Friday, June 29, 2007

State and Michigan Theaters

The State Theatre (located on S. State St, and is not a bow to the other large public university in the state). There is no entry for the State Theatre on Wikipedia, so I will have to look up information on it elsewhere (possibly at its website).

So, apparently, the State Theatre is owned (or managed) by the Michigan Theater (see below).

From the State Theatre information web page:
Famed theater architect C. Howard Crane, who also designed the Fox Theater in Detroit, designed the State Theater in downtown Ann Arbor. Built in 1942, the State Theater was the last commercial building to be completed in Ann Arbor after the start of World War II. During the war, building was restricted due to rationing of construction materials. Patrons of the theater fondly remember the blue neon clock to the side of the screen. The clock was there to keep co-eds aware of the time so that they wouldn't be late for dormitory curfews that were enforced during the 1940's, 1950's and into the 1960's.

Built solely to show movies (with only a screen and no usable stage), the State Theater is a high-style art deco cinema. The building was owned and operated by the Butterfield Theater Company until the early 1980s. Butterfield also operated the historic Michigan Theater a half block away from the State in addition to many other theaters in and around Ann Arbor.
The Michigan Theater (located on E. Liberty St, and may be a bow to the large public university just up the road). According to Wikipedia (from June 29, 2007),

The Michigan Theater is a movie palace in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States of America. It shows independent films and stage productions.

Designed by Detroit-based architect Maurice Finkel and built in 1928, the theater seats 1700 and features the theater's original 1927 Barton Theatre Pipe Organ, orchestra pit, stage, and elaborate architectural details.

During a renovation in 1956, many of the original ornate designs were destroyed. After a period of low attendance, the theater was threatened with demolition in 1978, but members of the community and local organists helped raise funds to save and renovate the theater, returning it to its original design. A second screen with a state-of-the-art sound system, seating for 200 and the ability to project films digitally was added in 1999.

The Michigan Theater is the current home of the annual Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Symphony, and has been named 2006 Outstanding Historic Theatre by the League of Historic American Theaters.


I only have one thing to say to all those who call themselves "good Christians" and want to kick out all immigrants: get your Bible and read Exodus 22:20-23 and Exodus 23:9. (There are likely similar passages elsewhere in the Bible, but I was reading through bits of Exodus.)

If you want to take the Bible as gospel (here I mean "unquestionable truth", as opposed to the "Four Gospels"), and the word of God, you cannot pick-and-choose the passages you want; conveniently ignoring (or remaining ignorant of) those that do not support your position.

(To give you an glimpse of how many laws of God that contemporary Americans do not follow, consider that if you are a good Christian that makes investments or provides money to institutions that provide loans, you are going directly against the word of God ; just read Exodus 22:25. The book of Exodus is replete with laws of God that many Americans no longer follow.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Peeved with Mr. DeLay

So, I saw a link to this story, and I couldn't help myself. I have copied over the first paragraph of Mr. DeLay's story.
If ever there was a window through which to view the modern liberal soul, it is the issue of climate change. Notice, did you, that it's not global warming we debate anymore, because, after all, it still gets cold in the winter. For years, liberals warned those less enlightened of us about the dangers of global warming, without much evidence, so they just changed tactics -- no longer are people to be terrified of the Earth's temperature rising, but its falling as well!

It's the ultimate liberal "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" argument. Summer hot? Climate change! Winter cold? Climate change!
Umm... So, there is a reply to Mr. DeLay's story here. I really hate to be petty, but apparently pugnaciously ignorant comments like Mr. DeLay's on something that I know a little about (and tangentially relates to my professional work) really (really) tempt me. Here goes a "lite" petty reply taking the form of Mr. DeLay's own comments. (I could probably be more harsh.)

If ever there was a window through which to view the modern conservative soul, it is the issue of conservative "compassionate" Christianity. Notice, did you, that it's not religion we debate anymore, because, after all, a vast majority of Americans believe in a god. For years, conservatives warned those less enlightened of us about the war on religion, without much evidence, so they just changed tactics -- no longer are people to be worried about allowing In God we Trust on currency and "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, but in going to hell because they aren't following the tenets of the conservative Christian.

It's the ultimate conservative "heads-I-win-tails-you-lose" argument.

As one last poke to those who think that the Grand Old Party should change its name to the Conservative Compassionate Christian Party, is it because of Mr. DeLay's many transgressions that much of Texas is becoming completely saturated with rain over the past week causing widespread flooding? Is this divine retribution? The hammer of God reminding the Texas hammer that he is merely a nail? (Okay, I'm done now.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not raining (and breakfast at Angelo's)

So, I suppose it isn't raining this morning. (Yay!) I got up early to eat breakfast at Angelo's (since I haven't eaten there for a while).

Listening to the radio, today is the day that Gordon Brown becomes the British Prime Minister (just heard it on the radio). Go Gordo! (I suppose it isn't very good to call the new PM something that is homonymous with the Spanish word for "Fat Man", but it is also the shortened form of "Gordon.")

If you had fond memories of eating at Angelo's, then I must tell you that the bread is still good, and (if you haven't been in A2 for a while) it is the only piece of private enterprise in the area now (the shops behind it have been gone since before I came to A2 in 2002 and the shops across the street are closed and waiting to be demolished). It is impossible to get in on Sunday mornings, but apparently at 7AM on a Wednesday, it is next to empty.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weather tomorrow looks like rain.

Poo. Rainy weather during my commute = me having to take the bus.

Myriads of Men in White

So... I was reading through some blogs on ScienceBlogs about a recent visit to the Creation Museum in KY. One of the bloggers showed a movie poster of a film called Men in White that is shown (apparently on continuous repeat) at the museum. Doing a short search online, I found that there was a British Channel 4 TV show (which I saw a bit of on - I think - G4) called Men in White. Apparently, this title is sort of popular. On IMdb, there are several listings of "Men in White," including a 2007 Singapore comedy about four ghosts returning to Earth; a made-for-TV movie released in 1998; a French drama called Les Hommes en blanc released in 1955, based on the novel by André Soubiranas; as well as a 1934 film starring Clark Gable based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play named (you guessed it) Men in White.

I originally felt that the Channel 4 production of Men in White predated the museum's use of the name. However, I think that the Pulitzer Prize-winning play trumps all of them. Unfortunately, I don't have any publicity poster graphics of either the play or the 1934 film, but you can go here to see more stills of the film.

Finally, I think it is interesting that the museum portrayed their Men in White as the archangels Michael (the general of the army of God) and Gabriel (the chief messenger of God), while much of colloquial English (prior to the release of the Men in Black films) uses the term to refer to either scientists (like in the Channel 4 production) or doctors (like in the Clark Gable film). I can easily imagine that the museum's owners or the writer of the film's screenplay understands the colloquial meaning of the phrase (and therefore chose God's general to break the prevailing understanding of the phrase and chose God's messenger to bring a new understanding to the masses). In a possibly 1984-esque manner, the subtext of the museum's film is trying to change the understanding (and underlying meaning) of the phrase "men in white." Of course, I could be wrong, and the choice of these two was merely because they were two archangels with whom most American Christians are familiar, and the title of the film was solely inspired by the two hit films and animate series in the Men in Black line.

For a little historical fun, from the archives of the NYTimes (wow, but they go back a while!):
"While the Pulitzer Prize play, "Men in White," still is occupying the stage of the Broadhurst, its cinematic offspring is now the attraction at the Capitol. The film, which was directed by Richard Boleslavsky, under the supervision of Monta Bell, may abide by the parent work in certain essentials, but as a whole it pales by comparison with the original. It lacks both the realism and the dramatic vigor of the stage production, and the subject-matter is frequently subordinated to the players, particularly to Clark Gable."
- MORDAUNT HALL (June 9, 1934)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Photos of Central Campus

So these photos were taken when I decided to head to the southwestern edge of the Central Campus area. There is a nice little burrito place called BTB (formerly actually standing for "Big Ten Burrito," but due to licensing of the name "Big Ten" by NCAA, the scuttlebutt is that the owners of the burrito place changed their name to be merely "BTB") where I picked up a $6 mondo-sized burrito for lunch.

Anyway, on with the "tour".

This building is presently the newest addition to the Central Campus area: the Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, housing the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. (This is not to be mistaken for the Joan and Sanford Weill Hall at Cornell University or the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, of course.) Anyway, I took some courses there in the role of science and technology in public policy making, and had a relatively good time enjoying the well-appointed rooms. However, I must say that the courtyard area is abysmally dull (unfortunately). It's almost like there wasn't enough interest in hiring a qualified landscape architect to do something interesting with that area, so they only have grey slate and textured cement pavers. With just a little more effort, I feel that the walk down the main corridor would be so much more uplifting if one was able to see more than the somewhat blank wall of the neighboring Chabad House, grey pavers, a few plastic-coated wire mesh picnic tables, and still-scraggly cedar trees. Something like (I don't know) a mosaic pattern of tile, a tree in the center of the plaza, or even some patterning of color. (However, I didn't take a picture of the effectively empty and sterile-feeling plaza - it will be something that I will have to do later).

The historic Clements Library is the only other building photo I took on my way back to SNRE today. Unfortunately, other than knowing that it used to be a library, I don't know much about it. I've never been in it, and I doubt that I'll have any cause to go there while I'm still a student at the "U."

After doing a little research, I learned that the Clements Library was designed by architect Albert Khan and was constructed in 1923. According to its website,

"the William L. Clements Library houses original resources for the study of American history and culture from the fifteenth to the early twentieth century. Its mission is to collect and preserve primary source materials, to make them available for research, and to create an environment that supports and encourages scholarly investigation of our nation's past."

In other words, my original assessment was correct: I am unlikely to ever go in there (except to say that I went in) before I finish my studies here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

University of Michigan's North Campus buildings.

The North Campus of the university houses a lot of engineering and performing arts buildings. Here are a few photos of them that I took while going to visit some friends.

Computer Science and Engineering Building
(As of this post, I was unable to find a web page for the building other than the one from the U-M architecture, engineering and construction services)

The Duderstadt Center (previously known as the Media Union)

The brand-new (actually still being constructed off to the right) Walgreen Drama Center. (The Arthur Miller Theater)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wonderful Dana Building

Normally (as in during the academic year), there isn't anywhere near as much greenery as you can currently see around the Dana Building. (Of course not, since if we did have greenery all year around, we could hardly be anywhere near Michigan - unless we were in a heated greenhouse.) I'm taking the photo from under the branches of the relatively newly-planted oak tree that took place of the majestic large elm tree that was chopped down a year (or so) ago (which apparently was losing a long battle against Dutch elm disease).

Now everyone: enjoy the sylvan-esque scene.

The West (Diag) Entrance to the S.T. Dana
(a.k.a. School of Natural Resoruces and Environment) Building

Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Yesterday I stopped by the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and watched a bit of Jeremy Kittel's performance with his band (all the way from Saline via New York City). Many (many) people were arrayed out in front of the stage, making finding seating difficult. I ended up talking with people on the side of the stage area, in front of the "beer garden" area.

There was - of course - the very expensive food: slices of pizza from the local Cottage Inn; "Mexican" food from Tios; ice cream from Stuccis, and coffee from Sweetwaters.

On the way home Shannon and I stopped by at the Monkey Bar, which happened to have all-you-can eat tacos on Tuesdays (and Mondays) for only $5.99! I'll have to go again, since I could have eaten more than 7 tacos if I hadn't had my $2.00 moderately-sized slice of Cottage Inn pizza.

(Thanks to earlier rains and brisk winds yesterday, the temperature had cooled off somewhat, making my morning commute to the Dana building much more bearable.)

From the Guardian Unlimited: China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter

China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, figures released today show. Check out the rest of the story.

All of this stuff reminds me of something that I read a few years ago, especially about how the United State's emissions aren't really a problem, so long as GDP continues to grow.The above chart is something that I've seen before (in various different forms) to show that the impact of CO2 emissions aren't really as bad as some people think they are (since relative growth of GDP is apparently what is required). I mean, look at the chart: China's line is negative, the US's line is negative. In fact all lines are basically negative, except India, which is starting to go negative. (Of course, China is also starting to go positive.)

The problem with the above graph (and ones like it) is that the graph says NOTHING about absolute CO2 emissions. It only says that the relative growth of CO2 emissions for all the countries shown have grown slower than that of GDP. However, all this means is that if a country has a 2% GDP growth rate, so long as the CO2 emissions don't increase by more than 2%, no net "growth" occurs.

Stepping back and looking at the growth rates of CO2 emissions for each country shown above, one can see that, in fact, China, India, and the United States have had net CO2 emission growth over the period of 1969 - 2003. Meanwhile, the CO2 emissions of Germany and the United Kingdom have diminished slightly. Mexico's CO2 emissions over the same period also increased slightly.

How can this be? I mean, the above graph shows one thing, this graph shows a completely different message. One might say that this is one example of how graphs can be misleading, unless you are careful in understanding what a graph actually is illustrating.

The first graph is showing the relative amount of two things: GDP and CO2 emissions. To make the first graph, the value of CO2 emissions is divided by the value of GDP. But are these two amounts (GDP and CO2 emissions) actually correlated? If they are correlated, are the amounts just as correlated across different countries? These are both important questions to ask when looking at these sorts of comparisons (especially before slapping them together and putting them on a graph).

When you look at the graph of CO2 emissions over time, you should be very comfortable about making direct comparisons between countries, since both variables (time and tons of CO2 emissions) affect all countries in the same way. Time (indicated as years along the X-axis) is the same from country to country; the year 1990 in the United Kingdom is directly and completely equivalent to the year 1990 in China, the United States, etc. Similarly, a metric ton of CO2 emitted in one country is directly and completely equivalent to a metric ton of CO2 emitted in another country. The importance of knowing that both time and CO2 emissions are "equally equal" in all countries means that a person looking at the second graph can immediately state (without any hesitation) that the rise of CO2 emissions in China can be compared to the much smaller rise of Mexican CO2 emissions (assuming that you can trust the data sources). These statements may seem to be overly-pedantic on my part to bring up, but they are important to understand when moving on to the next paragraph.

IF you wish to accurately state that the two amounts (GDP and CO2 emissions) really are comparable as a consistent relationship between countries, the slopes of each line should be statistically insignificant from each other. One way to see if this is even conceivable, you can first graph them. Here, I graphed GDP directly against CO2 emissions. On the Y-axis, the GDP values are shown on a logarithmic scale (only to show the relatively small GDP values of Mexico, India, and about half of China's data). The values on the X-axis show the amount of CO2 emissions on a linear scale.

As we can see, the slope of China and the slope of the United States appear similar to each other. Likewise, the slopes of India and Mexico appear similar to each other, and those of the United Kingdom and Germany also appear similar to each other. However, the China and United States slopes are not similar at all to those of the United Kingdom and Germany (the prior are both "positive slopes" and the latter are both "negative slopes"), and are not very similar to those of India and Mexico (although all four slopes are positive slopes).

How do these visual estimations relate to numerical values? In calculating the slopes, I did a few things. First, I took the logarithm of the GDP values. This process - a type of "power transformation" - was done to make the data fit more toward a straight line. Next, I divided the value of CO2 emissions by 100,000. This was done because the values of CO2 emissions are roughly 100,000 times greater than those of the logarithm-transformed GDP values. (If the CO2 emission values were not divided by 100,000, the slope values I would be showing you would be several decimal places to the right of the initial zero.) Then I used MS Excel's in-built slope calculation tool to find each country's GDP-to-CO2 emission relation slope (the thing we are looking for in order to justify comparing countries against each other).

Here are the results:
Country: Slope
China : 1.512
USA : 0.865
Germany: -2.975
India : 2.280
Mexico: 5.446
United Kingdom: -6.427

These numbers basically support the statement made a few paragraphs above: China and the USA have similar slopes; Germany and the United Kingdom have similar slopes; and India and Mexico have similar slopes. I could go on to show just how similar these slopes are to each other by doing different sorts of ANCOVA analyses, but I think you get the idea of how these slopes relate to each other. (If such analyses were conducted, however, it might be shown that none of the slopes are actually statistically similar enough to each other to make even paired comparisons.)

So, going back to why I came down this road in the first place, can one really justify the use of the first graph (or ones like it)? I would argue that, NO, you cannot just take CO2 emissions and divide them by GDP. You cannot do it because the relationship between these two variables are NOT equal between all countries. Just look at the slopes of China and Germany. Although many people are "comfortable" with the concept of GDP, you cannot make the statement that GDP can (or should) be directly and implicitly related to CO2 emissions.

The thing about CO2 is that it is the absolute magnitude of CO2 emissions that are the important thing to consider. You can (and many people do) make CO2 emissions per capita analyses (since the existence of a single individual in one country is equally identical the existence of a single individual in another country). You can also do CO2 emissions based on sectors of a nation's economy (e.g., %CO2 emissions from industry, transportation, etc). If this is done, you assume (especially when comparing across countries) that the definitions of economic sectors of "industry", "transportation", etc. are effectively identical across the countries you are comparing. You can even do CO2 emissions based on wealth within a country (e.g., %CO2 emissions from the richest 20% of a nation).

I hope that I was able to show that when you see graphs of CO2 emissions divided against GDP (without any explicit statement that these values are somehow normalized) that you take them with such a large pinch of salt that you find the whole thing as unpalatable as I do.

The Gristmill posted a follow-up article about the China passing the US story.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hard power version of environmental policy.

A few months ago, some of us outside of Australia heard of that government's plan of banning all sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2010. Now, this move is expected to decrease the potential GHG emissions of that country by 4 million tones in just two years.

Just a few days ago, Ontario announced that gasoline-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers will be banned by the year 2010. Of course, doing a quick search for "leaf blower ban" on Google News comes up with a plethora of news stories from around the U.S. regarding local bans on these loud implements (which we sometimes see being used to blow a paltry handful of leaves across a sidewalk). I personally think that this is a good thing, although the justification behind passing these bans may need to be examined, since it is not inconceivable to me that someone will try and challenge these U.S. local laws as being unconstitutional (either under a state or the national constitution).

However, if such laws are tied to paying fines for pollution - noise and air pollution - then this may be a good setting for justifying the law (and the fines). Of course, if you were to impose a fine of $1,000 for an offense of using a leaf blower (as is presently the case in Palo Alto, CA), using the justification that this is a "polluter pays" fine for emitting noise and air pollution, people might start trying to hang general noise pollution penalties on top of this framework. This raises the question of how much a person has to pay for blasting a car stereo (with or without a subwoofer system), if a road/sidewalk construction crew needs to get a noise pollution permit before starting a job, if "drunk and disorderly" will include fines for a loud drunk, using a loud car/motorcycle exhaust system, etc.

Outright bans (with or without fines) are ultimately unpopular, especially when people are not philosophically "on board" with the philosophy behind the law. This is why so many non-"neat freak" people make the joke that Singapore is a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there... Of course, one might argue that "hard policy" options like banning products and banning actions produces results. Bans on substances (for example, with asbestos in new buildings, CFCs in refrigerators, phosphates in detergents, and lead in gasoline) and some actions (for example, duels of honor, and several other unsavory practices that many people would likely not want to even read about) have proven to be effective in the past. However, they have also been ineffective (note the ongoing War on Drugs, the repeal of Prohibition, and continuing need to enforce speed limits).

One might argue that removing the choice in the market place all-together (such as the bans on incandescent bulbs and leaf blowers above), while providing viable alternatives (in the form of low-electricity lighting solutions, soft & low-pollution blowers, etc) may prove to be a softer use of power than just the bans. This is the case in Australia with allowable viable alternatives of CF and LED bulbs. However, without some viable alternative for leaf-blowers, these local bans may prove difficult to maintain in the longer term.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

C-T-L fuel, hybrids, and the future?

Carnegie Mellon University Professor Lester Lave and Executive Director Jay Apt have this to say about the relative carbon benefits of plugging in an electric car to a coal-laden electricity grid versus using energy from a coal-laden electricity grid to make petroleum (aka. gasoline) out of more coal:

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is considering enacting policies to subsidize the production of transportation fuel from coal-to-liquid projects. Tepper School of Business researchers determined plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are a far better and less costly choice.

-- Generating electricity from coal with carbon capture and sequestration and replacing the fleet with plug-in hybrid vehicles could enhance energy security by reducing 85% of motor vehicle gasoline use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle travel by 70%.

-- Even the most carbon-intensive scenario using plug-in hybrids has substantially less greenhouse gas emissions than the best possible coal-to-liquids case.

-- Nearly three-fourths of the existing light-duty vehicle fleet could be accommodated as plug-ins without requiring additional power plants through off-peak charging.
At the same time, I see that the number of hybrid vehicles is increasing month-by-month, taking a huge jump up in May, 2007. For a year-to-year and cumulative analysis of the whole thing that is on the Green Car Congress web story, check out the (admittedly nerdy) graphical analysis to the right.

If the trend in 2007 follows the optimistic upward spike seen, then this year will see a huge increase in market share of these vehicles.

What this means in relation with the previous statements about plug-in vehicles vs. gasoline hybrid vehicles I can only imagine. However, I personally feel that it is better (in general) to relegate pollution to as few point sources as possible (i.e., introducing more electric vehicles), since US laws have a greater ability to regulate fixed point sources of pollution (e.g., power plants) as opposed to millions of cars. Does this mean that I don't like hybrids? No, of course not. I think hybrids are a great means of taking advantage of the current energy distribution system that is allocated to the transportation sector (e.g., primarily oil-derived). What would be (in my opinion) a bad thing to do (from the perspective of controlling CO2 levels) would be following the CTL technology pathway in order to cater to the monolithic oil input requirements for transportation as opposed to diversifying the types of energy usable by the sector.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Planting a new tree.

Apparently it takes several people and a bobcat to plant a small oak tree... (I think the two standing off to the side are there for moral support?)

For those of you wondering what happened with the previous oak tree (since a new one was planted during the winter), it didn't really "fill in" properly. It might have ended up looking full and healthy in a few years, but now we have a tree that looks good now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Water from thin air?

Check out the link to Science Daily's story of an invention by some PhD students at the Israeli Technion Institute. The upside-down pyramid is able to draw the water (i.e., dew) out of the air. (I would make a joke about pyramid power, but that would be too easy.)

As a person who is interested in water, water policy, water management, water ecology, etc., this is a potentially groundbreaking moment, especially if it can help mitigate drinking water problems in arid regions of the world. However, one has to wonder if this might have any sort of compounding/confounding impact on the local water cycle if used en masse.

I found out about this when I was looking at the following blog: Climate of Our Future

Book Review

I am currently reading Christopher Hitchens' book God is not Great. Now before all of you start calling me an evil, godless, atheist, let me state a few things:

1. It has been - for a very long time - my view that people misinterpret holy scripture.
2. I do not know that I can interpret holy scripture properly (especially when considering issues of translation between language and across time; transcription errors; church politics through time; etc.).
3. I do not know who is interpreting holy scripture properly.
4. Doing things in the name of someone or something with the near-certainty of misinterpretation is more of an infraction against that person or ideal than doing nothing.
5. You do not need to be a follower of an organized religion to be a good person or do good deeds.

The book makes many of the similar points that I have stated above, and goes much further. However, I would not go so far as some of the points that Hitchens makes - mainly because he borders on hypocrisy. There are also a few factual errors that he makes (e.g., saying that the Rwandan genocide started in 1992, and mis-naming the Yasukuni Shrine). However these factual errors are minor, and do not disrupt the veracity of the author's argument about the hypocritical stances that religions have made over and over throughout time.

Okay, so this isn't the best book review that you might ever read (either here or elsewhere). However, I must say that the importance of rational thought is, more often than not, being pooh-poohed in much of what we call rational society. The idea that one cannot be moral without religion has always seemed bizarre to me, especially with the history pointing to several immoral activities backed by the Catholic Church (and its various Protestant progeny). These include (as a short list) the Crusades; the Spanish Inquisition; forced conversion of the peoples of the New World; Calvinist purges in Geneva; church-endorsed slavery; Franco's crujada otherwise known as the Spanish Civil War; Mussolini's church-backed fascist regime; the backing of Hitler's Nazi Party and the Third Reich; the various church-backed dictatorships in South and Central America; the religious and ethnic genocide in Rwanda; the religious and ethnic genocide in the former Yugoslavia; and the systematic rape, mental abuse, and physical abuse of children by clergy. The list goes on, but these are the major ones, including only those that stem from the Catholic and various Protestant churches. If you include the immoral activities of Eastern & Greek Orthodoxy, the various sects of Islam, branches of Buddhism, myriad beliefs of Hindus, the different groups of Jews, and the other more-minor religions of Asia, Africa, and the New World have all done things highly immoral by a humanist definition.

The only way that this book really threatens to fall down is in the Howl-like diatribe it sometimes dips into. Hitchens calls for rationalism, but he apparently doesn't always mean a calm rationalism.

Okay, enough for now. You probably realize that I'm not the most devout person in the world. However, even if you are a religious person, you should probably read through the book. If you want to know what non-believers think of religion (and therefore hope to come up with a rational argument against them) reading this book is a good tactic. If you are interested in how a rationality can stand independent of organized religion (while realizing that as a rationalistic person, you have to think through your reactions to the book), I think it is a good book to read, as well.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lost Ann Arbor

I was in Borders bookstore last night, passing the time before catching the bus. I saw (again, because I had seen it so many times) the book Lost Ann Arbor. After picking it up, I had the same thought that I had many times before: why not do a "then-and-now" photo study of the city? After leafing through the book, I realized that many of the photos (luckily) could be reproduced by a person on foot.

Looking today for the book, I came upon a website of a man who lives here in Ann Arbor (and has presumably lived here for some time), and has some then-and-now photos from around town (not of the University). There are also photos online of historic photos from UM.

Monday, June 04, 2007

According to the link above, the (imaginatively named) 202 South Thayer Building "will house the [LS&A] departments of Asian Languages and Culture ..., Near-Eastern Studies, ... Judaic Studies, ... [and] the Humanities Institute."

Based on the name of the building, I would imagine that the "U" is waiting for either one of their president (or a leading dean of a housed department) to retire, or for someone to provide lots of money to name a building. Of course, you could say that I'm cynical, but it seems this is pretty much the only way that buildings get named here.

The building that used to stand here was a three-story house that had been converted to be an "Annex" building for China Studies (or was it Asian Languages and Culture?). The building was demolished so that (presumably) the Frieze Building could be demolished without having any departments becoming orphaned.

White characters that are NOT the same

It almost looks like the actors of Harry Potter could act out their own version of the Lord of the Rings. Some of the similarities between the actors (and their roles within their respective film series) are shown below... (Images compiled from various Google searches. No Photoshopping done - or needed.) However, do not mistake one white character for another white character.

Here comes the rain!

Looking outside my window, I see

Large gouts of rain.
Spouting, souting rain.
Pouring, roaring, rain.

Looking outside my window, I see
A magnolia tree bent by

Bowed double,
Limbs in trouble,
Soaked in rain.

Looking outside my window, I see
A shallow lake of puddled

A future birdbath,
A path for Peter,
And where I will soon walk...

Without an umbrella!