27 February 2008

Christmas in Wisconsin

From California, I flew to Minneapolis, MN and rode to my hometown in Wisconsin.
I have enjoyed Wisconsin winters since I was born in the middle of one. Unlike winters in Ohio and California, which have mostly overcast grey weather, Wisconsin usually boasts clear (or only partly cloudy) skies.
I also enjoy the snow-covered rolling hills...
..and corn fields.

Of course, the primary reason for a visit to Wisconsin is my family. I try to visit my family each Christmas. We share conversation, update each other on our lives, exchange photographs, and eat large amounts of excellent food. I make a trip to the Catholic church for the formal celebration of Christ's birth.

As is traditional, my immediate family has a dinner on Christmas Eve to exchange presents. My extended family has a much larger gathering on Christmas Day.
This is my grand-aunt (my maternal grandmother's sister) at our Christmas dinner.

My mother expresses her gratitude for a gift of new snow pants.

My sister smiles over her new watch.
This is an emergency kit for her car that my parents gave her.

My stepfather, in the foreground, is a rather avid Green Bay Packers fan. Here he is holding a gift of three DVDs chronicling the three seasons in which the Packers have won a Super Bowl, so far.

I was also able to visit my friend Vanessa and her family again. This is the view from the window of their spacious and beautiful new three-story house. Their wood burning heater is at the right edge of the frame.

Adaylen and Joshua are two of Vanessa and Brian's three children. Here Adaylen is playing caretaker to her younger brother.
For most Winters since I received my camera, I have taken a long-exposure photograph of our Christmas tree illuminated only by its own lights. I am not sure why, but I neglected to do that this year. I did capture similar photographs of the city's Christmas light display in a park by Bugle Lake. Here, you can see the park glowing across the frozen lake. On the left, you can also see the clock tower on the building that houses the Opera House, Library, Fire Department, and City Hall. This photograph is a little overexposed and dominated by the orange glow of a low pressure sodium vapor street light.

This is a panorama of the Christmas display as seen from within the park.

26 February 2008

You are Invited to a Concert

You are invited to a concert featuring:

  • The University Band (with Luke on Tuba and Kelly on Clarinet)
  • The Collegiate Winds (with Austin on Tuba)

Thursday, March 6, 2008, 8:00 PM Weigel Auditorium

The U Band half of the concert will include

  • "English Folk Song Suite" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • "Praise to the Lord with Antiphonal Trumpets" by Vaclav Nelhybel

Ticket Prices:

  • $6 general public, senior citizens, OSU faculty, staff, students;
  • Free for OSU School of Music faculty, staff, students with ID.
I hope to see you there.

21 February 2008

20 February 2008

Stimulating Discussion and a Free Dinner on Saturday

Update: Robert Brock has cancelled and will be replaced by Rev. Elizabeth Hakken.

Greetings all,

I am writing to invite you all to a dinner and discussion of religious freedom sponsored by Amnesty International and the Christian Graduate Student Alliance, of which I am Vice-President.

I invite you to join us as we enjoy a free dinner and a panel discussion to answer the question 'To what extent is religious freedom protected around the world?'" After opening statements and a few
prepared questions, we will be taking many questions from the audience.

Time: 7:00pm, Feb. 23, 2008
Location: Howlett Hall 164

Please come and invite anyone you know who might be interested.

Our panelists will be:

  • Abukar Arman (Executive Board President, Council on American Islamic Relations of Columbus)
  • Dr. Sai Prakash Bhatawadekar (Senior Lecturer, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Dept., OSU)
  • Robert Brock (Voice of the Martyrs Representative to the Midwestern U.S.)
  • Rev. Elizabeth Hakken (Associate Pastor in charge of Campus Ministry, Worthington Presbyterian Church)
  • Prof. Deborah Jones Merritt (John Deaver Drinko-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, OSU Moritz College of Law)

The panel will be moderated by Bo Chamberlin (Student Coordinator,Amnesty International of Columbus)

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
- Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I hope to see you there.

19 February 2008

December in California

Here you will find the, admittedly delayed, pictures and description of my trip to California in Dec. of 2007.

The primary purpose of the trip was to take shifts monitoring the BaBar detector. Each institution has a quota of shifts to provide to the experiment, and I took four owl (midnight to 8 AM) shifts because they are worth more towards fulfilling Ohio State's quota. I arrived on Dec. 11 so that I could renew my training on Dec. 12. My block of shifts ran from Dec. 17-20. When I was not training, on shift, sleeping, or continuing my research, I was visiting, eating, and traveling with friends that I had not seen since Dec. of 2006.

Most of the photographs I took come from our trip to the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, which is better known as Hearst Castle. It was built by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and is probably the basis of Xanadu in Citizen Kane.

Hearst Castle
The drive from Stanford to Hearst Castle is fairly long, but we were able to see some beautiful coastal California scenery along the way.
The castle is actually a compound consisting over several ornate buildings high in the hills. Tourists take a bus to get to it. The bus, as you can see below, provides excellent views of the surrounding landscape and ocean.
The view from the compound itself is also quite spectacular.
We began our tour in one of the guest houses. They had indoor running water, which was quite impressive high in the mountains in the 1920's.The grounds of the castle are filled with a wide variety of sculptures and other artwork. Some of it is original; some is old or ancient; some of it is copied from other work.

This is Sekhmet; she is the oldest piece of artwork on the grounds. She was sculpted in ancient Egypt about 3,000 years ago.
Look, a nude flapper!
I am not sure who these three marble ladies are, but maybe the more classically educated readers of my blog will know.
This sculpture struck me in a way not easy to capture in a photograph. Despite being made of stone, this really looks like a thin cloth blowing in the wind.

Frequent readers of my blog may recognize this young man from my trip to Italy. It is a copy of Donatello's bronze sculpture of David.

In addition to sculpture, we also saw some lovely tile work.

Palm trees are a common feature at the Castle.

Mr. Hearst liked his swimming pools. Here you can see several of my friends and other tourists in front of one of the outdoor pools. It is surrounded by authentic and copied Greek and Roman sculpture.

The Castle itself is an ornate and imposing structure, built to resemble the castles of Europe. It is so large, that I could not get far enough from it to photograph it all in one frame. The distortion in the image above is the result of stitching two frames together.

Since we were not allowed to use flash on our cameras, I have few photographs from inside the castle. This one is the indoor swimming pool.

This is one of many beautiful ornate ceilings in the castle and surrounding buildings.


After our tour of Hearst Castle, we drove back to Stanford. We made two stops along the way. The first was to eat a (late) lunch and watch Elephant seals on a beach.
The beach was also home to at least one gregarious and greedy squirrel. This rodent aggressively tried to get the food of all the human tourists at the beach. Here you can see it before it crawled under the fence in pursuit of my sandwich.

It actually jumped on my knee at one point, but it would not stay there long enough for me to get a picture. Despite its efforts, I was triumphant; no one ate my sandwich but me.


After fending of the pesky rodent, we moved on to the main attraction of the beach, which was a group of seals.
They were not very active but did produce a few interesting noises...

...and cute poses.

Gingerbread House

Before this trip to California, I had never build a gingerbread house. Several of my friends share a house in Menlo Park, and they threw a party that involved the construction of an elaborate gingerbread house.
This is the final product, which I found very impressive. The stained glass windows are made of Jolly Ranchers melted in an oven! Many more photographs of the party are available.

Visit from Angela

This is my friend Angela from Ohio, but this photograph was taken in California. If you look closely, you can see what appears to be the headquarters of a famous Internet company on the other side of the street. She and her friend Bill also traveled to the Bay Area in December, and we decided that we had to take advantage of this coincidence. We met for lunch in Palo Alto and discussed their upcoming sightseeing in San Francisco.


While in California, I celebrated my birthday with the InterVaristy small group that I joined while there. We went to the favorite restaurant of one of the members, who also was born on Dec. 20.

The friend with whom I share a birthday is Lumnia; she is in sitting on my right in the photograph above.

Good friends, Ethiopian food, and chocolate cake form an almost unbeatable combination for celebrating a pair of birthdays

15 February 2008

Prayer, Persuction, Slavery, Science, and Filters

Several weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a Christian friend about a commentary by Chuck Colson entitled "Pray for the Persecutors." The persecutors in question are the members of the Khmer Rouge, some of whom became Christians as a result of the faith of those they brutally murdered more than 25 years ago. That same friend recently sent me another Colson article about the horrors of sexual slavery in the U.S. entitled "Desparate for Love."

While I would like to heed Dr. Colson's words, other articles of his make that difficult. The subtitle of one, "From Darwin to Hitler" is self-explanatory. He quotes a historian who claims "Darwin's ideas about the origin of species helped create a culture that devalued human life. And in that culture, Nazism was able to thrive." This is a severe logical fallacy called the argument from adverse consequences; the perceived social consequences of a scientific hypothesis have no affect on its veracity. If evolution is true, it is true regardless what affect it has on any individual or culture.

The other article, "Does Mother Nature Tell?" is a collection of putative evidence against the current scientific understanding of Earth's age. I would like to rebut this supposed evidence, but the fine people at Talk Origins have done that for me. Colson claims that "scientists at the Hawaiian Institute of Geophysics tested volcanic lava" and "got ages ranging up to three billion years old" even though "the lava was from an eruption that happened only 200 years ago." Similar claims to this are rebutted as Creation Claims CD012 and CD013.

Colson's remaining claims are all concered with fossils. Since I am not a paleontologist, I cannot adress this claims from personal expertise; however, the people at Talk Origins have done that for me. I do not garantuee their credibility, but most of the articles, unlike Colson's, cite their sources. The first fossil claim is that "Evolutionists believe each rock layer represents several million years." To my surprise, I learned that this is not true, as Dave Matson explains in point G4a rebutting Dr. Kent Hovind. Colson uses this false claim to argue that fossil trees, which cut through multiple rock strata, are evidence of a young Earth. This agrument is refued in G4a and was refuted more than a century ago.

Continuing with the fossil theme, Colson claims that a large fossil beds prove that the fosslized "animals were swept up in some violent flood and deposited all at one time." This is rebutted as claim CC362. The most interesting point in this rebuttal is that the sheer number of fossils implies an old Earth. Fossil densitys in these beds are far greater than population densitys today. This means that all of the fossilized animals could not have lived at the same time; they must have lived and died throughout a long span of history.

Finally, Colson claims that the existence of fossils is evidence for a young earth becas an animal "becomes a fossil only in those rare cases when it is covered up by sediment quickly." This claim is disucssed as number CC363 and in "Fish Fossils." Soft tissue does require rapid burial, but such fossils are rare. This article is mainly a collection of Young-Earth Creationist claims that have been refuted for decades; almost every sentence is wrong.

So, why does any of this matter? It matters because science is what I know best; this is the arena in which I am at my best and where I am most confident in my abilities. It is the arena where I can most effectively asses someone else's credibility. If Dr. Colson is wrong about the age of the Earth, a subject I know well, by a factor of 1,000,000; how can I give credibility to his claim that 300,000 girls are in sexual slavery in the US?

More practically, in this information age, we all have access to huge amounds of information, propoganda, and advertising. The realities of finite brains and finite days force me to develop filters that remove vast swaths of the media and leave only what I have time to effectively process. For me, one very effective filter has been ignoring (or holding in high suspicion) any sources that makes incorrect or ignorant statments regarding the fields of science I know best. As you can see, this filter catches Dr. Colson.

11 February 2008

Mar. 4 Primary

Much attention is being directed at the Mar. 4 Presidential primary here in Ohio. However, several other officies have competitive primaries, and we should inform ourselves about them as well. By "competitive," I mean that more than one candidate is on the ballot for at least one party. This table is based on my sample ballot in Franklin Couny; it shows the officies that have competitve primaries and the party for which they are competitive. D = Democrat; R = Republican.

Competitive Race Office Party
President D & R
Congress (OH-12) D & R
Judge of the Court of Appeals (10th District) D
Member of the State Party Central Committee
D & R
Franklin County Commissioner D & R
Franklin County Clerk of Common Pleas Court R
Member of Co. Party Central Committee (Columbus Ward 12) R

Also on the ballot is a proposed tax increase to fund the Franklin County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Note that in Ohio one must declare a party affiliation to vote in that party's primary. I am not sure if I will join either party.

02 February 2008


Your results:
You are Derrial Book (Shepherd)

Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Inara Serra (Companion)
River (Stowaway)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Even though you are holy
you have a mysterious past.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test