Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Have Got To See This!

Too bad it's in 3D, but I'll make do...

The Cave of Forgetten Dreams by Werner Herzog.   Documents on film some of the oldest human art in the Chauvet cave of southern France.

UPDATE: Saw it tonight with a friend at the Uptown theater, presented in "glorious 2D."  Very nice film.  I'm pretty sure my head is not at all wrapped around the idea of 32,000 year old art dating from the dawn of modern man.  Of course, the seats at the Uptown are almost that old, but it's a mighty cool place to watch a movie.

"‘Birther’ Strategy Backfires"

You heard it on FOX...

Even the Wall Street Journal agrees, so does Yahoo, KITV Honolulu, and Al Jazeera.

Why the Obama campaign and the Whitehouse waited so long to present a public document and quash this stupidity ("whackjobism")we may never know. 

Will the birthers evaporate?  Doubt it; there are still Swiftboaters and 9/11 truthers.  What the teabaggers think of next?  No, wait, I said "think."  Will "The Donald" still run for President?  Aack!  Thpt! 

It would be nice to move on though...

Monday, April 25, 2011

What I've Been Listening To Lately

My iPhone, these podcasts, and some ear buds make the 23 mile commute entertaining and informative morning and evening...

image from

A Christian and an Atheist "Because we're all wrong sometimes" 

American Freethought "Question.  Think.  Decide." 

Apologia "a friendly forum for both theists and non-theists to come together in search of some common understanding" 

Are We Alone SETI 

Astronomy Cast Astronomy Today 

Books and Ideas Dr. Ginger Campbell, M.D. 

Brain Science also by Dr. Ginger Campbell, M.D. 

Chariots of Iron Atheiskeptihumanists™ 

For Good Reason James Randi Educational Foundation 

Freethought Radio Freedom From Religion Foundation 

Gresham College Audio public lectures since 1597...podcasts being a recent development 

London School of Economics The LSE has plenty of seriously smart people lecturing on economics, politics, and the social sciences 

NPR's On the Media exploring "how the media 'sausage' is made" 

On Being formerly known as Speaking of Faith, with Krista Tippett 

Point of Inquiry Center For Inquiry 

PopTech Audio "world-changing people, projects and ideas" 

QuackCast Dr. Mark Crislip, M.D. 

Rationally Speaking New York City Skeptics 

Reasonable Doubts "your skeptical guide to religion" 

Reasonable Faith Just remember "You are not qualified to debate William Lane Craig

Righteous Indignation from the U.K. 

RSA Events: Audio the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce 

Skepticality Skeptic magazine 

Skeptics with a K from the U.K. 

Skeptoid Brian Dunning 

TED Talks my only video feed (and no, I don't watch it during my commute)

The Skeptic Zone from Australia 

The Skeptics' Guide 5X5 Five minutes with five skeptics (from the NESS) 

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe New England Skeptic Society 

Token Skeptic from Australia 

Unbelievable from the U.K. 

Try one, you'll like it. 

PS The language used in some of these podcasts may not be suitable for all listeners.

PPS Drivetime podcast listeners in Minnesota should be careful not to look like they are attempting to "compose, read, or send an electronic message, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic," as that is a violation of 169.475 USE OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Private Security Attitudes About the Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence

As some of you know, I'm working on a Masters in Human Development - concentrating on Leadership, Team Building, and Problem Solving...

Some recent discussions at the Security Source Online discussion group at LinkedIn have got me thinking there may be some detectable demographic differences between security professionals who hold strong opinions regarding the role of armed security personnel and armed citizens in reducing homicides at work, in houses of worship, or at school.

If you are a private security professional please visit Survey Monkey to take the survey titled "Private Security Attitudes About the Role of Weapons in Preventing Workplace Violence."

I am using Survey Monkey instead of LinkedIn Polls as there are people I'll be inviting to participate who may not have a LinkedIn account (yeah, really).  I do not have a premium account at Survey Monkey so I can ask only 10 questions. This make every question critically important, so please provide your best answer before proceeding.

The results of the survey will be tabulated and reported at Security Source Online and here at Eclectic Breakfast.

Thank you!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Swan

The book, not the movie...

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, comes highly recommended by several of my peers.  I'm getting tired of heavy reading so I'm going to cut The Feeling of Risk from my 2011 reading list and replace it with Black Swan.  I picked up a copy last night with some birthday money. I will keep you posted...

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Not About The Science

It's about not wanting to admit that pollution represents a failure of free markets...

As you may recall, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, was on my reading list for 2011.  Well, read it I did and happy I am for having done so.  This is one deeply researched and well written book.  As important as the history of denialism is, in less skilled hands the sheer volume of the material covered might have made for stultifying reading.  Let me politely suggest that Merchants of Doubt belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the role of science in the public square.  Historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have done science, our country, and humanity a great service.

UPDATE: Here's a fresh and unhappy post about the state of polarization on the issue of global warming written by Chris Mooney.

REUPDATE: I sent the authors of Merchants of Doubt some fan mail and asked the question:

"I wonder if evangelicals prone to biblical literalism also find common cause with denialist free market cold warriors because the ability to call "junk" any science they disagree with enables them to cling to their world view?"

Naomi Oreske graced me with a prompt reply:

"Indeed!  I am working on this very question now."

Cool news, indeed.

PS Merchants is now available in paperback for ~$11.00.  Consider giving a copy to the denialists in your life.  I'm going to...

Another Update: A nice profile of Professor Oreskes in the Christian Science Monitor.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This Has Been A Good Spring For Science Fiction And Fantasy Films

For the most part...

Just when you think there's no new way to spin a cloak and dagger action pic along comes Hanna.  Think Grimms' Fairy Tales meets The Three Days of the Condor.  The interplay between image, motion, sound, and music is unlike anything I've experienced recently, thanks no doubt to The Chemical BrothersRoger Ebert explains it better, as usual...  Fable.

The Adjustment Bureau reminds us that Matt Damon really is pretty talented.  Emily Blunt does a very fine turn.  Almost any movie adapted from a Phillip K. Dick story is worth a try; this one delivers.  Fate.

Source Code features Jake Gyllenhaal, a much more human Vera Farmiga than we saw in the unsatisfactory Up In The Air, and a totally dreamy Michelle Monaghan.  It started out far fetched, got a little weirder, then became engaging and emotionally true.  Second chances.

Okay, so Sucker Punch was as emotionally bereft as it was visually striking, but it's visual strikingness was pretty damn striking.  Image over substance.

Just kidding!  Battle: Los Angeles was not so good, but it made Roger Ebert's hilarious review possible.  Action-packed action, with an extra helping of action.

Spring Suffers A Setback

Our patio the morning of 16 April 2011...

Spring was here, summer was just around the corner, I swear it.  It's like some Twilight Zone version of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, except I'm not Peter and I don't want it to snow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Did Someone Let The Magic Out Of Their Rubber Bracelets?

The Power Balance woo-meisters are chastened and unrepentant...

Seems there are folks willing to call them on their BS, first in Australia, now here in the States.  Reality marches on.  I wonder how long the profits will continue to roll in.


Agreement Provides for Full Refunds

LAGUNA NIGUEL, (March 28, 2011) — Power Balance LLC (“Power Balance”) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to resolve a recent advertising-related class action lawsuit, Batungbacal v. Power Balance LLC et al., which was filed in a federal district court in California on January 4, 2011. Under the terms of the agreement, Power Balance will provide full refunds, plus an amount for shipping and handling, to dissatisfied customers who join the class. Power Balance will also make select changes to product claims and the ways in which it advertises and markets its products in order to better define the scope of its marketing claims. The agreement makes clear that there is no acknowledgement, admission, liability, wrongdoing, noncompliance or violation on the part of Power Balance. Importantly, Power Balance expects a series of related lawsuits to be resolved as a result of this settlement.

“We are pleased to resolve these matters, which will enable Power Balance to get back to the business of building a brand and further developing our Performance Technology™,” said Nina Freeland-Ringel, general counsel for Power Balance. “As with many early technologies, especially one involving Eastern origins, we recognize the potential for confusion in the marketplace, and concede we got ahead of ourselves with claims about our first product. While we have yet to fully document its benefits, we are wholly committed to the continued development of Power Balance products in association with athletes around the world."

Power Balance and counsel for the plaintiff in Batungbacal on Friday filed papers requesting the Court’s preliminary approval of the settlement. This case and related lawsuits stem from a similar matter involving Power Balance’s Australian distributor and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which was resolved in December 2010.

Dr. Steve Novella, M.D., has a very nice write-up at Neurologica.  If you still need a magic rubber bracelet be sure to buy an accurately labeled Placebo Band from SkepticBros.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Guest Writer at the Eclectic Breakfast

My mother has been working on her memoir...

Mayville, North Dakota, 1956.  The good old days...

This challenging chapter of her life story was published and distributed with the Sunday announcements at St. Richard's Parish this last Sunday (April 10, 2011).

My Personal Journey to Becoming a Catholic
by Kay Solberg Brady

I was born in eastern North Dakota in a very close-knit Norwegian Lutheran family. They have worshiped at Norway Lutheran Church for at least four, possibly five generations. We lived on a farm nine miles east of Mayville, ND, with two older brothers and one who was younger, but no sisters. While growing up I had a cousin and classmate who were Catholic. I was always fascinated by the way they lived their lives and by the way they worshiped.

I met my best friend who now has been my husband of 54 years when I was 19. He happened to be a college friend of my oldest brother. Larry was Catholic so about four months before our wedding I began religious instruction from the local priest, Father Hannaher to determine if I wanted to become a member of the Catholic Church. After six weeks of one-on-one instruction from that wonderful priest, I decided to become a Catholic.

Coming from a Lutheran family and joining the Catholic Church in the 1950’s in North Dakota became a very big issue. The fact that there were Catholics in my extended family didn’t seem to make any difference. My mother was the most upset. My dad had to support my mom. My grandmother Anderson, my mom’s mother who was 80 at the time was a great support to me. Everyone really liked Larry and believed we would have a good future.

We continued to plan our wedding day, with some major changes. I was baptized a second time a month before our wedding with a good friend serving as my godmother. (I continue to have a close relationship with her.) The events became very upsetting for my mom during those final planning days. Larry and I decided to go our separate ways just two weeks before our wedding day. That only lasted a few hours as my brother went to the college to get Larry in the middle of the night, and then came for me. He was such a great help to both of us.

As we got closer to the wedding, feelings within the family didn’t change. After hours of talk and prayer, Larry and I decided that we wanted to be married and we continued with our plans. The evening before our wedding my dad called to say, “I’m sorry Kay but you are no longer a part of our family!” I went to be with my godmother, Rosemary. We cried and I was so upset that she had me stay with her through the night as we prayed the rosary and talked. What a comfort she was!

The next day she helped me get ready for my wedding in St. Rose of Lima Church in Hillsboro, ND at 9:00 a. m. on December 28, 1956. The number of friends and family invited had been reduced because of the feelings. My older brother gave me away. Father Hannaher said he had never seen such a happy bride coming down the isle.

My parents and two of my brothers did not attend our wedding, but two weeks later we were invited to the farm for Sunday dinner. The worst was over! There have been good feelings in my family ever since the emotional start. Both Larry and I understood my parent’s disappointment, and really enjoyed the many years we had with them throughout our married life.

I have never regretted joining the Catholic Church. My best times are when I’m in Church for Mass or helping people in any way in can.

Ed. Note

Kay and Larry have been members of St. Richard’s since 1963. Kay serves as a greeter, Loaves and Fishes server coordinator, Prayer Shawl Ministry, Parish Festival, and both Spring and Fall Rummage Sales. Kay adds that St. Richard’s has been a home away from home for many years. She wishes to give credit for her involvement in activities at St. Richard’s to Dorothy Becker. What a wonderful friend and worker she was!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anyone Here Old Enough To Remember Jonny Quest?

The real one, from 1964...

My brother Steve and I used to watch it every chance we got.  As far as I remember Jonny Quest was just about the only kids cartoon featuring gun battles, aerial dog fights, and explosions in which bad guys, and even a few good guys, were actually killed.  I don't remember if Jonny or Hadji ever did anyone in, but Dr. Quest and the family's bodyguard, Race Bannon, certainly did.  I would have guessed there were more than just 26 episodes and that it ran more than just one season.

Technically JQ was a science fiction adventure program, given that its stories depended on technologies that were not realized at the time (or since).  There were laser weapons, a flying saucer (which delivered a really cool robot spider spy), hydrofoils, undersea crawlers, private supersonic jet transports, hovercraft, fighter jets that looked remarkably like the modern F-16, personal computers, and jetpacks.  Ooh, jetpacks...  There were some monsters too - mummies, pterodactyls, giant lizards, mutant crabs, sea monsters, and energy creatures.  The bad guys were either agents of unnamed hostile governments, mercenaries, or Dr. Quest's old friends who had become mad scientists.  Ah, the 60s...good times.

I must admit I'd forgotten how annoying Jonny's clever bulldog Bandit was, but he's not as grating as Scooby-Doo, Garfield, or Jar Jar Binks.  Oh yeah, there was an inferior version of JQ in the 1980s.  Those are not the shows we're talking about here.  These days you can enjoy this blast from the past by logging on to NetFlix and ordering home delivery for the four disk series.  Ah, the good old days!

Preventing House of Worship Vandalism

Written by your's truly, was just published at Church Security Consultant...

 image from wikimedia commons

The Church Security Consultant website is operated by LinkedIn peer and fellow ASIS Certified Protection Professional, Jim McGuffey.  Some may think it ironic that I'm working on behalf of faith communities, but that just means I've failed to fully express the nuances of my worldview.  

After publication we discovered a few more of my typos and some formatting flaws that happen when attempting to transmogrify a Word document into HTML.  We're working to resolve them though. Otherwise, maybe you'd like to have a look.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NIOSH Science Blog

Just came across the NIOSH Science Blog...

Unlike blogs published by other alphabet agencies this one seems to be written by NIOSH engineers, scientists, and statisticians instead of the usual press release writers. It addresses workplace safety, law enforcement, workplace violence, ergonomics, healthcare industry, and other topics. You might might find it worth bookmarking at the office.

Gusties in the Arctic!

Cassie and her cohort of Gusties are student teaching in Barrow, Alaska...

 Yes, those are whale skulls

Cassie's second student teaching assignment is in the North Slope Bureau School District in Barrow, AK.  They're keeping a blog so we can stay updated. 

 A "palm tree" fabricated with balleen

It's been ten years since Cassie visited Barrow.  She's changed a lot, I wonder if Barrow has.
"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"  Oops, wrong movie.

Stay tuned.

UPDATES: Each of the Gusties is taking turns posting on their Gusties in the Arctic blog.  Cassie has made two posts so far.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nova on Netflix

Being and PopTech on iTunes...

image from wikimedia commons

Just finished a three part series on Nova called Becoming Human (2009). Part One dealt with the science involved in determining why hominids departed from the ape lineage some six million years ago.  Part Two discussed the importance of Homo Erectus and its early migrations across the Old World.  Part Three examines why Homo Heidelbergensis evolved into two closely related yet distinctly different branches of humanity, the Neanderthal and  modern humans.  Brilliant stuff.  Well worth your time.  Best of all, it's available as a Watch Instantly selection on NetFlix.

Being reprised Krista Tippet's interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn, author and researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who has done a lot of serious science over the years on the real effects of meditation and mindfulness practice on our emotional and physical well-being. 

On PopTech Chris Chabris gave a brief talk titled When Intuition Fails.  Chabris is co-author of “The Invisible Gorilla: and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us," which sounds like a book that will end up on my bookshelf one of these days.

Who are we?  Where have we come from?  How do our origins contribute to way we perceive and interact with the world?  Take the time - make the time - to find out.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Being Vulnerable to the Threat of Confusing Threats with Vulnerabilities

This neat little essay was written by Roger G. Johnston at the Argonne National Laboratory which also hosts the Journal of Physical Security...

This was brought to our attention by the ever excellent Bruce Schneier's blog.  Interesting reading.  I shared it with my team at work.  Anyone disagree with his premise?

"The Journal of Physical Security (ISSN 2157-8443) is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal devoted to technical or social science aspects of physical security. Physical security involves protecting tangible assets (including people) from harm, or using physical security measures to protect intangible assets."

It's not published very often but hopefully this source will be a boon to my SM-401 students and others in our Security Management program at Saint Mary's.  Academic sources for peer-reviewed security papers are scarce.  An online subscription is free. 

Check it out, security nerds.

UPDATE: Here's another useful essay, again by Roger Johnston, this one titled Changing Security Paradigms.  Paradigms shifts, they're the latest thing.  Try one today!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

That's All They Need

Anti-vaccine "doctor"  meets with Somali parents in Minneapolis...

We note with utter amazement that shortly after an outbreak of measles among Somali children in Minneapolis, discredited former doctor and anti-vaccine advocate, Andrew Wakefield, visited the Twin Cities to meet with Somali parents to discuss with them the cause of their childrens' autism.  This is the same Wakefield who had his paper alleging a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism formally retracted by the British medical journal The Lancet.  This is the very same Wakefield who has been struck off the medical register in the U.K. for scientific misconduct.  Why on earth would anyone want to talk to him about the health of their children?

Star Tribune medical reporter Maura Lerner has done a stand up job reporting on the recent measles outbreak, fear of vaccination in the Somali community, and most recently the visit by Wakefield.

So, what sort of response do you suppose Ms. Lerner received for telling us - warning us - that Wakefield was in town, preying on the fears of our neighbors?  Gratitude?  Respect?  A hearty, "Well done, Maura!"?

Nope, she has been pilloried by both sides, the anti-vax loons who never saw a "Big Pharma" conspiracy they didn't believe in and the skeptical purists, who not only want Wakefield tarred and feathered, but also to make absolutely certain that he is never, ever referred to as "Doctor" again.  I'm reminded of the adage, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Well, I'll say it.  Well done, Maura!  Keep up the fine work.