, Amrys and I slowly moved to better and better seats as people gave up and left the park. Alas it was to no avail since they never restarted the game.

The second set is from the Charlton-Wigan football match I went to last weekend with Javier, Shailen and Xiayi from work. It was a good group because the guys are knowledgable but willing to put up with my ignorance since none of them care that much about these particular teams (or English football in general, since they're Spanish, New Zealander and Chinese, respectively).

We got lost in London (Charlton is in East London) on the way there so it took us 3 hours instead of 1.5 to get there from Oxford. Thankfully we had left early (planning to stop for lunch) so we arrived 5 minutes before the 3PM kickoff. Unfortunately this meant lunch was in the form of the grimmest burger I've ever had sold by some woman with a stand in her front yard around the corner from the stadium.

The match was fun to watch, although the second half was somewhat boring. Charlton took a 1-0 lead on a cross to the striker who headed it in late in the first half. Wigan's a pretty miserable attack team so Charlton just shut them down with stiff defense after the break. It was different from watching any American sporting event because the action essentially never stops. A fifteen minute break between halves is about all you get to go chug a beer (you're not allowed to bring beers back to your seat) and pee.

I think watching football is a slightly different social experience than baseball or American football. There's the same hooligans chanting and supporting the local team to gross extremes, but there are other traditions that are different, like singing. The teams all have these long songs (some with multiple verses etc) that the crowds all sing together during the game. It's a bit more complex than just screaming "LET'S GO RED SOX!" Plus there are a lot more teams per capita than at home (not all in the Premiership league, but the other leagues are followed pretty strongly) so lots of people have season tickets and spend every Saturday with the same group of rubes at the Stadium.

17 August 2005

There & Back Again

I've returned to the UK after two relaxed weeks in the USA. It feels weird now, because everything here is familiar (people, places, habits) but I still feel like I left my "real" life back in Boston. It will also take an adjustment to get used to being completely separated from everyone in Boston because there's no impending visit or return trip looming. For my first few months here I had 4 different visits and a firm date for the next trip back. Now I've got Salt Lake City at the end of October, then probably another trip home at Christmastime, but nobody's scheduled to come visit in the meantime.