Friday, August 26, 2005

This can't be good!

Oh, those pesky scientists, always a bunch of killjoys. If it wasn't bad enough that daydreams may cause Alzheimers and that chocolate may shrink your testicles, now this piece of good news from some of the world's top thinkers:

Earth's Core Spinning Faster Than Crust - Yahoo! News: "The solid core that measures about 1,500 miles in diameter is spinning about one-quarter to one-half degree faster, per year, than the rest of the world, scientists from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"The spin of the Earth's core is an important part of the dynamo that created the planet's magnetic field, and researcher Xiaodong Song said he believes magnetic interaction is responsible for the different rates of spin."

So I guess it's time we informed Hilary Swank and Delroy Lindo to fire up their superduper supersonic underground drill again and head back down for another round of Core maitenance! 'Cause anything that has to do with the core of the Earth going wacky can't be kismet for the future of mankind. (Though it does explain the 2000 election and why "Yes, Dear" is still on the air.)

(Note: I was kidding about the chocolate study. But you never know!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fun with profanity

My dear buddy Beth, whom all of you should get to know someday, pointed me via her own blog to this cool quiz on, what else, that determine what swear word you are. I know, the idea that every individual on Earth can be summed up by one singular profanity is genius, though it does make me wonder what kind of result people like Pope Benedict XVI or the Dali Lama might end up with. (Not to mention that other beacon of spirituality, Tom Cruise.) But I digress. The curious cat in me couldn't resist, so I went and I tested. And my result?

"Your word is SHIT. You are laid back and relaxed, and most people like you. You don't especially want to stand out from the crowd, you are pretty happy with your lot."

So that's it. Frankly, what with the way I've been feeling about the upcoming fall television season, not to mention my beloved (!) Chicago Cubs, I'm a bit surprised that it wasn't something harsher. Heck, "shit" is so PG-13. (The aforementioned Beth, meanwhile - who has one of the kindest hearts I know - registered the F-bomb. Then again, she's pretty feisty when provoked.) According to Quiziilla's stats, 35 percent of testers share my colorful description.

If you want to take the test yourself - that includes you, Mr. Lama! - click on the title of this entry to go directly to Quizilla. Then feel free to liberally use your particular word for the rest of the day, if it makes you feel better.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stranger with Candy

A revelation from Science:

Study Describes Bar at Center of Milky Way - Yahoo! News:

"After creating the most detailed analysis yet of what the Milky Way looks like, astronomers say a long bar of stars cuts on an angle through the center of the galaxy that includes the sun and planet Earth."

That's interesting. But if the experts had said that the bar was made out of creamy nougat instead of stars, that really would have been a breakthrough - because then we may have finally figured out what nougat actually is.

Or maybe nougat is in fact made of stars.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lefties (and I'm not talking politics)

Oh, the things we discover with our fertile little brains. To wit, courtesy of the AP:

Study: Most Wild Chimps Are Southpaws - Yahoo! News:

"WASHINGTON - When it comes to fishing tasty termites out of their mounds, wild chimpanzees don't have the right stuff. Most, in fact, are southpaws. A three-year study of 17 wild chimps in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, found that 12 of them used their left hands when using sticks to probe for termites.

Four were right-handed and one was listed as ambiguously handed."

"Ambiguously handed." Sounds dirty, no? But, seriously, I guess we just found out where the brunt of the major-league scouts will be spending their winter. I know of one team on the North Side of Chicago who could use some simian assistance sooner rather than later. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"Peter Jennings - Reporter"

Watching the two-hour special on Peter Jennings' life (and I mean two-hour - no commercial interruptions) was, in some ways, an incredibly sad experience. Not just sadness as a life interrupted, but also at the fact that Jennings' passing was really the end of an era. Here was a reporter who actually seemed totally devoted to reporting - and not just on the big stories, though he clearly excelled in them, but also the little stories, the ones that not many people cared or knew about, the stories that could get him in trouble. I was struck at how many documentaries he did that probably could never get produced today because they were critical of the U.S. government or something like that. I liked that the special did not shy away from the fact that he was a work in progress, that it took time and struggle for Jennings to achieve the skill that made him so revered in the industry. And I liked that the show dealt with perhaps the main controversy of his professional career, the allegation that he was somehow anti-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. And his doggedness to get to the truth and the heart of the story, even when he was being eaten alive by cancer and nowhere near the newsroom. One producer choked up talking about the one of the last calls Jennings made to ABC News from his sickbed - directing the troops as to how they should properly cover the London bombings. The program also didn't avoid the painful fact of what killed Jennings. One entire segment was devoted to his addiction to cigarettes - and, noted with some irony, his coverage of the tobacco industry. Even a tobacco executive spoke about how Jennings covered the story with tenaciousness, but always with fairness.

All of the examining of his career brought home one big point: that while Jennings was not a perpetrator of so-called media bias, he definitely saw his job as more than just a mere reciting of the news of the day. He most likely saw himself as an advocate - for those stories he thought deserved more coverage, and for those people who touched his heart or were in need. And you have to ask: How many of the current crop of reporters, even the superstars, have that in them? And what of the next generation?

There was also much about Jennings the man - a man, friends pointed out, who took great, and successful, pains to keep his private life private. A camera went into his empty, cluttered office, filled with books on almost every topic. His myriad of awards were kept in a very special location there - his private bathroom. His sister, who sounds almost exactly like him, was interviewed extensively. Friends noted that he was shy (explaining his ability to communicate with children) and that he was very cheap, almost ashamed that he was wealthy. His curiosity about America, religion, and more was forever insatiable. One person spoke of his volunteer work at a local homeless shelter after being genuinely shocked that such poverty could exist just 40 blocks from his Manhattan home. He regularly hosted an annual jazz festival at his own home in support of a favorite charity. And there was his family - his wife, who he always called "Darling." His kids, to whom he was passionately devoted. Video was shown of him all but completely losing it when he was speaking at his daughter's high school graduation seven years ago, saying how proud he was that she had done something her father had never done.

Maybe most extraordinary of all, and lost in the tragedy of Jennings' loss or this celebration of his career, was the speed in which this 120 minutes was put together. Remember that ABC admitted that nothing was prepared in advance prior to his death. The folks there had basically two days to produce this special. Many people were interviewed, from nearly every big name (and a lot of not-so-big names) at ABC News were interviewed, along with everyone from President Clinton and Condoleezza Rice to Antonin Scalia and Al Sharpton and Alan Alda (both close friends of his). And the clips and the file footage - that alone made this show a fantastic achievement, one that, even with some mild mawkishness, was Emmy worthy. It's too bad they had to make it.

If you didn't see it, I hope ABC replays it so you can.