Links I liked, Nov 13-19 (Space junk art, Franklin Graham in Burma, identity liberalism)

1. UK ‘space junk’ project highlights threat to missions

An art project to call attention to space junk, huh.

2. Franklin Graham hosts rally in Burma, 46,000 attend

Just a few neat photos in a tweet, but I didn’t know Burma was open to that kind of activity.  I’ve had some students from there, and Bec loved visiting there.

3. Reformed Church Unintentionally Pulls Off Perfect Mannequin Challenge

Ah, speaks for itself!

4. The IRS is seeking the identities and transaction histories of all Coinbase customers in the U.S.

I’m not a lawyer, but this feels like an unprecedented request for financial information on people accused of no crime – and Coinbase has now announced their intention to fight it in court (I feel like they ought to win).  Near as I can tell, on the grounds that some people use Coinbase to avoid taxes, the federal government wants the transaction history of all Coinbase customers (1.5 million last I saw) over the last three years.

5. A Cup of Wrath Poured Out

During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Dutch physicians refused to obey orders by Nazi troops to let the elderly or the terminally ill die. In 2001, Holland became the first country to give legal status to doctor assisted suicide. Some years earlier Malcolm Muggeridge noted, it took only one generation to transform a war crime into an act of compassion.

Sermon from our church last Sunday, especially the comments (25:50-31:43) on euthanasia, not a topic I often think about.

6. You Are Still Crying Wolf

A widely passed around article by an anti-Trump psychiatrist who nonetheless says – stop traumatizing people with all these horror stories about what is going to happen to them.  And if you don’t think he’s really anti-Trump… that second-to-last paragraph is something.

Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes. In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

7. The End of Identity Liberalism

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country.

The week brought to you by leaves in East Lansing.

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Links I liked, Nov 6 – 12 (50 years of our church, Trump and the college educated, Vox)

Lot of political links this week… ’twas that kind of week, after all.

1. 50 Years of Gospel Ministry

But not the first one.  Our church, University Reformed Church, in East Lansing, just celebrated its 50th anniversary.  A nice video about the history of the church.

2. Trump won because college educated Americans are out of touch

But I also know that that those with college degrees — again, with some significant exceptions — don’t necessarily know philosophy or theology. And they have especially paltry knowledge about the foundational role that different philosophical or theological claims play in public thought compared with what is common to college campuses. In my experience, many professors and college students don’t even realize that their views on political issues rely on a particular philosophical or theological stance.

Amen on that last sentence times-a-million, even if you’re unsure about the headline claim.

3. Explaining it all to you

I have long been annoyed by the tone of Vox – they take very complex issues, dramatically oversimplify them, and then give you the impression you are oh-so-smart for reading their not-smart-at-all take.  This lengthy article basically says… yeah, they do that on purpose.  Vox was founded on the idea that people don’t have a fact-problem, the problem is that people keeping misinterpreting facts (as judged by the intelligent editors of Vox, of course).  They need someone to tell them what they’re supposed to believe.

4. When Politics Becomes Your Religion

Who does that to people they’ve gone to church with for years and years? Who allows that to happen within their congregation? People for whom politics has become their religion, that’s who. A congregation that has degenerated into nothing more than a political party at prayer. Repent!

5. Russian warplanes keep buzzing the Baltics.  Here’s how NATO scrambles.

Interesting piece, just as the title says.  How many times as NATO scrambled to intercept Russian planes so far this year?  600.

6. Living Under Punches

Anecdotes from a couple Trump-supporting college students who went into class on Wednesday, and found their instructors giving everyone the distinct impression that hate had just won an election, and everybody knew it, and this is terrible.  What I wrote on Facebook:

Just two quick thoughts, specifically about how I’ve personally seen, and read, college professors react to the election:

1. All of your students do not share your politics or reaction to political events. And for all the talk about “inclusion” and not marginalizing people on campuses today – if you go into a class saying “I’m sure you’re all crushed like me today, let’s talk about it” first, no, they aren’t, and second, how included do you suppose you just made all the students feel who are perfectly fine with what happened? (Also some faculty seem to think there are literally zero students in that category in their classrooms, which boggles my mind – the data sure doesn’t say that.) If you suggest that Tuesday was nothing but the triumph of hate, or something, that’s even worse.

2. You are a role model. I admit I write this one still having a hard time understanding people putting on sackcloth and ashes on Wednesday, I have been trying yet failing to really understand that. But the truth is – if you just “roll with the punches” when something upsetting happens, you model that. And if you act like the proper response to an election that didn’t go your way is weeping and gnashing of teeth, you model that too. There is a place for weeping so I don’t want to dismiss that entirely but… anyway, you are a role model.

Finally I should say, of course you know how this goes, you see a few alarming things and talk about that, people get the impression that is the normal. I do think most academic life last week proceeded pretty much just as it would of had there been no election. Of my own students, post-election I overheard a lot of conversations, I overheard people on both sides of what happened, the conversations I overheard were uniformly light-hearted and good natured. A quick glance at the news will reveal not everybody responded that way, but that is actually what I experienced in person. Faculty seemed to take it much harder than their students, which is one reason I felt obliged to write this.

7. Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education

Just to show that it was not 0% of college students that supported Trump.

This week brought to you by the Lansing River Trail.

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Links I liked, Sep 17 – Sep 24 (Christian atheists, artificial viruses, cul-de-sac neighborhood design)

1. Tom Holland: Why I was wrong about Christianity

A self described “Christian atheist” historian realizes that many of the ethical positions he holds dear are not shared across humanity, but the result of the West’s Christian history.

Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

2. Smallest reported artificial virus could advance gene therapy.

Artificial viruses eh.  I’ve seen that movie.

3. Why Tim Keller Wrote a Prequel to ‘The Reason for God’

…people have a materialistic view of the universe—we aren’t here for any purpose, we evolved strictly through a process of the strong eating the weak, and nothing we do here will matter in the end, since everything will burn up in the death of the sun. Yet we’re told we shouldn’t live selfish lives, and we should treat everyone as having human rights. Humanistic values in no way fit with that view of the universe—they’re held despite that view of the universe.

4. Openings in Our Fractured Republic

Great interview of Yural Levin – hard to quote just any one piece, but worth a read.

5. Will the Left Survive the Millennials?

Lot of people passing this piece around last week.

In an era of weaponized sensitivity, participation in public discourse is growing so perilous, so fraught with the danger of being caught out for using the wrong word or failing to uphold the latest orthodoxy in relation to disability, sexual orientation, economic class, race or ethnicity, that many are apt to bow out.

6. Debunking the Cul-de-Sac

“A lot of people feel that they want to live in a cul-de-sac, they feel like it’s a safer place to be,” Marshall says. “The reality is yes, you’re safer – if you never leave your cul-de-sac. But if you actually move around town like a normal person, your town as a whole is much more dangerous.”

7. Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris

Older but fun video!

This week brought to you by cats hiding from vets.

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Links I liked, Sep 6 – Sep 16 (Join the Plodders, Air Force One on 9/11, College Blacklists)

1. Stop the Revolution.  Join the Plodders.

As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income?

2. ‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’

A long but fascinating retelling of the events of 9/11 from the perspective of Air Force One.  You’ll just have to give it a read.

3. Play mini golf on the Lugnuts’ field

OK this is a local story but I thought – what a great idea, maybe other cities should try it.  Putt-putt golf for a week post-season on the field of the minor league baseball Lansing Lugnuts.

4. Pittsburgh, your Self-Driving Uber is arriving now

A genuine, self-driving Uber test in Pittsburgh.  (Still with a “safety driver” up front, but nonetheless feels like a real step forward.)

5. Pure Michigan Statewide Singalong

Someone (er… in 2012) uploaded an HD version of this enjoyable parody and tour of the state.

6. You don’t say: Trust in media falls to historic low in new Gallup poll

The numbers here are astounding even to me.  14% of Republicans have at least a “fair” amount of trust in mass media.  14%.  As recently as 1998 that was 52%.  Even Democrats are only at 51%.

7. LBGT College Blacklist

This is Athenian Democracy 101 — that when we pool money, we ineluctably support things we’re not crazy about — that you can read about in Aristotle’s Politics, but Campus Pride has, in classic Enlightened Modernity fashion, now seen a thing that was never there and claimed it to be eternal.

Worse, follow Campus Pride’s logic: Group A has a policy we dislike, and so we encourage incomparably powerful structures (for what else are corporations?) to boycott and blacklist anyone associated with Group A. The gay rights movement was marginalized for many years. The fact that they are now calling for hegemonic and anti-democratic powers to join them in silencing people who verbally disagree should be a huge cause for concern. And this is not even to mention that they don’t want to just silence Group A but in fact anyone associated with it, including, potentially, a gay student who had the poor luck to graduate from there.

Traditional conservatives should not roll our eyes at this development. A neo-McCarthyist group is explicitly asking the forces of the neoliberal corporate state to join forces with them in expelling dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy not just from the public square, but from the public and from the society. The goal is not to win an argument; the goal is to drive someone away. The goal, bluntly, is to symbolically kill them. That such vengeance is emanating from a recently disenfranchised group is very disheartening. That the movement is calling for a State-Corporate fusion in order to excise Christian enemies is terrifying.

As someone who cares about clear thinking, this stuff actually wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it wasn’t done in the name of being “inclusive and welcoming”, as is the explicit claim in this case. You cannot ask businesses to exclude from their consideration anyone who so much as touched a college you had so much as a verbal disagreement with and claim you are being “inclusive and welcoming”. Anything but.

This week brought to you by our new fighting conch.

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Links I liked, Aug 30 – Sep 5 (SpaceX explosion, winds in the stratosphere, and more)

1. SpaceX rocket explodes during test.

Golly.  Gives you a sense for how nervous those tiny Apollo astronauts might have been sitting at the end of those gigantic rockets.

2. A strange thing happened in the stratosphere

Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed – until late 2015.

3. Coral Beauty Angelfish getting scrubbed by Cleaner Shrimp

From our aquarium actually – was pleased to finally catch this neat interspecies interaction on video.

4. How Trigger Warnings Silence Religious Students

Many passed this article around last week – happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.  I know a lot of people (especially outside of academia) would say that the whole point of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and the like is to silence speech.  This author would rather say that the silencing of speech is an unfortunate side effect that needs to be dealt with.  So I know a lot of readers would say this article is really much too nice but, as I said, happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.

Students should be free to argue their beliefs without fear of being labeled intolerant or disrespectful, whether they think certain sexual orientations are forbidden by God, life occurs at the moment of conception, or Islam is the exclusive path to salvation; and conversely, the same freedom should apply to those who believe God doesn’t care about who we have sex with, abortion is a fundamental right, or Islam is based on nothing more than superstitious nonsense. As it stands, that freedom does not exist in most academic settings, except when students’ opinions line up with what can be broadly understood as progressive political values.

5. I don’t.

About 2% of children in Japan are born out of wedlock – in America, about 40%.

6. Discrimination That Is Necessary For a Civil Society: A Response to David Gushee

A while ago a local news station had a poll that went something like “are curfews only for those of certain ages discriminatory?”. My reaction was – that is a terrible question to poll people about. One of the definitions of “discrimination” is to make a distinction between. By definition a curfew that applies to some ages and not others is discrimination, you don’t need a poll for that. What they really wanted to know, of course, is if people thought such curfews were wrong or unjust. But that isn’t what they said.

The law is usually more precise, forbidding discrimination based on X, Y, and Z, sort of implying thereby that there is a lot of other discrimination going on that is just fine. But the two definitions (basically “recognize a distinction” and “make an unjust distinction”) are often mixed, quite intentionally at times I think by people who want to create confusion of thought and draw people to their side (“it’s unjust discrimination”) without ever having to make an argument for why it is. (And mixed unintentionally at other times by people whose thought is simply, by now, thoroughly confused.) Therefore I am happy to see careful thinkers pointing this out and insisting on more precision.

7. 10 Steps to Fix a City

Throw out your parking ordinances.  Dramatically simplify your zoning.

8. Freshwater jellyfish discovered in Michigan lake

The non-native species is home to one region in China, but they have been reported in Michigan since the 1930s, according to the United States Geological Survey. Experts said these penny-sized invertebrates are not dangerous to humans nor Michigan’s ecological system.

This week brought to you by aurora north of Lansing, Michigan.

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Links I liked, August 16-22 (Gigantic jets, Martin Luther, WEIRD people)

1. Sprites Lightning

Out of China, the most remarkable photos of the “gigantic jets” phenomenon I’ve ever seen.

2. The Day Martin Luther’s Father Died

Via a biography I’m reading, a very touching letter from Luther on the death of his father.

Today Hans Reinecke wrote me that my very dear father, Hans Luther the Elder, departed from this life on Exaudi Sunday at one o’clock. This death has certainly thrown me into sadness, thinking not only [of the bonds] of nature, but also of the very kind love [my father had for me]; for through him my Creator has given me all that I am and have.

3. The Most Important Book I’ve Read This Year

Human beings, Haidt argues, use six different foundations for moral reasoning – the six “taste-buds” of the righteous mind – but some of us use more of them than others. For WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic), like most readers of his book and this blog, the most obvious bases for morality are (1) care vs harm, and (2) fairness vs cheating, to the point that many WEIRD people will not be able to fathom why anyone would regard something as wrong if it wasn’t (1) clearly harmful to someone or (2) demonstrably unfair. Yet Haidt’s studies in psychology, especially in the non-WEIRD world, presented him with a range of other foundations: (3) loyalty vs betrayal, (4) authority vs subversion, (5) sanctity vs degradation, and (6) liberty vs oppression. The profusion of case studies here, again, is fascinating, and indicates that even within the US and the UK, where foundations (3), (4) and (5) seem not to exist at all, there are certain extreme scenarios (consensual cannibalism is one particularly gruesome example) that indicate they still do.

4. Episcopal Pulpits will Lose 2000 Priests in next Six Years

45% of parishes in the Episcopal Church are currently without a full-time priest, and priests are retiring faster than they can be replaced.  See also the comments section for some interesting and sometimes sad comments from former Episcopalians.

5. Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age?

285,000 more people have gained access to safe water every day for the past 25 years.  I think that number includes births – still, remarkable.

6. Keeping Faith Without Hurting LGBT Students

The concept of a “thick diversity” as compared with “thin diversity” should probably get more of a hearing.

To put this in context, recall that Barack Obama first publicly supported same-sex marriage as president four years ago. As of 2008, he unequivocally opposed it. In that short period, the American “community conscience” shifted from enthusiastic support for a Democratic president who opposed same-sex marriage to serious legislative efforts to punish schools in California that do not provide housing for same-sex married couples. Relying on public opinion to determine whether Title IX religious exemptions are just puts religious communities with deeply held, historic beliefs at the mercy of rapidly evolving social norms. Unlike the Bob Jones case, which concerned a fringe view among Christian colleges, a great many religious schools remain committed to traditional teachings on marriage and gender.

7. This Clever, Three-Word-Address System Is Coming To Middle Eastern Shoppers

Dividing the whole world into a 3m x 3m grid, and assigning each space a three word name like “gold.river.tree”, to give everyone a not-easily-confused-with-another address.  Especially to improve deliveries in countries with low quality postal systems.

8. The End of the Liberal Tradition?

Call me a pessimist, but I tend to think most people would happily live under a monarch, even an oppressive monarch, as long as the people he was oppressing were people not like them.  Which is to say – I find these statistics easy to believe.

This week brought to you by pretty birds at Preuss’ Pets:

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Links I liked, August 9-15 (Astrophotography, Brave New World, Biblical Anthropology)

1. An astrophotography timelapse from our East Lansing balcony

You can be in a city and still see a surprising number of stars.  Lasts about 2.5 hours (then our camera battery died), five minutes between frames, note Polaris barely moving down at the bottom middle!  (And, for a brief moment, a Perseid.)

2. “The division between politics and religion, I dare say, is an ideological ploy.”

I am reading this book.

3. The City That Unpoisoned Its Pipes

A happy story about how our beloved (yet often dysfunctional, shh) Lansing has quietly replaced nearly all of its lead water pipes.

4. Brave New World, 85 Years Later

In a post-Fordist economy and a digital age of personalized devices, mass society is no longer as straightforward as it once seemed. Far from being perceived as a threat, for instance, individuality is now deeply assimilated into our economic system, as we’re encouraged to differentiate, identify, and align ourselves through our chosen forms of consumption. The fact we’re all caught up in the same system is less obvious when we all wear bespoke chains we’ve chosen for ourselves.

5. How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen

Seemed like everyone passed around this article last week, but if you haven’t seen it…

But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

6. Reclaiming ‘Redneck” Urbanism: What Urban Planners Can Learn from Trailer Parks

Any discussion of trailer parks should start with the fact that most forms of low-income housing have been criminalized in nearly every major US city.

7. Biblical Anthropology

A lecture Kevin DeYoung gave in South Carolina last week.  Of especial interest to me, he talked about how his kids attend our public schools, and the message they receive at school that he feels he most often has to correct is actually the stuff they hear related to the environment. And the problem is that a model is adopted that portrays humans never as producers, but just as polluters, the Earth as a good functioning system on which humans are basically cancer cells that can only make things worse. The Christian position would be rather – in fact, humans are God’s highest creation, and meant to be creators like him on Earth. We should recycle and be careful how we live and all that – but we aren’t a cancer on the planet. Indeed the planet is a better place today, than it was 4000 years ago, because of our creative works.

8. Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen

You cannot dislike this song.

This week brought to you by good times at the Great Lakes Folk Festival this past Saturday.

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Links I liked, August 2-8 (I Am N, Star Trek fan films, Krugman and Trump)

1. I reviewed “I Am N”

A good book to read for any American Christians tempted to think the goal of life is to be comfortable… which is probably just about all of us. This is not a very complicated book, the chapters tend to be 3-5 pages each, and even the names are often changed in these short stories of the lives of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. And for the most part these are not the stories that make the news, the threats and violence and legal punishments, however terrible, are too personal and too much “just the daily risk you take being a public Christian in these parts of the world” – all the more reason to read them. These are the stories of people who share the good news they know no matter the risk, because they’re longing for a better country.

2. ReasonTV talks about Star Trek fan films

Prelude to Axanar might be the best fan-produced short film I’ve ever seen… which is probably why CBS got all concerned.

3. Tim Keller Releases New ‘Sweatin’ To the Hymnal’ Line of Workout Videos

Babylon Bee is a treasure.

4. Self-driving Cars Will Kill Transit-Oriented Development

Will this happen?  Are transit agencies thinking about this happening?

5. How Paul Krugman Made Donald Trump Possible

Dishonesty always comes back to bite you in the end.

His convention was called “one of the worst ever.” Chris Matthews deemed him “dangerous” and “scary,” Ellen DeGeneres said “If you’re a woman, you should be very, very scared.” His opponent ran an ad against him portraying him as uniquely dangerous for women. “I’ve never felt this way before, but it’s a scary time to be a woman,” said a woman in the ad.

He was frequently called a “bully,” “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “stupid,” and “unfit” to be president.

I’m referring, obviously, to the terrifying Mitt Romney.

6. No, Eric Metaxas is not a Proto-Nazi

Just sharing to say, the world could probably use more “my friend is wrong about this but don’t you dare slander him” pieces.

7. Key Figure in Fight for Religious Freedom in Egypt Freed, Declares Return to Islam

Hegazy apologized to family members, who had threatened to kill him after he became a Christian.

8. Aquatic Mushrooms Timelapse

From our aquarium, photos taken every five minutes from around noon until around 8 PM.  Huh.

9. I had no idea Kevin DeYoung’s new children’s book was being made into a short film

Look at dat.  (He is the senior pastor of our church.)

This week brought to you by a rainbowfish in our freshwater aquarium.

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Links I liked, July 26-August 1 (Australia moving up, Gary Johnson libertarian?, Jerry Doyle passes away)

1. Australia moving up in the world… literally

Oh the problems you have (with modern satellite navigation systems) when your country drifts north by 7 cm per year.  Australia updating the coordinates of its maps to make them match modern reality – they haven’t been updated since 1994, which is quite a drift, actually.

2. Is Johnson-Weld a Libertarian Ticket?

The one presidential election season when a whole lot of people would love a good third-party candidate…

In other words, Johnson doesn’t just come off as anti-religion, but completely misses the distinction between public (meaning government) and private action that is at the heart of (classical) liberal or libertarian legal theory. That’s a shame: it makes him no different than progressives in that regard – or social conservatives, who miss the distinction in the other direction, restricting individual rights in addition to government powers.

3. Jerry Doyle passes away at age 60

I still haven’t seen anything beyond “natural causes”.  I enjoyed his character on Babylon 5 and listened to his radio program (conservative political talk!) from time to time back in the day.  From the Babylon 5 creator:

When it came to politics, Jerry Doyle and I disagreed on, well, pretty much everything. Politically, Jerry was just to the right of Attila the Hun. There is a line in Babylon 5 where his character, Michael Garibaldi, suggests that the way to deal with crime is to go from electric chairs to electric bleachers. That line is quintessential Jerry Doyle. I say this with confidence because I overheard him saying it at lunch then stole it for the show.

4. Tim Kaine “I’m Conservative” ad 2005 – “I’m against same sex marriage and for sanctity of life”

Oh how quickly what is considered acceptable in the Democratic Party has changed.  See also Hillary Clinton, 2004, talking about marriage as a “sacred bond between a man and a woman”.

5. Unprecendented $70M donation to cut Kalamazoo property taxes by a third

I have actually never heard of anything like this happening before – anonymous philanthropists donate money to the city of Kalamazoo to help them get their budget under control, cut taxes, and make investments for the future.

6. Venezuela’s new decree: Forced farm work for citizens

This from CNN Money – is the mainstream media paying much attention to the ridiculous, and very sad, collapse of Venezuela?  I pay so little attention to it these days it’s hard for me to know.  Really is sad.

7. ASMSU and COGS: MSU wasn’t transparent in decision to remove Women’s Lounge

A local story and yet also not a local story here – a University of Michigan – Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards Michigan State University because they had a study lounge designated for women only, but not one for men only.  He suggested such discrimination (it is discrimination, whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing is another matter) might violate Title IX and Michigan civil rights laws.  MSU is now closing the lounge.

8. Monuments to Idiocy

Like all government monopolies, the TSA blames its failures on lack of funding. But it’s already spending way too much, as demonstrated in a congressional study comparing TSA screeners in Los Angeles with non-TSA screeners in San Francisco, one of the few airports allowed to run its own system, contracting with a private company. If LAX switched to the San Francisco model, the study concluded, it could cut its screening costs by more than 40 percent.

The San Francisco private company’s screeners received the same salary and benefits as TSA screeners, but they were so much better trained and deployed that each one processed 65 percent more passengers than a TSA screener in Los Angeles. They apparently enjoyed better working conditions, too, because they were much less likely to quit their jobs. And in tests by federal investigators, they were three times better at detecting contraband.

9. I reviewed “Bad Religion” on Goodreads

This week brought to you by dinner tonight at Lansing’s favorite food truck:

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Some photos from a construction tour of FRIB (the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams)

This is basically just the blogification of some social media posts I’ve written, since it occurred to me some web-searchers might find these photos also interesting! Caption accuracy is not guaranteed, click the photos to make them larger. If you don’t know FRIB, it is basically a $730 million bump-out of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) here in East Lansing, Michigan, that will enable them to run experiments much faster… it is also a linear accelerator rather than a cyclotron. The facility is a little over half-done. And now, some photos.

Here we are about to go on the tour.

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Most of the folks with us were cyclotron operators – that is, they run the show at the NSCL. It was fun overhearing their conversations (especially about how they were going to fix stuff that breaks in the new setup!).

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Place started to feel like a bunker once you headed underground, I know where I’m going once the zombies come.

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Here is the main beamline tunnel, 35 feet below grade and about 500 feet long, which the beamline will travel through in a sort of paperclip pattern. It was nice and cool down there. The facility electrical connection is for 25 MW, more than Michigan State University’s powerplant can provide, with a 4 MW backup for cryo systems. The walls down here are 3 feet thick, the floor 4.5 feet, the ceiling 3.5 feet.

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Just another photo of the tunnel, the long pipe running down the middle will carry cryo fluids.

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This is where they’re going to lower the Stargate into the tunnel to travel to other planets. They’ll never admit it, of course. (Oh… you’re all Stargate fans.)

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Near the target areas there was a special high-density concrete, cost $1600 per cubic yard, so high in iron it would attract a magnet (as our tour guide demonstrated).

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I want to say this was a cooling control room, but note especially the renderings on the wall – our tour guide mentioned that 300 draftsmen worked on the project.

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Lots of 3000 pound, lead-lined doors about.

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I can’t remember what this room was for, but here is Bec looking professional.

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The squares will eventually be leaded-glass windows looking into the target areas.

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Final photo – and this photo doesn’t really do justice to the scale of the space. The wall on the left is 7.5 feet thick (“because we have neighbors on that side”). The facility bottoms-out about 60 feet below grade with some water storage tanks, above that is the beam dump (the last place the beam goes), and above that are the targets themselves.

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Good tour.