Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Devil is in the Minutia

To see the devil in a grain of sand,
and to see heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour.

Apologies to William Blake

According to a recent survey of Americans' attitudes about nanotechnology, only 29.5 percent think that nanotechnology is morally acceptable. This amazing factoid is written up on ScienceDaily.com.

The godless European nations,

  • United Kingdom: 54.1 percent
  • Germany: 62.7 percent
  • France: 72.1 percent
are much more enlightened, it seems.

In presenting his paper to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication, went on to say that Americans' concern about nanotechnology is not a matter of ignorance. The respondents are said to be well-informed about nanotechnology and its potential benefits.

"They still oppose it," he says. "They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs."

God help us.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Night at the Firefox

(re: the weird title -- sorry, I don't use the Opera browser)

Or a short history of clicking

Appologies for the weirdness of titles, but it's Friday afternoon and I'm feeling puckish.

I subscribe to Daily Rotation, a site that tracks feeds from a host of technolgy sites on the web. It's user-customizable, and one of my monitoring choices is del.icio.us hotlist. That site in turn pointed me to a piece on CollegeDegree.com titled 60+ Killer Open Courseware Collections for Web Designers. Are you still with me? Good stuff there, which led me to looking around a bit more, when I noticed another one of their feature pieces, 99 Resources to Research & Mine the Invisible Web. More good stuff here, all worthy of a bookmark.

At this point, web page wanderlust kicked into gear, and I tried their link for Top 25 Strangest College Courses. What's amusing about this list is that it featured two items from Alfred University, my old Elmer Mater:

  1. Tightwaddery, or The good life on a dollar a day: Alfred University's demonstratively anti-capitalist course attempts to debunk contemporary culture's popular myth: "Spend money and you’ll be happy." According to the official class description, "On a theoretical level, we will consider how living frugally benefits your mind, your body, your relationships, your community, and the environment. On a practical level, we will examine personal spending habits [and] sharpen bargain-hunting rip-off-detecting, and haggling skills." While they're at it, maybe they can help drive down gas prices?
  2. Maple Syrup: The Real Thing: Alfred University makes this list twice with its now famous course, Maple Syrup: The Real Thing. The course description reads, "the method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change," which is why it deserves an entire semester of attention and dissection. Students mustn't worry though, as the course comes with a neat disclaimer: "No prior experience expected."
Wow! When I was there in the early part of the 70s, Alfred used to feature a mini-semester during the month of January, when more sensible people took extended winter breaks. These "Allenterms," as they were called, were required for two of your four (or more) years. My two Allenterms were
  • a study of Lichens - running around in the dead of winter to collect and classify one of nature's strange and misunderstood life forms. "It's an algae. It's a fungus. No, it's both in one!"
  • "Tolkein and the Medieval Fantasy" - a reading of J.R.R. Tolkein's seminal fantasy trilogy.
Ah, such a stroll down memory lane.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Yeah, it's a sign all right

Reality can be strange.

I'm still on as an adjunct with my old employer, Fairmont State College, so I continue to get faculty announcements. Yesterday's made me do a double-take:

Subject: Deaf GLBT

Hello Everyone,

Our department, Disability Office and the Gay-Straight Alliance organization are very excited to invite you to attend a presentation by Ray Luczak on “The Deaf GLBT Community: Then and Now.”

The link to the information: http://www.fairmontstate.edu/images/userImages/tchiba/Page_4345/rayluczak.

I suspect that this is a very small niche market for a small state university. No doubt, they could hold their meetings in a tiny room -- say a closet.

Yeah, it's a sign, all right - "Going out of business."
Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) in Ghostbusters.