You may remember the story of our hapless Nobel Prize Hero, Doug Prasher. He lost his job in science and ended up driving a courtesy van at a Toyota dealership, but his research allowed others to win the Nobel Prize in 2008. Things are looking up for him, we are glad to report. You can read about it here, starting with this excerpt:
After joining the Toyota dealership, Prasher applied for a couple of science-related jobs in Huntsville, but nothing worked out. On one occasion he had an encouraging meeting with the hiring manager at a local company working on microfluidics; when the interviewer learned that Prasher drove a courtesy van, his interest cooled. There is no way to know how many other potential researchers were driven from their studies for similar reasons, or how many potential discoveries were never made because of the psychological and practical difficulties of the scientific lifestyle.
Finally in June 2010, several weeks after my visit, Prasher’s luck changed. He e-mailed me to say he’d been offered a science job at Streamline Automation, a local research and development company. Staffed by about 20 people, the company does work for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Prasher’s first task when he started in late June was to help develop technology to sense toxic industrial gases.
He began cautiously. “There was none of the tremendous relief you might expect,” he says. “I had been so discouraged over the years that my attitude was, this may work out and it may not.” Gradually he settled into the job. At home he occasionally took science reading to bed, something he hadn’t done in years. “A lot of the hangdog is gone,” Gina told me. In December Prasher won a six-month, $70,000 grant from the Department of Defense to develop a field technique for categorizing tick specimens according to their mitochondrial genes, in hopes of limiting the diseases a doctor might diagnose. It brought a sense of accomplishment that had been missing from his life for a long time. In January he told me that the cloud of depression he had lived under for years was finally lifting. Science gave him a sense of purpose.
It’s been a while since my last post, been busy working and eating. It would be nice if I could say that I’ve also been working out, but mostly I’ve been eating. I had a chance to go to Las Vegas a few times and also hung around with the family close to home. In both instances, I took a chance to try a few new food items and also to remind myself why I like some items in the first place. And here are my random musings — definitely not a comprehensive list, but hey, I was on vacation !!!
I definitely wanted to have a good Pastrami sandwich in Sin City (I mean, every cardinal sin is represented there, so why not gluttony?) As it turns out, I found a place that had a very nicely put-together sandwich and did not leave me feeling stuffed: Greenberg’s Deli in the New York, New York Casino. They had matzo ball soup, which was a very nice touch to accompany my pastrami. I passed on the yummy potato salad, I was feeling somewhat full. This place was recommended by CT team members as better than the Carnegie Deli elsewhere on the strip and it delivered the taste. And better priced too….
I also took my son to the Las Vegas Grand Prix and besides having 3 tracks of go-karts (kiddie, medium, expert) they also had a pretty good deal on cheese pizza ($5.00 for a large with 1 topping). Heck, given the price I would overlook bad taste, but it was actually pretty good !! The trick is to ask them to put extra cheese as the free topping. And the crust was nice and thin; you can’t go too wrong when you have thin NY-style crust.
I also tried another comfort food, Smash Burger Las Vegas . This is another burger joint in the In-N-Out price and quality category; more so, they are actually located about 100 yards from In-N-Out !! Now that’s confidence. As it turns out, these 2 restaurants are so good that they actually support each other by providing a destination hamburger experience. Why go to a cheap hamburger place when you can try a better burger for a little more cash? Smash Burger offers choices of toppings and flattens their patties so that they overlap the bun. Not sure if this improves flavor (I would think it would make them drier) because I prefer to order their Chicago dog. But their rosemary fries are the best I have tasted. Ever. Even better than my all-time fast-food favorites at McDonalds.
Finally, I had dinner at Prime at the Bellagio; I wanted to try their dry-aged beef. Would it compare to my experience at Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Paris last year?? Sad to say, the answer is no. The view of the famous Bellagio water fountain show is definitely better at Paris, across the street. And the beef, despite the premium price, was not a totally memorable experience. It was very tender and the taste was good, especially when coupled with the various chef’s sauces that were proferred. But the experience did now compare favorably with the Roast Duck I had at Paris. But hey, I’m comparing apples and oranges, so it’s not really fair. Still, I will be going back to Eiffel Tower Restaurant next year. The Eiffel Tower is also cheaper, although not as nicely decorated as Prime; but you never notice the decor because you are staring out the window panes: the view is what Paris is selling and it is pretty nice.
At home, I’ve been doing the Food Truck circuit. I was able to visit 2 events where several food trucks were present but I still ended up eating at Grill Them All Burgers both times. At the Fullerton Food Truck RoundUp it was tough to pass up all of the other trucks but I was interested in trying the H-100 tater tots at Grill Them All. Seeing someone eating a $12.00 lobster tail on a stick was a pretty tempting suggestion, but I stuck to my guns.1
At today’s Din Din Food Truck Event, I had to pass Central American tapas and Lomo Arigato food truck to complete my tour of the top 3 burgers at Grill Them All. But I’ve now had the three that I wanted: Waste ‘Em All, Molly Hatchet, The Behemoth. You can read more about them here. You may not be a burger aficionado, but you should be able to find other delicacies at these gourmet food trucks. They also post their locations on Twitter and on their own websites, so you can find them easily.
The picture shows a really long line in front of Grill Them All; they tend to be one of the more popular truck in the circuit. [↩]
I really, really dislike 3-D films. This is very strange, because I’m a big fan of stereoscopy (more to follow in a later post). I’ve found the filming style a bit contrived and just a tad silly. But on the other hand, if I can get my 3-D jollies on the cheap (without dishing 13.50 or more per outing) then I’m all for new technologies.
The Picture Show theatre (Santa Ana Main Place Mall) now offers second run 3-D movies for $3.00 and that’s not a mis-type. On Tuesdays, 3-D movies are a measly three bucks (four dollars all other days). And from what I can tell you get the regular 3-D glasses packed in sanitary plastic. Maybe they’ll offer a 50-cent discount if I bring my own.
I procrastinated writing an article on using a cool little device called the TV Guardian which allows you to watch TV and DVD with the foul language muted. You can read more about it here but in short: it scans the Close-Caption (CC) signal and everytime it detects a “bad word” it mutes the sound and presents a “cleaned-up” version of the dialogue in the close captions area (eg: Let’s have sex !! became Let’s have hugs.1)
Unfortunately, my delay has cost me dearly. In the years since I tried out this fantastic new technology, most studios have disabled the Close-Captioning signal opting instead for built-in subtitles. So TV Guardian has in effect stopped working for 50% of the movies on DVD and all movies on Blu-Ray, which does not carry the CC signal.
Enter James Cameron, my hero.
He is releasing a 3-disc collector’s edition of Avatar, featuring a family-friendly language track. In this New York Times article, he mentions that he was motivated to do this by watching his kids picking up foul language from watching the original movie soundtrack. He reasons that the clean language track will be made available for airline and network showing, so why not include it now in the Collector’s Edition release.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe cuss words are bad. They are considered rude language, vulgar, low-rent. And with good reason; they are only used when you run out of ideas, want to vent at someone or something or want to look tough in the eyes of someone even dumber than you. Cuss words are often used as the default adverb or adjective for any ocassion, and they replace words which have actual meaning1. So your language starts meaning less and less, when you use cuss words.
There’s even a club in Pasadena, CA that promotes the eradication of cuss words, and their membership is growing. And folks are taking to making up fake words that *sound* like cuss words so that they can avoid doing the nasty2.
But don’t judge them too harshly. There’s a reason ‘bad’ words are used today and were in use in Shakespeare’s time (although I don’t think he ever put anything too harsh in his works). They are a great substitute for *actually* punching someone/something out because you are mad/frustrated at some perceived slight. Think about it: primitive peoples chose some random sound and assigned it a ‘bad’ meaning, and agreed that using that sound would connote anger and pseudo-violence. So instead of fighting it out with the guy who cuts you off in the freeway, you can let a few cuss words fly and it has the same effect3
You may remember that Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is stranded on a planet about to be hit by an asteroid. He is adopted by an American Indian transplanted colony, and made their shaman1. By the end of the episode, he is able to activate a deflector beam that moves the asteroid away just in the knick of time. The deflector was hidden inside a cool, modern-looking obelisk (see below).
There is a similarly-sized asteroid heading our way, scheduled to make a short pass with Earth in the year 2029. And President Obama has stated that NASA’s new mission is to intercept this asteroid and deflect it.
The President is wasting our money by sending astrounauts to explore an asteroid, a feat that is wayyyyyyy harder than going to Mars or even returning to the Moon.
Now, I’m a big proponent of studying Aphophis, the asteroid that is going to destroy Earth on Friday April 13th, 2029. But there’s little to learn there, compared to the riches of Mars or even the Moon. The President is just finding a talking point that does not create any actionable effort during his Presidency
On the other hand, he may have just opened up a can of worms by calling attention to the asteroid. Any 2-bit spacefaring country can now send a rocket to intercept Apophis and park itself in close orbit. The gravity tractor effect over 19 years can ASSURE that we WILL be hit by the asteroid. This is so typical. First the liberals outlawed DDT and killed millions and now this Obama is putting the entire Earth in peril.
Time for a little break. So much going on at work, you tend to stay away from TV, movies and popular culture. But those who are blessed with a job1, however tenuously, should take a break and thank the Power-That-Be for the people responsible for these humorous asides:
Sarah Palin does a pretty credible job getting back at our old friend William Shatner. If Bill’s reaction is genuine surprise at her sudden appearance, then I am even more impressed with Bill’s acting abilities !! Someone really, really needs to get him in the Star Trek sequel quickly, before he joins Scotty and Bones in the big Starship in the Sky.
Oh, and by the way. Bill is a Canadian actor taking valuable Hollywood jobs away from US citizens. Can someone get the immigration problem in this country corrected? Too many Canadians are coming down to take our high-paying white-collar jobs in this country. Forget the Mexican border; folks down there are coming to take the lesser-paying jobs and will not affect your six-figure, professional position. It’s the Canadians that are the problem. And they look just like you and me so that they are harder to find and deport.
However, good going Conan. You are so good at this that I may start watching the Tonight Show again. I stayed away for the last 15 or so years, but I think the Show is in good, capable hands again. Can anyone tell me what happened to Triumph, the Insult Dog?2
Finally, I just have to mention this item that I read in the news about poor Tiger Woods. No more jokes, this is serious. Here’s the excerpt in the news from one of his supporters:
“One thing people don’t understand is that we’re human,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said in Miami. “You’re not born with a menu on how not to do things wrong. You’re going to make mistakes like every human being.”
Actually Dwyane, there is a menu that you were given when you were small. It’s called The Bible. Sure it’s old and seemingly out-of-date or out-of-touch. It’s as old as Humanity, and it does seem to be in touch with the foibles and peccadillos that affect all of us, all of the time, since the beginning of time. I don’t think Mr. Woods is the first person that has ever cheated on his wife; plenty of those stories in the Bible. You may want to crack it open one of these days.
I’m not implying that most bloggers are out-of-work, left-of-center hipsters with too much time on their hands. But it is an effective stereotype. [↩]
As I said earlier, I’ve been away from TV for awhile. [↩]
There’s been opposition to the President’s plan to broadcast a “do well in school” message to the American student body. In and of itself, the message is probably harmless and probably a good idea; who is better able to motivate our students than a good-looking, young President Obama? Why are people making a fuss and opposing the president at every turn? The problem lies in that it is being encouraged (some would say pushed) onto the American school system.
Officially, it is a voluntary program. But we remember other “voluntary” programs like prayer in schools. In that instance, any kids that refused to pray with all of the others were either ostracized or branded as atheists. So I’m sure that any kids that opt out of the President’s inspirational message will be similarly affected. I personally do not mind being branded a discontent at age 10, but it does affect your chances to get hired at the local hardware store for the summer when you turn 14. That’s a heavy burden to bear.
The President should bear in mind other efforts to inspire young people without a chance for other voices to be heard. This one-party messaging could eventually morph into something akin to Hitler’s propaganda machine. One of their weirder efforts was this coloring book exhorting the Young German to do something that was probably decent and helpful. But when a commendable exhortation turns into “obey my orders” and “kill Jewish people” then we have a little problem.1
Just to make sure my message doesn’t get lost: Hitler was a bad man and killed a lot of innocent people. We don’t want to be like him [↩]
Here we are, back in the fray. This time, we are discussing the arrest of prominent Harvard professor (of African-American culture) Gates; he was questioned and arrested as he was trying to get back into his home after an extended overseas trip.
My credentials to address this issue, and why I’m a better commentator than the person holding the highest office in the land, President Obama, are here, in a previous post. President Obama weighed in on this issue and lent it an aura of importance and substance that it probably does not merit.
Let’s go ahead and dissect this one with our racial-bias-free scalpel, shall we?? Prof. Gates has just gotten back from China (14 hour flight) and is probably tired and just glad to be home. But then he notices that his front door is jammed. Turns out his home was broken into during his absence. While getting his front door unjammed, a neighbor calls 911. So far this sounds reasonable. Biased? No. I would have called 911 even if only 2 white people or 2 white females or 2 white female models were trying to force my front door open (in the latter case, I would have gone in and joined them).
Police arrive and question Prof Gates. Biased? No. The police’s job is to ask questions. And there was suspicious activity at the front door, even if it was the owner of the house trying to force his way in. Prof. Gates refuses to show ID. Biased? Yes. If he believes that he is being asked for ID only because he is black, he is mistaken. Period. A good cop would ask for ID even if it was President Bush found in the house1. Prof. Gates starts asking for the officer’s ID. Biased? No. We have a right to know our officer’s name during an investigation. And don’t forget, the police are also there to investigate the previous break-in as well. Instead of starting charges of racial profiling (Biased? Yes. Big time.) Prof. Gates should have filed the police report on the break-in right there. The police are a service that he and all of us in the community are paying for. And yelling at the police is never a good
idea, even if they deserve it. Showing deference, or at least cooperation to a man with a gun is always a good idea. And don’t forget that you paid to give him the gun.
Mistakes made? Plenty, but mostly by Prof. Gates, from what is being reported.
Mistakes Made by Policeman: Police should never walk into your home without being invited by the owner. They need a court order to come in unless you invite them in; there may have been some words issued by Prof. Gates that could be construed as an invitation, so be careful what you say.
Mistakes made by Prof. Gates: The owner should never leave the safety of his home and follow the police outside. You are giving up some of your rights by entering a public venue. Don’t shout at a policeman and berate them in public. You can show your displeasure by ammending the police report and complaining at the station house. He should have started break-in investigation as soon as police arrived. This really throws suspicion off of you, when you are aiding police. And police are a service that you are absolutely paying for, so use it. Don’t bring up race. But if your teaching specialty is hammers, everything around you starts looking like a nail. Automatically bringing up race dooms us all.
Mistakes make by President Obama: President Obama’s outrage is OK. After all, Prof. Gates is a personal friend. Any of us would automatically take the side of our friend in a dispute against a cop. I believe the words “rogue officer” were unfortunately uttered by someone in the fray. But as President, Mr. Obama must put down his personal feelings and keep the debate cordial and race-neutral. By quoting statistics that blacks and latinos are disproportionatly arrested (it’s true) he fueled the fire. A President must weigh his words carefully and keep personal emotion out of his statements. In this case, the arresting officer is clean and the President will come out looking badly.
Incorrectly regarded as a mistake:
Arresting a middle aged man that walks with a cane is perfectly OK. So is arresting an elderly woman walking in crutches. Or a teenager in a wheelchair. All of these folk could constitute a danger to a policeman and any of them could pull out an exotic home-made weapon from cane, crutch, wheel chair. A good ninja can make a weapon out of eyeglasses or a toothbrush2 so everyone should be treated the same way: handcuffs and extreme vigilance. I remember from “The Fugitive” that Federal Agent Tommy Lee Jones removes Harrison Ford’s handcuffs once they are back in the squad car and offers him an ice pack for his wrists. I’m not sure if this is standard procedure, but I guess once you’re in the squad car you are more manageable and less likely to try to start a getaway attempt. And the ice pack is just a nice touch from a really cool, tough Federal Agent.
In conclusion: Archangel summed it up nicely when he said that a tired, weary Prof. Gates probably reacted inappropriately when confronted with a stressful situation. Also, the arresting officer has a super-clean background in racial sensitivity and even taught on how to avoid racial profiling.
Circumstancial evidence points to Prof. Gates being at fault. But now that his friend Prez Obama has taken his corner, it will be difficult to find a reasonable solution that does not include the signing of a non-agression pact at the White House’s Rose Garden. Such is life.
Given our current liberal climate, has President Bush been cleared of from the initial break-in of the house? I’d like to know [↩]
this is a good topic unto itself, for a different article [↩]
Race relations are a big topic this year. From the office of the Presidency to the next Supreme Court Justice to the selection of Surgeon General, race would seem to be a central factor in selection. Not that these folk are not good, smart people; they seem to be good enough to do what their positions require. But were they selected because of their overwhelming qualifications, or because they held some promise and they also advanced the color-blind American agenda? Don’t get me wrong: it’s a good agenda.
Just witness the statue of Justice; it is blindfolded, ready to go into combat with that really big sword. Another blind entity dispensing martial arts justice1.
Disclaimer: I am not a Caucasian, if that is even important. Most dwellers of the Russian Caucasus region look nothing like your typical redneck person (sic) from the Deep South. I could not pass for White, whatever that means.
But I have to take issue with the case of the alleged discriminatory Swim Club in Pennsylvania. Much has been made as to how a daycare class of minority students was run out of the club by just-awful white racists. I think that the swim club is being harassed unfairly, by a day-care practicioner that has a chip on her shoulder. Look at the facts, in a color-blind way: Was the group large? Yes. Did the group create a crowd that is unusual for the club? Yes. Did the crowding enhance the ability to swim laps in the pool or to enjoy a quiet swim? No. Just for those reasons, I would have ended my contract with the daycare program: our facility is just too small to accommodate you. There were 2 other groups that received the same reasoning for termination of contract; they are not making any waves (sorry, I could not resist) about it.
But this one person decided that the swim club was too exclusive to be allowed to exist. Exclusivity being defined as having the need to swim in a calm environment without 65 kids jumping into the pool. Trust me, I have small kids, it gets very loud. So she took the comments of some of her students and decided to bring a lawsuit against the club. Allegedly, some daycare kids heard others at the swim club make derogatory remarks, eg:watch the dark skinned kids or they’ll steal your towel and don’t they ruin a perfectly good pool outing. Although I never automatically take a kid’s word above a trusted adult, this is what this unknown person did. And now the swim club may have to close, since it cannot afford to mount a legal defense.
Did the swim club err? Yes. They should have kept their contracts and notified members that certain swim periods would be crowded, since the club was assisting daycare groups that no longer had access to a regular swimming pool. Did club members have the right to complain? Yes. They had paid their dues and expected access to a swimming pool that was normally uncrowded. Did they have the right to make racists remarks? No. The club leadership should have used this opportunity to educate their members about life in the 20th, er, 21st Century. Should they have used the words “[the kids] changed the atmosphere and complexion of the club?” No. These are perfectly good English words, but they do sound like the color of the kids’ skin had something to do with the decision. Stupid word choice.
Solution? Have the swim club institute racial sensitivity classes for members (including its President); apparently they need them. Have the daycare come back to use the pool and drop its legal case. Contact between the swim club members and the general population is a good thing and would foster understanding between people. But now that the news shows have shown the swim club as a “bad” place and placard-wearing losers are using this as an opportunity to appear on those news shows (don’t they have jobs?), this mess will move to its sad conclusion: the swim club will close and those very stereotypes that should be destroyed will be reinforced. Oh yes, everyone out of the pool !!!
PS> The daycare is seeking punitive damages against the swim club. I’d hate to think that the daycare program is trying to shake down the swim club for money over this incident. A lot of good daycare programs are receiving reduced funds nowaways, and this may be a tragic way to raise money. I will continue to think that it’s only the sad interaction between flawed people that has gotten us to this point. That, and the eagerness of a lawyer to get some cash from (maybe) affluent people.