You are here


What I'm Reading

Since I know you're all dying to follow in great detail my reading habits, I've added a couple things:

  • On the right-hand side of the blog is a list of links to the online stories that I've been reading lately.
  • A sort of meta-RSS feed of those same stories is here.

Here's how I did it: In Google Reader I started clicking the "share" link at the end of each item that I wanted to share. Under Settings->Tags I clicked the "add a clip to your site" to get the javascript that produces the list of what I'm reading on the right hand side of this blog. That same Settings->Tags page has the link to a web page that lists the shared items. To create an RSS feed, is used the service to scrape that web page and create a feed. If anyone else wants to do this, let me know and I'll help (configuring isn't at all trivial, but I've figured it out now). Update: it occurred to me that Google probably provides an RSS feed for your shared stories. I checked, and they scraping it with isn't necessary. It doesn't seem to be easy to find out the address of that feed, though. Go to the shared items page and view the source. Search in the source for "atom" and that will take you to the url of the feed. Update # 2: The easiest way to find the address of your Google Reader "shared items" feed is to click on the "Shared items" link in the upper left corner, and at the top of the resulting list of shared items there will be a link to the web page and to the feed.

Let me recommend to you all this fine resource: It's a web site that takes "urban legends" (like those forwarded emails you receive) and tries to evaluate and document whether or not they are true. Anytime anyone sends me something that is a little hard to believe or seems suspicious, I check on it here. I don't receive that many forwarded emails, but I would estimate that maybe 90 % of the ones I have received have been bogus. If you like to forward emails, I would suggest that you at least make an attempt at checking their validity at before you forward them along. I had the opportunity to consult snopes twice today. First, some friends from church forwarded me and a bunch of other people a version of the email that is examined by snopes here. Since my current hobby seems to be trying to spread some sanity regarding lumping all Muslims in with the radical fringe of that religion, I responded to all with the following:

I would suggest reading the analysis of this email: It questions several of the claims asserted by the email. For example, it finds evidence that the man presenting about Islam was not a Muslim minister but was an inmate. Though I think there is a valid point to be made about the fundamental differences between Christianity and Islam, I don't think it is very accurate nor helpful to try to link all Muslims (many of whom, especially in the US, are law-abiding, non-violent, honorable citizens) with the violent radical fringe of that religion. For example, as the analysis points out, it would not be too hard to pull out a large number of verses from the Bible (esp. the OT) to "demonstrate" that the God of the Bible is a violent and vengeful and commands his followers to be so while also citing violent, radical "Christians" like Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph who was associated with the Christian Identity movement, terrorists in Northern Ireland, etc. Since Muslim citizens of the US are generally peaceful and law-abiding (with a few exceptions, as there are with any religion), I have no concern about the growing number of Muslim voters. However, I am concerned about this: the radical fringe of Islam is apparently flourishing in our prison system, and our country imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. See this page: for links to some documentation.

Also, yesterday a colleague at work forwarded to our whole building a PowerPoint presentation with the content evaluated by snopes here. I politely responded to all with the following:

More (contradictory) info on this subject is here:

People really should do some quality control on the emails they forward.

Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation

Via Slate's Today's Papers column, an article of the same title by Charles Piller in the LA Times has some criticism for The Gates Foundation:

In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, a Times investigation has found, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works. In Ebocha [Nigeria], where Justice lives, Dr. Elekwachi Okey, a local physician, says hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. No definitive studies have documented the health effects, but many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer. "We're all smokers here," Okey said, "but not with cigarettes."

The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France - the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe. Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments - totaling at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities - have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

At the Gates Foundation, blind-eye investing has been enforced by a firewall it has erected between its grant-making side and its investing side. The goals of the former are not allowed to interfere with the investments of the latter.

Also via Today's Papers, the Gates Foundation responded to the criticism:

In a significant change, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it would review its investments to determine whether its holdings were socially responsible.

Amazon's Secret Price Guarantee

Amazon has a price guarantee that they don't publicize...if their price decreases within 30 days of a purchase you make, they'll refund the difference if you ask. See an article about the guarantee on Slate. Here' s a web site that will notify you if the price drops.

Witnessing Execution a Matter of Duty, Choice

Via Slate's Today's Papers column, a recent article of the same title in the Washington Post by Candace Rondeaux reports on individuals who volunteer to serve as witnesses of prisoner executions:

It's been 70 years since executions in the United States were open to the public. But in Virginia, there is always someone watching, turning what is for most people a distinctly private moment into a very public end. One of more than a dozen death penalty states that require ordinary citizens to witness executions, Virginia has enlisted hundreds of volunteers for the task. They come from every corner and every quarter: A Richmond school bus driver, a South Hill bookkeeper, a Prince William County police officer, an Ashburn computer specialist, a Lynchburg brass works fabricator. All have visited the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt.


Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer