Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gas laws

Since I was covering gas laws in a couple of my classes this week, the flight of the silver balloon provided an appropriate punctuation. Living my life as I do in a hermit like existence within the recycled walls of the HSC, I spent Thursday blissfully unaware of the drama unfolding across the fields of Colorado. Only when I visited the fitness center for my constitutional did I start seeing the endlessly-replayed footage of this space-shipped shaped bag hurtling across the skies. By this time the drama was over and the TV station was heavily into trying to justify the blanket coverage of what was ultimately a non-event.

The boy was not in it after all. Thank goodness, or dash it, depending on your point of view.

A bit of research and thought should have led them to draw the obvious conclusion that this was a stunt. The evidence shows this is the family of a nutcase: the father exposes the family to humiliation on wife swap; he pitches an idea for a reality show (doubtless involving him); he names his kid Falcon Heene (that's the most damning); he keeps a large balloon in the backyard. It was hard to gauge the size of the thing but it seemed to me unlikely that it could carry a human-sized cargo. Yet another example of the vast waste of resources expended on non-entities to entertain the masses. Don't suppose many watching would know what Boyle's law states.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A few green leaves

Tribune was an interesting contradiction in messages this morning as the cover page was alerting us to the health risks associated with green leafy produce (number one riskiest food according to the FDA), while the Food section extolled the virtues of green leafy vegetables.

What can a poor boy do?

Of the other items on the top ten list, I can accept the presence of oysters; every oyster is in a way a dice with death; it is the only food that I both love and yet fear. Take into account that oysters are pretty small compared with the others, then it's obvious that they are pretty dangerous. Yet there such relative innocents as potatoes and cheese.

I prefer to take the approach that all this agonizing over safety is a waste of time. If one were to follow the guidelines about dealing with fresh produce, one would be consigned to a lifetime of tasteless food: way too much washing. And what is life without a little risk?

It's been a while since I've had oysters.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What passes for scholarship these days...

I recently received in my electronic inbox an invitation to attend a scholarly seminar at our "flagship" university, the much heralded, though recently much maligned, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (I would feel better disposed towards the institution if it shortened the name. Maybe a decent football team would also help since I spent a hapless Saturday last enduring an ignominious defeat to the mighty Penn State - should have got more for the $60 per ticket). I realize now the gulf between true scholarship and what passes for it in the lowlier backwaters of the community college, because I found I needed an interpreter and several dictionaries to make any sense of it, if indeed sense was anywhere to be found. I present to you the abstract and maybe ask your assistance in its interpretation.


Professor Michael Rothberg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"In his recently published book on Holocaust remembrance in the age of decolonization, Dr. Rothberg argues that public memory is structurally multidirectional—that is, always marked by intercultural borrowing, exchange, and adaptation. But such structural hybridity does not imply that the politics of memory comes with any guarantees. In order to continue the urgent task of mapping the political stakes of memory, this talk considers the deployment of the Warsaw Ghetto in struggles for decolonization past and present. Focusing especially on the role of Warsaw memory in the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian crisis, he argues that at stake in articulations of multidirectional memory are divergent conceptions of solidarity, justice, and political subjectivity. This conceptualization of relationality has important methodological implications for transnational studies."

I did not realize that "mapping of political stakes of memory" was an "urgent task." Maybe fixing health care, climate change or the economy are urgent tasks. There again, perhaps I am just not qualified to offer opinions among such luminaries. And they tell me chemistry is hard...