Sunday, February 27, 2011

Biased Fox News Coverage of the Madison Wisconsin Protests

Yesterday, I traveled the 150 miles from Chicago to Madison Wisconsin to participate the rally to support the unions. This was for two general reasons: (1) I'm married to a union man, and (2) I strongly believe that Governor Walker's anti-union bill is a load of despicable nonsense that deserves to be slapped down, publicly and repeatedly.

But since I haven't blogged very much about my political views so far, I figured that any soapboxing about unions and the role they should play in a healthy democracy would be best saved for a future post. In this one, I'm going to recount my own experiences at the rally, and its subsequent coverage by the media.

Several things struck me upon my arrival in Madison: it was cold, it was snowing, and there were a lot of people.


It was really an incredible sight: thousands of people waving handmade signs as they swarmed through the streets and surrounded the capitol building, some passionate, some angry, but all completely civil and completely nonviolent. They marched, they chanted, they sang. As one of the oft-repeated lines went, "This is what democracy looks like."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

As suggested by some of my previous posts on this blog (and particularly this book review), evolution is a topic that I find to be very interesting. By extension, I'm also very interested by the similarities between humans and other species on this planet, and articles about dolphin communication and chimpanzee tool use fascinate me to no end. And so when I heard about this book, I was very much intrigued.

The premise: this novel is narrated in the first person by a chimpanzee named Bruno who learns human language, and it purports to tell the story of how he went from living in a zoo, to living in human society, to living in captivity again. That premise alone was enough to persuade me to pick this book up, and I fully expected to enjoy it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Freakonomics

After buying this book due to a few glowing recommendations, I opened it one evening expecting to read just the first few pages -- and instead I sat for a full hour, unable to put it down. The writing style was so engaging and conversational, a kind of storytelling in nonfiction, and every paragraph held interesting observations and factoids.

The book centers around a fairly simple premise: what can numerical data tell us about some obvious (or not so obvious) question? In come cases, the answers seem reasonable and straightforward. For instance, a child is statistically far more likely to die by drowning in a backyard swimming pool than in an accident involving a gun in the home -- and yet the latter is generally regarded as a far more dangerous, frightening thing to have around.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chicago Snowpocalypse 2011

Last Tuesday, Chicago was hit by a massive blizzard -- the third biggest in the city's recorded history. They'd been forecasting it and issuing blizzard warnings for days before, but I think it still took everyone a little by surprise. Overwhelmed by the snow, Lake Shore Drive became completely impassable, and people ended up trapped in their cars all night. The following photo, courtesy of Reddit, gives a pretty clear idea what this looked like:


My own experience was pretty mundane. I was at work, and the blizzard just happened to hit on the same day that I moved to a new office, from which I no longer had a clear view outside. I didn't realize how bad things were getting out there until the office manager came around suggesting that people leave early -- and this was around 4:00 PM, before the bulk of the snow had even hit.