The old story of the scorpion and the frog is pertinent yet again. A scorpion says to a frog, “will you escort me across the Red Sea? The frog replies, “Are you crazy, you will bite me and I will drown. The scorpion notes if I bite you and you drown I will drown as well since I cannot swim. The frog, persuaded by the logic, reconsiders and asks the scorpion to hop on his back as he starts to swim across the sea. Half way to his destination, the scorpion bites him. As the frog descends, he says to the scorpion, “why would you do this? Now we will both die.” The scorpion replies: “Because this is the Middle East.”
There’s been news recently about a decline in gas prices. Hallelujah? Or oh my God! Decline in prices means more people will build energy inefficient homes and invest in gas guzzling machinery or businesses. Some will benefit, but the world will suffer. How do we accommodate those inconsistent objectives?
“Little the life each lives,” wrote Marcus Aurelius, “little the corner of the earth he lives in, little even the longest fame hereafter, and even that dependent on a succession of poor mortals, who will very soon be dead, and have not learnt to know themselves much less the man who was dead long years ago...” [Ref.1, p.599.]
From my late adolescence until recently, I was an ambivalent vegetarian. My gastronomic relationship with the succulent flesh of cows, sheep and chickens was mostly one of respectful abstinence, except for once every ten years, when like a monk gone wild, I would shed my righteous reputation for no-meat celibacy, and I would go underground to eat from the shadowy flesh pots. I returned to the kosher cold cuts, hot dogs, and chicken wings, glancing nervously over my shoulder for fear of “getting caught”, as if anyone would really care. I would eat with primitive, furtive satisfaction, yet ultimately with not a whole lot of pleasure, before returning to my life of no-meat discipline. Like a school of fish swimming in and out of coral reefs, I also moved back and forth between eating and not eating those dwellers of the deep. I finally settled several years ago on remaining a confirmed pescavore, using a friend’s argument about the inherent stupidity of fish as my excuse.
The “Palestinian cause” is once again on the front burner of U.N. deliberations because of the war between Israel and Hamas. Moreover, this cause has for decades formed the pan Arab solidarity rallying cry. Yet, remarkably, Arab states rather than rectify “the problem” exacerbate it with perpetual conflict that serves a political goal, but no practical purpose for the hapless constituents in the area.
A panel at a national meeting of historians I attended was devoted to the relation between the study of history and STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. One speaker explained that practical skills were widespread early in our history. Those skills, like surveying, sailing, or building canals, required both hands-on skills and the ability to perform calculations and experiment. American surveyors, navigators and builders were doing what we now call science and math, though they rarely got the credit. One surveyor wrote to a Frenchman around 1814 that no one was paying for astronomy, and no one was paying him for his astronomical investigations and calculations. But the speaker then pointed out that this gentleman was in fact being paid by the government for surveying and that his surveys required the astronomical observations he was making. He was doing the work, though not being recognized for it as his French friend would have been.
One of the big national political stories last week was the grand jury indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry, charging him with abuse of power when he tried to pressure a local district attorney. Governor Perry has argued that he is innocent of the charges.
Jason Isbell was a key member of Southern-rock group Drive-By Truckers. He then struck out on his own as a solo performer, and he’s been riding high on critical acclaim for last year’s solo album, “Southeastern,” which has been described as his “Blood on the Tracks” or “Tunnel of Love” in its searing intimacy and stripped-down intensity. The album garnered Isbell nominations for Best Song, Best Album, and Artist of the Year from the Americana Music. NPR rock critic Ken Tucker and American Songwriter magazine called it the best album of 2013.
There's an epidemic that is sweeping this country. It's not Ebola, despite all of the hype and misinformation about that disease that has dominated the news in the past two weeks. Rather, I'm talking about the ice bucket challenge.
Anyone who has watched television in the last couple of weeks has seen this: newscasters, celebrities and athletes like Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart and Nick Swisher being doused with a bucket of ice water in the name of charity.