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12.31.2003

Desecrating the memory of an author -- while he's living 

I was browsing MIDI ring tones and stumbled across a ringtone for American Pie. The artist field reads "Madonna".

12.30.2003

Here's why Grady F. Little is a lousy manager 

I hadn't heard some of the quotes in this item from the former Red Sox skipper, but they say a lot about the man:



Grady Little. That's what we'll remember from 2003.

I don't even have to explain to you what I mean, do I? You know exactly what I'm talking about. Grady Little is not a person's name anymore. It's a phrase -- Gradeelittle. Someday in the future, it'll be a bona fide word in a bona fide dictionary: "Gradeelittle [vb]: To overuse a good thing, despite ample, or even excessive, evidence that this good thing has been entirely used-up, while other good things remain on the shelf, unused. As in: 'Sheesh, that was a great Porsche I used to own, but I drove it to death. I wish I'd taken my BMW out for a spin every now and then, just to give that Porsche a rest. Instead, I just GRADEELITTLED that Porsche to death.' "

Grady Little put himself in the history books -- and the dictionary -- in one night.
What was the most memorable thing about Grady's boneheaded eighth inning? Was it the confusion in living rooms all across New England, when an obviously spent Pedro came to the hill? Was it the consternation that followed, when the Yankees started smacking him around and, still, no change was made? Or was it the utter horror that shook Red Sox fans everywhere when, finally, Grady came chugging out of the dugout -- not to remove Pedro as it turned out, but, apparently, to ask him if he'd like a mint?

Nope, none of the above. The most memorable part came when the catastrophe was over. Sure, he'd made a stupid mistake, but who hasn't? We elderly fans could still recall the deciding game of the 1985 National League series, when Tommy Lasorda inexplicably ordered reliever Tom Niedenfuer to pitch to the Cardinals' Jack Clark, instead of walking him in favor of Andy Van Slyke, whose playoff average was .091. Clark hit a gopher ball clear to Uranus. Afterward, Lasorda sat his team down and wept, admitting his mistake and accepting complete responsibility. "I feel like jumping off the nearest bridge. ... Even my wife knows I should've walked him." As Tom Boswell put it, "in the worst moment of his career, Lasorda took the blame and acted like a leader."

Not Grady. What had he learned from his mistake? "I learned that you need to have a closer," he growled, blaming a bullpen that had, in fact, pitched marvelously for him throughout the postseason. Later he added, "If Grady Little is not back with the Red Sox, he'll be somewhere. I'll be another ghost, fully capable of haunting."

America had much empathy for Grady Little. But, alas, he opened his mouth and gradeelittled it away.

That was the most memorable sports moment of 2003.



Talk about going down in flames.

Korean media outlets claim P != NP has been solved 

I haven't been able to find a source, but my dad reads a whole bunch of Korean papers on the web and he mentioned reading something about it. There's some discussion about it over at sci.math.research. (There's been no mention of it in the English-language press, as far as I can tell.)

I haven't read the preprint very closely (Lie algebras are definitely not my area of expertise), though I hope to be able to look at it sometime soon. I do have to say that the circumstances surrounding the publication of the preprint do not inspire confidence. The authors published their preprint at a fairly obscure server (i.e., a server other than LANL), they've submitted the actual paper to a really obscure journal, and they haven't exposed their claim to the kind of scrutiny that a Millennium Prize Problem deserves. (These are the problems that are worth $1,000,000 each.) Compare this with the treatment of Grisha Perelman's alleged solution of the Thurston geometrization conjecture and the Poincare conjecture: Perelman has published a preprint at LANL and he's toured the world (stopping at Berkeley, Boston, Princeton, France, and other places) in order to explain his proof and subject it to peer review.

And if you have no idea what any of these terms mean, start here.

12.29.2003

Skippy or Jif? 

Kevin Drum on wine tasting:



Professor Bainbridge likes to write about wine. Recently he described one particular wine as "Medium-bodied warm and rich dark fruits. A slight eucalyptus note typical of Heitz." Of another he said, "The flavor profile is toasted almonds, caramel, rising bread, strawberries, and a very pinot noir-ish note of black cherries."

I myself have the taste buds of a five-year-old, so my interest in this is strictly intellectual. However, last night I had dinner with one of Marian's cousins, who has recently started up a boutique winery in Arcata (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, in case this stuff means anything to you), and I asked him about this style of wine description. If you had two or three experts taste the same wine, would they all agree on what the various flavor components were? Or would one of them claim it tasted of peanut butter and elderberries while the other detected hints of shoe polish and rainbow trout?

Assuming I understood correctly — not a sure thing — he said that different people would detect different flavors. Fine. But if that's the case, why bother describing wines this way? It's not very helpful to tell me about the caramel and rising bread if I'm going to taste something entirely different, is it?



I wouldn't know. White wines all taste the same to me -- they taste like cold alcohol. I can detect some variations in red wines, but not many. (I tried a Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon once and noticed that the tannin level was so high it tasted like a crushed-twigs-and-gravel-brau.)

I probably should stick to beer.

What the hell? 

From CNN:



Pregnant woman found dead, fetus gone

HOLDENVILLE, Oklahoma (AP) -- A missing pregnant woman was found dead in a field with her abdomen cut open and the fetus removed, and a 37-year-old woman was in custody after bringing a dead fetus to a hospital.

A hunter found the body of Carolyn Simpson, 21, of Okemah in a field near Lamar, about 100 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, on Friday. She had been shot in the head, said Tommy Graham, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation regional inspector.

Simpson was six months pregnant when she was last seen December 22 at a tribal casino in Okemah where she worked. One day after Simpson's disappearance, Effie Goodson brought a dead fetus that had reached six months' gestation to a hospital about 30 miles from Okemah, saying she was the mother, authorities said.

Medical personnel determined Goodson couldn't have given birth to the fetus, and the 37-year-old was taken into custody as a material witness in connection with Simpson's disappearance. Graham said he expected she would be charged this week.

Officials hadn't determined whether the fetus brought to the hospital was Simpson's, Graham said.



The only semi-plausible explanation I can come up with is this: Goodson thought Simpson was going to abort the fetus and killed her to try and save the baby.

Take me higher 

For only $48 million, you and your new spouse can have your honeymoon at the International Space Station.

I'd have to imagine that having sex in the absence of gravity would be really difficult, though. Horizontal positions would be impossible, and vertical positions wouldn't be much easier.

(Via InstaPundit.)

12.27.2003

Think Les Miserables was impossible to read? Try this 

Some string theorist at UPenn published a paper on the LANL archive. It consists of "excerpts from the first three volumes" of his Ph.D. thesis, and it totals 513 pages.

Pot, meet kettle (again) 

Cuba is outraged at the treatment of enemy combatants at Guantanamo.

Christianity in China 

Here's an interesting article on the growth of the faith in China, both within the state-registered churches and the "underground" churches that are often the target of oppression. (Link via InstaPundit.)

12.26.2003

Library rankings 

In my own (rather limited) rankings of university libraries around the nation, Harvard University's Cabot Science Library is no better than the fourth-best science library in the nation. Ahead of it are:


12.25.2003

The BCS and democracy 

There's a fascinating article on the subject over at The Weekly Standard.

Criticism of Paul Wolfowitz 

Over at Roger Simon's blog, there's an interesting discussion about Paul Wolfowitz, widely regarded as the biggest neocon voice in the Department of Defense and the one who's most passionate about democratizing Iraq.

12.24.2003

A-Rod for Manny deal is off 

Article is here.

Good Lord, the Red Sox clubhouse is going to reek for months. And Kevin Millar saying out loud that he'd take Alex Rodriguez over Nomar Garciaparra (who, last I checked, was still his teammate) is completely indefensible. Terry Francona's going to have some fun this year.

12.23.2003

Merry Chrismahanukkwanzaa 

Eugene Volokh has reprised his rant on the insipid, politically correct phrase "Season's Greetings."

UPDATE: The Marmot and others have some further insights on the rather artificial Kwanzaa holiday.

Full disclosure 

Recent headline from the BBC:



Palestinians killed in Gaza raid



The lead paragraph:



At least eight Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli raid in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians say.



Nine paragraphs later:



The dead reportedly included a 50-year-old man and a member of the armed wing of the radical Islamic Jihad movement.

An unnamed Israeli military source told Reuters that soldiers had opened fire at Palestinians trying to plant or detonate an explosive device.

Witnesses said gunmen fired at troops as they entered the camp.



12.22.2003

Once again: success as a player does not necessarily translate to success as a coach or executive 

The New York Knicks have just hired Isiah Thomas as president, replacing Scott Layden.

I remember back when Doc Rivers was hired as coach of the Orlando Magic. George Karl complained loudly about the recent trend of hiring young former players who hadn't paid their dues. Of course, he inserted the word "black" somewhere in his tirade and was rightly pilloried for doing so. But he may have been on to something.

Now the Knicks' new president is a fella whose principal accomplishment as an executive was destroying the CBA.

12.20.2003

Another example of why I read ESPN.com instead of Sports Illustrated 

Jim Caple on the A-Rod/Nomar negotiations:



Nomar Garciaparra is a Boston icon who hit .301 with 28 home runs, 120 runs and 105 RBI last year. He's a career .323 hitter (highest average for a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio). He's signed through next season. He wants to come back so badly that he called a Boston talk show from his honeymoon in Hawaii to make his feelings public. So naturally, the Red Sox want to trade him away and replace him with someone who will cost them $8 million to $10 million a year more.

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Boston's first choice was to sign Nomar to a deal that made sense for both sides. If so, why alienate him by openly negotiating for a rival player?

(And just an aside here, but what's up with Nomar calling talk radio from his honeymoon? Mia had to love that.

Mia: Isn't this great, sweetie? Walking along the Hawaiian sands under a full moon, a cool Pacific wave washing over our ankles, tiki torches burning along the beach, the smell of jasmine in the air and a steel guitar playing "It's a Wonderful World'' -- it doesn't get any better than this. I'm so happy that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with you.

Nomar: What was that, honey? I'm on hold with the Mad Dog.
)



A fun holiday gag 

If you're doing any sort of gift exchange with friends or coworkers, give someone a box wrapped in brown postal wrap with wires protruding from it and greasy smears all over it.

Just because a Harvard-educated mathematician with a destructive streak gives you a suspicious-looking package, there's no reason to be afraid, right?

12.17.2003

Even more radio 

The guy who was just on WROR 105.7 is the WORST DEEJAY EVAR.

After U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" finished up, he said "it's kind of a Christmas song--you know, if you still haven't found the present you're looking for."

More radio 

Dammit.

On WBOS 92.9, they did another one of those segments where they play three songs in a row and the first caller to figure out what the three songs have in common wins something.

They played "Old Apartment" by the Barenaked Ladies, "In My Life" by the Beatles and "A Long December" by the Counting Crows. I immediately thought to myself "hey, these songs are all reminiscing about the past." I then thought "nah, that's too vague and obvious."

Turns out that was the correct answer, and I missed out on a free lunch at the Capital Grille, among other things.

Why does radio suck? 

It's because every radio station owned by Clear Channel Communications sucks, and that happens to be a lot of stations. (In Boston, Clear Channel owns Kiss 108 and Jam'n 94.5, which happen to be the two stations that I find to be the most atrocious.)

Here's an in-depth look at how Clear Channel controls the radio and music industry.

12.16.2003

Will France and Germany support Iraq debt relief? 

This looks like good news:



The US has won agreement from France and Germany on the need to reduce Iraq's debt to help the country rebuild its battered economy.

Top US envoy James Baker met French President Jacques Chirac in Paris, and later had talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin.

Both France and Germany said they would work to help reduce Iraq's debt burden.

The US believes that reconstruction may be made more difficult unless much of Iraq's $120bn debts are written off.

Mr Baker is due to meet heads of government in Russia, Italy and Britain later this week.

"The French and the US governments want to reduce the debt burden on Iraq so that its people can enjoy freedom and prosperity," said Mr Baker after his meeting with President Chirac in Paris.

"It is important to reduce the Iraqi debt burden," he added.

A spokeswoman for President Chirac said they had agreed "on the importance of working together for the reconstruction of Iraq".

Later on Tuesday, Mr Baker secured Germany's backing for Iraqi debt relief from Chancellor Schroeder.

"Germany and the United States, like France, are ready not only for debt restructuring but also for substantial debt forgiveness toward Iraq," said a spokesman for Mr Schroeder.

On Monday, the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, had said a debt rescheduling deal could be reached through the Paris Club group of creditor nations.

His comments were seen as significant because France chairs the Paris Club group - to which Iraq owes $40bn of its $120bn total debt.

However, Paris Club debt rescheduling has the potential to become a major political battlefield between the Bush Administration and nations that opposed the Iraq war, experts say.

Paris Club members are thought likely to stress the need for a more representative Iraqi government than the present US-appointed Governing Council, as well for as IMF-approved economic plans.

And Mr Baker's visit has been given added edge by the US decision to exclude countries - including France, Germany and Russia - who opposed the war in Iraq from bidding for $18bn of reconstruction contracts.

Mr Baker did not comment on the discussions he had with Mr Schroeder.

But the subject of the reconstruction contracts was raised during their meeting.

"Germany's position on the awarding of reconstruction contracts in Iraq was clearly expressed in the talks," Mr Schroeder's spokesman said.



Of course, underneath a picture of what looks like a burning oil well, the BBC puts the caption "Iraq's economy is shattered after the war". Excuse me, but Iraq's economic problems weren't created by this war...they were created by the first Gulf War and the subsequent decade of sanctions and economic mismanagement by Saddam's regime.

Catholic church disgraces itself yet again 

Of all the things one could say about the capture of Saddam Hussein, here's what Cardinal Renato Martino has to say:



A top Roman Catholic official has attacked the way Saddam Hussein was treated by his US captors, saying he had been dealt with like an animal.

Cardinal Renato Martino said he had felt pity watching video of "this man destroyed, [the military] looking at his teeth as if he were a beast".

The cardinal, a leading critic of the US-led war in Iraq, said he hoped the capture would not make matters "worse".

A senior US official has defended the decision to show the pictures.

The official said the broadcast of Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination was allowed under the Geneva Conventions in order to maintain peace and security.

There was no attempt to humiliate the prisoner, the official said.

Cardinal Martino said on Tuesday that the US "could have spared us these pictures".

"Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he told reporters.

The cardinal said the arrest was a "watershed" development but he hoped it would "not have... serious consequences".

The Vatican has consistently opposed the attack on Iraq and the cardinal added that it would be "illusory" to hope that Saddam Hussein's capture would "repair the dramas and the damage" the war had wrought.



Give me a friggin break. The man has murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people during his reign of terror, and the Church is complaining about a video of him being given a medical examination by a military doctor?

12.14.2003

Ace of spades? 

First reports are sometimes (often) inaccurate, but the claim is that we finally got him.

Apparently Saddam didn't put up much of a fight, and his bunker was really quite pathetic. Contrast this to the conditions under which Uday and Qusay were killed -- they were holed up in a much stronger lair, and it took a lot of fighting to kill them. Also consider that Saddam was captured in Tikrit, his hometown and the most obvious place one would search for him. I could be wrong, but I'm inclined to interpret these signs as evidence that support for Saddam is much weaker then it used to be.

12.12.2003

Quick-thinking journalist 

From the WaPo:



Michael Weisskopf, a Washington-based senior correspondent for Time magazine, was seriously wounded in Baghdad late Wednesday when a grenade exploded in the U.S. Army Humvee in which he was a passenger. James Nachtwey, a Time contributing photographer, was also in the vehicle and was injured by the blast.

Weisskopf, 57, a former Washington Post reporter, likely saved the lives of his companions, including two U.S. soldiers, by attempting to toss the grenade from the vehicle before it exploded, said several people familiar with the incident.

The blast blew off Weisskopf's right hand, according to one account. He was taken to a military aid station in Baghdad and later to a hospital in the city, where he underwent surgery. A statement released by Time said he was in stable condition yesterday.


Both sides in lawsuit disgrace memory of dead 

From ESPN.com:



MINNEAPOLIS -- Korey Stringer's survivors owe the Minnesota Vikings and other defendants in the family's lawsuit more than $47,000, a judge has ruled.



Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson ruled that plaintiffs Kelci Stringer, who is Stringer's widow, his estate, and his parents, James Stringer and Cathy Reed-Stringer, are responsible for $47,588.03 that the defendants spent on expert witnesses, depositions, medical records, court fees and other lawsuit-related expenses.



The judge filed the order this week. In April, Larson threw out most of the lawsuit's claims and dismissed the allegations of negligence against the Vikings and their employees.



Korey Stringer, a 27-year-old Pro Bowl offensive tackle, collapsed after practicing in high heat and humidity July 31, 2001, at the Vikings' training camp in Mankato. He died of heat stroke the next day. His survivors then sued the Vikings, team officials and some doctors and clinics.



Vikings attorney Jim O'Neal said Thursday that the team had indicated it would waive the costs if the plaintiffs would waive their appeal. But the plaintiffs refused and appealed Larson's April ruling to the state Court of Appeals.



"It's time for this to be over," O'Neal said.



He said the cost to the Vikings of defending against the lawsuit was more than the $47,000 covered by the order, but not all costs, such as attorney fees, are recoverable.



In July, Kelci Stringer filed a lawsuit in federal court in Ohio against the NFL and the maker of Korey Stringer's helmet and shoulder pads.


12.11.2003

Art 



That's a picture of a pint glass that was given out to all players at 2001 UPA College Nationals.


Schadenfreude 

Andy Pettitte, he of the illegal pickoff move, has ditched the Yankees for the Houston Astros.

UPDATE: Curt Schilling's new contract with the Boston Red Sox contains a clause that says that his $13 million option year in 2007 will turn into $15 million "when the Red Sox win the World Series."

UPDATE: My God, the Boston Red Sox are trying to out-Yankee the Yankees. They've just signed former A's closer Keith Foulke.

France to ban headscarves, yarmulkes, large crosses in public schools? 

Unbelievable, but it could happen.

And the US gets accused of fomenting a religious/cultural war. Eeesh.

This story elicited the following comment from a BBC reader:



It amazes me that on the one hand the West claims to value liberty and freedom for everyone, something which is being "given" to the Iraqi people. Yet the wearing of a simple headscarf, something which is essential in Islam, is being stopped both in France and Germany. Where has the concept of freedom gone now?
This blatant hypocrisy is apparent to all Muslims and it is clear for all to see what 'Western values' really stand for: exploitation, tyranny and suppression of the weak all over the world.



This reader is a little bit misguided, but you can understand why he/she feels this way.

12.10.2003

Anti-terrorism rally held in Baghdad 

Click here for a report.

Detroit Tigers actually do something 

The Detroit Tigers have signed Fernando Vina to a two-year contract.

Axis of Weasels, indeed 

France, Germany and Russia opposed the war from the outset, are unwilling to do the dirty work of keeping Iraq safe and hunting down guerrilas, and probably oppose the US's general plans for rebuilding the country, but they want a slice of the profits that are to be had from the reconstruction (all of which are coming from American taxpayers). Outstanding.

Maybe they should consider putting up the troops and cash first before they seek to have an influence on the new Iraq. Cancelling their share of Iraq's odious debts would help, too.

World Summit on the Information Society disgraces itself by allowing Robert Mugabe to attend 

From the BBC:


Mugabe to discuss cyber society

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has travelled to the Swiss city of Geneva to attend a United Nations meeting on the information society.

The summit will discuss how developments such as the internet have affected the world.

His trip comes two just days after he withdrew from the Commonwealth.

The BBC's Alan Little in Geneva says that it is not known whether he will address the meeting but his presence is a calculated act of defiance.

Like the European Union and the United States, Switzerland has imposed a travel ban on Mr Mugabe, but the Swiss Government waived the ban so he can attend the UN conference.

Information age

In Zimbabwe, 14 people were recently charged after sending e-mails calling for mass protests against Mr Mugabe's government.

Zimbabwe's secret services have been trying for several years to acquire high-technology equipment to monitor online communications.

A senior official from a Zimbabwean internet service provider (ISP) told BBC News Online that he did not believe the authorities had yet obtained this equipment.

The government controls all local radio and television stations and recently closed down the only privately-owned daily newspaper.

Correspondents say this leaves the internet as one of the only ways for the opposition to spread its message, although only a small number of people have access to computers.



Call me a jingoist, but I think that the internet is generally pretty safe in the hands of private American companies. The less that dictators from Zimbabwe, Iran, and other tyrannies have to do with regulating the 'Net, the better.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a column on the subject here.

12.09.2003

UPA 2004. If it's in the game, it's in the game. 

Some Stanford Ultimate Frisbee players wrote a (2 on 2) Ultimate Frisbee game as a final project for a computer graphics course. Not too shabby.

Diction police 

James Harrigan thinks that the common use of the phrase "I feel" in places where "I think" is correct is indicative of a cultural shift towards relativism.

I feel like think that he's got a point.

(Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

Fifteen minutes 

Check it out. I'm famous.

Well, maybe not, but I am quite honored to be quoted in the abstract for a mathematics seminar.

12.08.2003

That's what I was waiting for 

I thought about Fisking this interview with Noam Chomsky, but was too lazy to follow through. Pejman Yousefzadeh has done a pretty good job of assailing Chomsky's comments on anti-Semitism, while Damian Penny takes Chomsky to task for his Chicken Little-esque predictions about war in Afghanistan.

12.07.2003

(Insert your own interpretation of the BCS acronym here) 

Despite being voted No. 1 by two separate polls each of which contains about 70 voices, a collection of eight computer rankings and the BCS's strength-of-schedule formula have placed USC out of college football's national championship game.

There are lots of problems with the college football rankings -- the fact that the human polls give undue weight to recent games, the fact that computer rankings only use raw scores as data, the fact that the BCS formula gives a collection of eight computer rankings the same weight as a collection of 126 human pollsters, and so on.

However you think the various ranking systems are biased, it's clear that two is not a large enough sample from which to determine college football's best team. Since the bowls are quite clear that they have no interest in being part of a playoff, the NCAA needs to either scrap the bowls and adopt a four or eight team playoff, or abandon all pretense of the BCS being an accurate way of determining a national champion.

12.06.2003

This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one 

Coming up on 60 minutes:



Two ex-managers for a clothing chain accused of discrimination say corporate representatives of the chain, Abercrombie & Fitch, routinely had them reduce the hours of less attractive salespeople.

The two former managers - who say they were hired for their good looks - appear in a Morley Safer report on the trendy retail chain on 60 Minutes, Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Dan Moon and Andrea Mandrick say Abercrombie & Fitch were after a certain "look" for their sales force, and the less a salesperson had of this look, the less they worked.

"I was sick of getting my schedule back every week with lines through names," says Mandrick. "I can't look the people that work for me, that want to be there, in the eye and...lie to them and say 'Oh, we don't have hours,' when, really, it's because they weren't pretty enough."

Moon, a former model, had a similar experience and says his look is what got him a job. "I think it was 90 percent of it and your interaction with other people was 10 percent," he says.



Of course, since I'm the ultra-rational type, Abercrombie's discriminatory practices upset me because of the danger they pose to a free-market economy rather than because of their shallow (and in my opinion, ultimately counterproductive) nature. I don't really mind that all their models are blond and white -- it's quite plausible that such models help them sell more merchandise. But I find it quite hard to believe that applying such standards to salespeople really improves sales. Of course, the more important fact is that such practices hurt the section of the work force that's looking for employment in the retail industry but doesn't fit A&F's criteria.

Stop lurking 

If you visit this site often (and I know there are a few folks who do), leave a comment. Let me know what you think of this site, even if you think it sucks.

That is all.

Why street parking sucks 

I mean besides the danger of getting ticketed and/or towed for street cleaning.

I spent a half hour extricating my car from the twelve inches of snow in which it was entombed, since I'm going to need it to drive to church tomorrow. Of course, the second I drive off, that clean, shoveled-out parking space is immediately going to be poached by someone else.

12.05.2003

Aw, crap 

Posted at CNN.com:


DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- Low to moderate drinking may cause a loss of brain tissue in middle-age people, a study found.

The researchers also found that such alcohol consumption does not lower the risk of a stroke -- contradicting findings from previous studies.

"I think this is an interesting study because people talk about the beneficial effects of alcohol intake on cardiovascular disease and they try to extend that to stroke," said the study's lead researcher, Dr. Jingzhong Ding, a research associate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Some studies find beneficial effects, but ours didn't."

Heavy drinking is known to raise the risk of both brain atrophy and stroke, but findings on the effects of low to moderate drinking have varied.

The new study appears in Friday's issue of the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

It moves doctors a step closer to understanding what amounts of alcohol are harmful, said Dr. Edgar J. Kenton III, a professor of clinical neurology at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Ding and his colleagues evaluated 1,909 patients, ages 55 and older, from North Carolina and Mississippi who were participants in a study on the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Researchers used information collected between 1987 and 1989 and followed up every three years until 1995.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs, researchers measured the patients' ventricular and sulcal areas -- voids of the brain containing only cerebrospinal fluid. Increased ventricular and sulcal size indicates a reduction in brain tissue, or atrophy.

The findings showed that both voids grew larger the more people drank.

Ding said researchers cannot make a definitive cause-and-effect link between drinking and brain atrophy because the MRIs were done only once during the study and because they found only a small reduction in tissue.


Actually, come to think about it, it doesn't bother me that much...sometimes I think my brain stopped working when I turned 19.

The decline and fall of television 

There's a thoughtful and hilarious column on the declining quality of television programming in the National Review, of all places. A quote:



But the networks can't let go, because every time they cancel an established show, the viewers, particularly the younger ones, vanish. No one thinks it's worth investing in a new show. The rise in reality shows has been cited by many as a sign of creative exhaustion on the part of Hollywood. But I think a better sign is the absolute explosion in sexuality. I think by now most readers understand I'm not particularly Comstockish about sex, so I hope this won't be taken simply as the lament of a typical culture vulture. But the reliance on sex jokes on TV is really astounding. Because there's still an ever-thinning veneer of taboo to sex, jokes about it still have a chance at working. But the desperation of writers comes across in how deep, i.e. low, they have to dig. It reminds me of a Simpsons episode that takes place in the near future; Marge says to Homer, "Fox turned into a hardcore porn channel so gradually I didn't even notice."


Tracking down Saddam Hussein's assets 

From the Wall Street Journal: (article reproduced in full, since the WSJ site is subscription-only)


Syria Rejects U.S. Demands To Return Money From Iraq

Damascus Says It Will Use The $250 Million to Repay Creditors of Hussein Regime
By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and Syria are locked in a quiet but tense dispute over the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars that Saddam Hussein's regime deposited into a Syrian state bank, American officials say.

Despite behind-the-scenes U.S. diplomatic pressure, Syria has refused to hand over the funds -- estimated at $250 million -- to the American-controlled occupying coalition in Iraq, as mandated by the United Nations Security Council. U.S. officials say the talks with Syria appear to have reached an impasse.

The struggle illustrates the broader difficulties the Bush administration and U.S.-appointed Iraqi authorities face in trying to track down and retrieve large amounts of oil revenue that Mr. Hussein stashed outside the country between the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 and his ouster in April. Those are funds the occupying coalition now wants for Iraq's reconstruction.

The Saddam Hussein regime also is believed to have deposited about $500 million in accounts in Jordan and a similar amount in Lebanon. Jordan, in particular, was an important transit point for goods and material moving in and out of Iraq throughout the 1990s. U.S. and Iraqi officials have made progress recently toward retrieving money from those two countries. Jordan's leader, King Abdullah, met Thursday with President Bush at the White House, and Iraq was a prime topic on their agenda.

Mr. Hussein's regime also is thought to have deposited money in banks in Persian Gulf states.

But retrieving all those dollars isn't simple. In this case, Syria acknowledges that the money is being held in the Commercial Bank of Syria, a state-owned institution, and Syrian officials allowed a team of Iraqi and U.S. Internal Revenue Service investigators access to bank records during a visit in October. "It shows you at least there's some good will," said Imad Moustapha, Syria's charge d'affaires in Washington.

But Damascus argues that private Syrian companies should have first crack at the funds to pay off debts run up by the Hussein government. U.S. officials say that as much as $750 million in Iraqi funds may already have been distributed to such Syrian commercial creditors, who are thought to have sold pharmaceuticals, textiles, citrus fruit and other goods to Iraq before the invasion in March. "Lots of Syrian businessmen have claims against this money," Mr. Moustapha said.

He said that U.S. officials had assured him that they, too, thought those claims should be settled before the remaining money is returned to Iraq. U.S. officials say the money should be returned immediately.

Likewise, the Syrians say the deposits were the proceeds of U.N.-sanctioned oil-for-food deals, while the U.S. says the oil sales and purchase contracts were in violation of U.N. resolutions.

A spokesman for the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, Ian Steele, said he had no information on the Syrian accounts. Oil-for-food, under which the U.N. oversaw sales of Iraqi crude and ensured that proceeds were used to buy food and other essential items, ceased operations last month and its remaining functions have been transferred to the U.S.-led coalition, which will have to authorize payment of any outstanding debts, Mr. Steele said.

Exacerbating the tension is a loud feud over how much Iraqi money the Syrians hold. While U.S. and Syrian officials agree that there is now just about $250 million in the Syrian bank, Iraqi authorities claim the Syrians have much more than that. "The Governing Council demands the return of $3 billion in Iraqi assets" from Syria, said Haidar Ahmed, spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi, a council member and head of the Iraqi National Congress political party.

Such demands leave the Syrians nervous that even if they hand over the $250 million, they still will be accused of holding back the larger sum. "This makes us wary," said Mr. Moustapha, who calls the $3 billion "illusory."

"They try to create an atmosphere of hostility toward us," he said. "We always have the feeling we're being accused of things we're innocent of."

For the Bush administration, recovering such funds is a politically sensitive mission, in part because the U.S. is returning a large sum of Iraqi assets that were frozen in this country. The U.S. seized $1.74 billion in Iraqi government assets held in American banks earlier this year and intends to return about $1.44 billion of that to help rebuild Iraq. The remainder will be used to settle lawsuits against Baghdad.

In addition, the U.S. government has recently maintained that American soldiers who have claimed they were tortured by Iraq while held as prisoners during the first Gulf War shouldn't be able to collect damages from the frozen assets.

While clearly irked by Syria's unwillingness to turn over the money it holds, the Bush administration is trying to keep the dispute as quiet as possible, hoping that Damascus will give in.

In the diplomatic world of carrots and sticks, however, there doesn't appear to be much the U.S. can do to win Syrian cooperation. There are few carrots at hand: Syria is ineligible for much U.S. aid because of its presence on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

And, in any case, the stick is coming Syria's way. Both chambers of Congress have passed the "Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act," and Mr. Bush is expected to sign it into law shortly. The bill would bar all trade with Syria until the president certifies that Damascus has ended its occupation of Lebanon, cut off support for Hamas and other Middle East militants, stopped development of certain missiles and chemical and biological weapons and taken steps to prevent the use of Syrian territory by insurgents attacking coalition forces in Iraq.

U.S. trade with Syria already is limited. The country imported just $274 million in American goods last year. By contrast, Canada, America's largest trading partner, imported $161 billion of U.S. products. But Syria has been able to win waivers allowing it to import computers and other U.S. high-technology equipment. Those purchases would be prohibited under the new law.


12.04.2003

Burn, mofo, burn 






Shamelessly stolen from Incestuous Amplification.


Unexpected? Not really... 

Uber-conservative Fox News carries this opinion piece criticizing the war on drugs.

For all practical purposes, I do think supply-and-demand analysis has triumphed over moral considerations in the war on drugs. The criminalization of drugs leads to huge increases in drug prices, leading poor people with lousy (legitimate) career prospects to turn to the drug trade for employment, leading to chaos.

The more I think about it, the more I realize this isn't all that strange a position for a conservative to take; it's entirely in accordance with the principles of free trade and limited government that conservatives embrace. The only conflict is with the principle of enforcement of traditional morality, a principle upheld by many but not all conservatives.

(Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

Hint: it's not about something that happened at Michael Jackson's house. 

From Incestuous Amplification:


MSNBC is reporting a breakdown in the planned 6-party circle-jerk. Originally slated for mid-December according to most reports, it's now being pushed back to January or February.


You get one guess as to what he's talking about. The answer is here, while the full post at Incestuous Amplification is here.

Iranians attempt to warn Iraqis about the dangers of an Ayatollahcracy 

That is the content of a thoughtful article in today's Washington Post.

The US has been caught in a bind for some time here: it wants its hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council to lay the foundations for the new government in Iraq. Ayatollah Ali Sistani and others object to this plan, saying that the people of Iraq should elect their own delegates to write a new constitution for Iraq. The US fears that this might lead to the creation of another Iran, and at some level you can't really blame the US for thinking this way -- at times it appears that living under a tyranny for so long has robbed Iraqis of the ability to think independently in political matters and made them more comfortable with putting all their faith in a handful of absolute leaders.

It won't be easy to get things to work, which is why the US needs to retain a governing presence in Iraq for a lot longer than some people would like. The long-term future of Iraq is at stake here.

I've got the prescription for you: another hot beef injection! 

Carol Adams claims that the culture of eating meat and sexual misogyny are closely related inasmuch as both are expressions of male dominance. No, really.

(Hat tip to Juan non-Volokh.)

Barbra Streisand's $10 million lawsuit against coastal photographer thrown out 

Streisand attemped to sue Ken and Gabrielle Adelman for $10 million for including pictures of her Malibu estate in a huge panoramic image of the California coastline. That's right, $10 million.

Not only was the lawsuit thrown out, Streisand was also ordered to pay the Adelmans' legal fees.

Eugene Volokh has the wrapup here.

Once again, correlation does not equal causation 

This fluff article claims that regular sex will make you healthier, happier, less stressed out and more youthful-looking.

I'm inclined to think that the causal link actually works the other way around: people who are healthy, happy, relaxed and young-looking are more likely to get some than those who aren't

How do you say "don't ask, don't tell" in Arabic? 

I vaguely remember hearing about this item a while back, but here it is again, this time from the Washington Post:



Cathleen Glover was cleaning the pool at the Sri Lankan ambassador's residence recently when she heard the sound of Arabic drifting through the trees. Glover earned $11 an hour working for a pool-maintenance company, skimming leaves and testing chlorine levels in the backyards of Washington. No one knew about her past. But sometimes the past found her.

Glover recognized the sound instantly. It was the afternoon call to prayer coming from a mosque on Massachusetts Avenue. She held still, picking out familiar words and translating them in her head.

She learned Arabic at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), the military's premier language school, in Monterey, Calif. Her timing as a soldier was fortuitous: Around her graduation last year, a Government Accounting Office study reported that the Army faced a critical shortage of linguists needed to translate intercepts and interrogate suspects in the war on terrorism.

"I was what the country needed," Glover said.

She was, and she wasn't. Glover is gay. She mastered Arabic but couldn't handle living a double life under the military policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." After two years in the Army, Glover, 26, voluntarily wrote a statement acknowledging her homosexuality.

Confronted with a shortage of Arabic interpreters and its policy banning openly gay service members, the Pentagon had a choice to make.

Which is how former Spec. Glover came to be cleaning pools instead of sitting in the desert, translating Arabic for the U.S. government.

In the past two years, the Department of Defense has discharged 37 linguists from the Defense Language Institute for being gay. Like Glover, many studied Arabic. At a time of heightened need for intelligence specialists, 37 linguists were rendered useless because of their homosexuality.



Is there empirical evidence that al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups are somehow trying to target these gay "infidels"? (You know, since homosexuality is a huge offense in Islam.)

If that's the case, I might understand letting them go. Apart than that, this ban on gay intelligence personnel makes absolutely zero sense.

(Thanks to The Conjecturer for the pointer.)

12.03.2003

The joys of owning a carbureted car 

When I start my car in sub-freezing temperatures, I have to hold the key in the ignition for ten seconds while depressing the accelerator. When it finally starts up, it sounds like an asthmatic walrus.

Did I say the BBC was starting to come around? Check that... 

Another article from the Beeb:



The US military suffered its worst monthly death toll since the end of major combat in Iraq, losing 79 soldiers in November mostly in enemy attacks.

But the cries to pull troops out have not grown louder and indeed both public and politicians seem prepared to accept the setbacks as part of a longer-term battle which needs fighting.

Some pundits and media observers seem keen to find similarities between the ongoing operation in Iraq and the Vietnam War which dragged on amid mounting public opposition until the US decided nothing more could be gained and pulled out.

But there simply is not the depth of feeling and interest as there was 30 years ago when newspapers and broadcasts were dominated by the war, when some sections of the public were so outraged by what was happening that they spat at returning soldiers and when losses reached the tens of thousands.



Uh...there might be two reasons that people aren't yet flooding the streets in protest: (1) the death toll is maybe the lowest in history for a war of this duration and magnitude; (2) maybe, just maybe, the American people believe that the mission in Iraq is important, hmmm? Maybe it's not that people don't care.

What goes on in Iraq, besides the bombings 

There's an excellent op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times describing what it is that our soldiers are actually doing in Iraq.

I guess handing out textbooks in class and fixing sewer systems doesn't make for very compelling television though.

There are a couple of soldiers' blogs in the blogroll on the left side of the page, Chief Wiggles and Iraq Now. No doubt there are others that I haven't found yet.

(Thanks to Bird Dog for the pointer.)

12.02.2003

BBC finally starting to come around 

Link here.



According to what is described as the first truly representative survey of Iraqi opinion, people in Iraq believe that the best thing that happened in the past 12 months was the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The thing they want most over the next year is peace and stability, and the preferred form of government is an Iraqi democracy.

The national survey was carried out by Oxford Research International through more than 3,000 interviews in October and November; it was commissioned by Oxford University and done at the same time as audience research for the BBC World Service.

This scientific survey carried out by Iraqi graduates trained for the job reveals the obvious and the less obvious, the complexities and contradictions of human nature.

Asked to come up with the best and worst things over the past year, Iraqis overwhelmingly said the end of Saddam Hussein's regime on the one hand; and the war, bombings and defeat on the other.

Over the next 12 months, they wanted peace and stability and a better life in material terms; what they feared most was insecurity, chaos and civil war.




12.01.2003

Reading comprehension 

For some reason Donald Rumsfeld was awarded the "Foot in Mouth" prize by Britain's Plain English campaign for most baffling comment by a public figure:



Rumsfeld, renowned for his uncompromising tough talking, received the prize for the most baffling comment by a public figure.

"Reports that say something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know," Rumsfeld told a news briefing.

"We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

John Lister, spokesman for the campaign, which strives to have public information delivered in clear, straightforward English, said: "We think we know what he means. But we don't know if we really know."



I'm not an English major, but Rumsfeld's comment made perfect sense to me the first time I read it.

There are things that we know.

There are things of which we are ignorant, but at least we recognize our ignorance of these things.

Finally, there are things of which we are ignorant, and to our detriment we are unaware of our ignorance.

It's a deep epistemological observation that Rumsfeld made, and it's especially relevant to the difficulties in gathering intelligence in the cause of fighting terrorism. But for some reason, Rumsfeld is being pilloried by Bush-haters who think that the comment above displays ineloquence or stupidity on the part of the Bush administration.

Using hand-held cell phones while driving now illegal in UK 

Story is here.

Why you shouldn't do business with rogue states 

From the New York Times:



WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 — It was Saddam Hussein's last weapons deal — and it did not go exactly as he and his generals had imagined.

For two years before the American invasion of Iraq, Mr. Hussein's sons, generals and front companies were engaged in lengthy negotiations with North Korea, according to computer files discovered by international inspectors and the accounts of Bush administration officials.

The officials now say they believe that those negotiations — mostly conducted in neighboring Syria, apparently with the knowledge of the Syrian government — were not merely to buy a few North Korean missiles.

Instead, the goal was to obtain a full production line to manufacture, under an Iraqi flag, the North Korean missile system, which would be capable of hitting American allies and bases around the region, according to the Bush administration officials.

As war with the United States approached, though, the Iraqi files show that Mr. Hussein discovered what American officials say they have known for nearly a decade now: that Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, is less than a fully reliable negotiating partner.

In return for a $10 million down payment, Mr. Hussein appears to have gotten nothing.

The trail that investigators have uncovered, partly from reading computer hard drives found in Baghdad and partly from interviews with captured members of Mr. Hussein's inner circle, shows that a month before the American invasion, Iraqi officials traveled to Syria to demand that North Korea refund $1.9 million because it had failed to meet deadlines for delivering its first shipment of goods.

North Korea deflected the request, telling Mr. Hussein's representatives, in the words of one investigator, that "things were too hot" to begin delivering missile technology through Syria.


All those stupid companies who are trying to sue Iraq to recover debts the Saddam regime owes them should take note.

A Boston Globe article on evangelical Christanity 

Article is here. Thanks to Phil Chan for the pointer. (It even received a mention on InstaPundit.)

The article is generally sympathetic, but appropriately critical towards the evangelical movement on campus. There are a few excerpts from the article that deserve comment:



Yet in this hub of liberal, I'm-OK-you're-OK-we're-all-OK higher education, the pull grows stronger for this conservative, our-way-is-the-highway evangelism.



I don't like it when political labels like "liberal" or "conservative" are used to describe various denominations or sects of Christianity. I guess it's sort of understandable here, because the article later discusses some of the controversies that evangelical campus groups have faced with respect to their beliefs on homosexuality, but the fact of the matter is twofold:

(1) There is a diversity of political opinion to be found among evangelical Christians. Some (like myself) may believe that the Bible does not necessarily lay down a categorical prohibition on homosexuality. Opinion is likewise divided on things like evolution and the origin of man, the role of women in domestic relationships, and other things. Evangelical Christianity is not a political monolith.

(2) More importantly, a Christian is not defined by a set of rules he follows or a set of principles by which to live. A Christian is defined by his belief that Jesus is God. Nothing more, nothing less.


...
"My job has always been to remind people, even if they didn't want to hear it, that Christians belong here because this is our institution," says Gomes, a Baptist minister who is Harvard's longest-serving Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. "It may not look that way, but it was founded by us, for us, and we have kept it going, even in its most secular and pluralistic environment."



It's true. The original motto for Harvard University was "Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae," which means "Truth for Christ and the Church."


...
Julie Catalano arrived as a freshman at Tufts in 1997 with a loose liberal-Protestant identity and confusion about her sexual orientation. About the latter, she confided in a friend from her dorm. The friend was a member of the Tufts Christian Fellowship, an InterVarsity chapter, and she invited Catalano to a group meeting.

"The guest speaker was an ex-lesbian," Catalano recalls, laughing. "That's how I got involved."

Within a few months, the fellowship became just about Catalano's entire social network on campus. And she was a true believer. She told her Jewish roommate that she couldn't get to heaven without converting to Christianity, and even drew a picture of her descending into hell.

As for her sexual identity crisis, she says she followed the plan put forward by the group's student leaders and the InterVarsity advisers: lots of prayer, some holy oils, and lengthy discussion during meetings about how she was doing. "I got so worn down by all the questions and focus on me," Catalano says, "that by the beginning of sophomore year, I said, 'OK, leave me alone. I'm straight!' " She says that even though she wasn't having sex of any kind, she felt more scrutiny than some others in the group who were having heterosexual sex and then repenting for it.



Ack. I think we Christians need to face empirical reality: the gender towards which a person feels sexual desire does not appear to be changeable.



By her junior year, she knew she was a lesbian but didn't know how to square that with the group that had become her campus family. She says she became so depressed that she planned her own suicide. After a non-Christian friend counseled her, she told the fellowship advisers that she was a lesbian but wanted to continue with the group and advance into senior leadership. They said she could stay in the group but could not be a leader, since the fellowship's statement of faith was clear on homosexuality.

A messy series of events followed. Catalano filed a claim of discrimination with the Tufts student judiciary, which stripped the fellowship of its recognition. Outside advocacy groups and the national media jumped on the story. The fellowship was reinstated. More protests. Finally, when the smoke cleared, both sides felt they had lost.

In subsequent years, similar, though less explosive, controversies arose on other campuses -- Harvard, Rutgers, the University of North Carolina -- in which critics pushed, ultimately unsuccessfully, for the de-recognition of Christian fellowships on the grounds of discrimination.

Today, Catalano, a petite 24-year-old teacher with blue eyes and a bright face, has no doubts about her sexual orientation and no hesitation in proclaiming: "These fellowships are dangerous for gay students." Even for heterosexual students, she argues, they can be worrisome by "creating a safety zone where students are not grappling with life's big questions because everything is black and white."



Huh? I know all the arguments against homosexuality, even if I don't agree with them. It's not as if these groups' stance against homosexuality is straight dogma.



Curtis Chang, who with his wife served as Catalano's fellowship advisers at Tufts, has also come away from the experience more hardened. He left InterVarsity -- "campus ministry is a young man's game," says the 35-year-old new father -- and he is now a pastor of an 800-member evangelical congregation in Sunnyvale, California. He says he feels terrible to hear that Catalano was suicidal, but he notes that she never mentioned anything about it to her closest friends in the group. As for charges of double standards, Chang says that Catalano would have been allowed to be a leader if she accepted the Bible's prohibition on homosexuality and premarital sex, even if somewhere along the way she "strayed" and engaged in homosexual sex but then repented for it, just like heterosexual students.

But Chang says the incident exposes much bigger stakes, with the viability of what he calls "educated evangelicals" hanging in the balance. A native of Taiwan and 1990 graduate of Harvard, Chang says educated evangelicals feel at home in the university world and want to be considered full members. So they're quick to distance themselves from Bible-thumping, anti-intellectual fundamentalists. Instead, educated evangelicals stress their more progressive politics and nuanced theology.

"Being drawn into conflicts over homosexuality profoundly discomforts us, for we fear that our hard-earned distance will evaporate under the public glare," he argues. During the Tufts controversy, he says, he watched as other conservative Christians who share his views on homosexuality remained silent "out of fear they would be persecuted next." Three years later, he's come to believe that "the price of admission" for educated evangelicals in a place like Boston is ultimately too high.

Homosexuality is a defining issue for evangelicals, Chang says, because "it calls into question what the authority is governing your beliefs and your group. Is it changing public opinion or is it Scripture?" He argues that the debate is really a table-setter for the biggest issues to come, when genetic cloning and manipulation of human biology take center stage. "At root is: Do we all have the right to self-define?"

He fears that if evangelicals cede too much ground on homosexuality in the battle to preserve their welcome in intellectual hothouses like Boston, they may ultimately sacrifice their ability to win the war.



Chang hits the nail on the head here, I think. For similar reasons, I believe that although homosexuality may be morally permissible, the Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision to declare gay marriage legal was wrong -- such powers belong only to the people. If you don't agree with your Christian fellowship's founding principles, and you don't have the clout to change them, then start your own fellowship. That's what Martin Luther did, after all.


...
Yet for every Steve Douglass, there are many more students whose intense involvement slackens after commencement. That's when all the attributes that made the evangelical groups so appealing to students -- their premium on tight-knit social circles, their student-run, non-hierarchical approach, their funky, late-night culture -- can begin to work against them in meeting the needs of the post-college crowd. To keep them in the fold, the groups try to serve as feeders for evangelical churches in the area. It's hardly a seamless transition, though, and these bustling churches have their own continuity problems. Park Street Church sees its congregation turn over by half every three years.

In the end, the evangelical groups have resigned themselves to a certain level of fall-off among graduates. That's acceptable, because next fall, on just about every campus, there will be a new batch of bright-eyed, bewildered freshmen snaking through a student activities fair. And for now at least, no matter what kind of candy bars are being handed out, they know they'll find plenty of hungry souls.



For me, these concluding paragraphs hit really close to home. I attend a church where the college students outnumber the older folks (perhaps 120:40 or so), and many young adults do not stay for more than three years. I myself will most likely be leaving in June or September after having attended this church for four years as a college student and five years as a graduate student. As a result, many of the leadership roles at this church are filled by a relatively small group of folks, some of whom have two or three formal positions. When they leave, it's a struggle to find new folks to replace them. (The college to young adult population used to be close to even, but in 1999 a large chunk of the young adults left to form another church.) I am concerned that this church will not be able to sustain itself indefinitely in this manner. There's a real need for members to dedicate themselves to this church (and other churches) for the long haul.

UPDATE: The Raving Atheist launches a broadside at Curtis Chang for his comments in the article, and misses the boat entirely. I guess he's never heard of MEChA.

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