<$BlogRSDUrl$>

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

*
*
The cultural emergence of OCD

OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) has emerged as a plot device on TV in recent years. First there was Monk, the eponymous star of a crime series featuring a detective with this mental disorder, which often makes the sufferer obsessed with order and detail. More recently, there was a doctor with OCD on "ER", which did not end happily since he was too cautious and fussy to be useful in trauma cases. And now, on CSI Miami, we have been introduced to Ryan Wolfe, who has the same condition, which is portrayed as useful in crime scene investigation.

Why all the OCD? Well, it's partly because it's become Disease of the Week; and partly because it makes for interesting plot points; and also because it's not terribly serious in most peoples' eyes and no pressure group is going to be too offended if is used as an entertaining plot device.

Julian

|

Monday, February 21, 2005

**********************
**********************
Interesting aside found in a book on Oxford clergymen

I was rereading Geoffrey Faber's study of Newman and the Oxford Movement, "Oxford Apostles", when I came across a passage that has always fascinated me. It seems that the more conservative dons at Oxford were not best pleased when, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Oxford awarded some honorary degrees to a few scientific men, seeing this as a diminishment. The names of the scientific men honoured in such a singular way were Brewster, Dalton, Faraday and Brown, all physical scientists. I am not very knowledgeable about their fields, but I have heard of all of these men, and even have a bit of an idea as to what they did. Their fame has worn well. They are all listed on this physics timeline. They were genuinely distinguished. I wonder how many of those awarded honorary degrees in other fields more congenial to the Oxford of the day would be remembered now?

PS to Fiat Mihi. Hilary, it was my ten-year-old daughter who posted that cheeky comment on your blog. Sorry.

Julian

|

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

**************
**************
Comment boxes

I have added comments below, in reply to other peoples' comments, but for some reason the comment counter is not updating. Still, my remarks are there.

Julian

|

Monday, February 14, 2005

************************
************************
Don't despair

Fiat Mihi is close to despair at the condition of the Catholic Church, particularly in Canada. Not to worry. A few apostate prelates in North America are not the end of the Church. The Catholic Church has survived Gnostics, the Diocletian persecution, the Arian heresy, Islam, schism, the Protestant Revolt, the "Enlightenment", the French Revolution, the sexual revolution, Vatican II and the blogger revolution. Have faith.

I'd put this in your comments box, Hilary, but I have never been able to open it.

Julian

|

Sunday, February 13, 2005

************************
************************
The American Left as Stalinists

Read about the latest politically correct nonsense at an American university here. I found this at Gene Expression. Very interesting debate.

Some of the American Left have no decency left. Seriously, I am really glad I am not an American. The way they treat each other!

Julian

|
*****************
*****************
Another episode of "ER"

So, the second episode for the year. Not bad, although we are still having to deal with an emotional Dr Carter. That actor does "semi-hysterical" quite well, but it does get tired rather quickly. We are also having to deal with Neela "deeply troubled and uncertain". That actress does "very worried" very well too, but she is a character one feels like shaking, she is so annoying. Her parents turned up to talk to her seriously, and it was good to see them not reduced to subcontinental stereotypes, even the father.

A seriously-injured Iraq War veteran asked Dr Carter if he was a Democrat. He replied that he was "most of the time". (It makes sense that a millionaire doctor would vote Democrat, doesn't it?) The show seemed to take a stance against the Iraq War, subtly. It also took a stance against gay bashing (what a surprise). Two homosexuals had been bashed up after kissing in a park, and their rather stereotypical friend was left to deliver the requisite homilies. One of the men died under Dr Abby Lockhart's care. I appreciated the scene where she ticked off, aloud, the various things she had done to try to save his life, and asked those around for any suggestions. I've never seen anyone be so explicit about what they were doing, and why.

I was a bit annoyed by the case that came in of the man from an aquarium who had been - still was - bitten by a shark. It was one of those cases that was obviously being played for laughs, with a "marine biologist" being more worried about keeping the still-attached shark alive and well than about his colleague's leg. (He seemed to be pouring water on the shark's gills, but would that really be sufficient? Don't sharks have to move through water to breathe?) The last one saw of the man and the shark was the latter clamping down harder than ever and chewing on the man's leg. Unless I missed it, we were never really shown what finally happened to the man, and the shark. There was some banter about the fish being a "nurse shark", but that was it.

Cases like that might as well have subtitles saying "This is the gag case. Relax. Light relief only."

Julian

|

Saturday, February 12, 2005

********************
********************
Vermilion roses: art and science

I bought some beautiful vermilion-coloured roses for my wife for St Valentine's Day. They look a bit like this, only brighter. Truly stunning. Here is something on the the biochemistry and genetics of vermilion roses, entitled "Inheritance of The Scarlet-Vermilion Signal Red Colors" by Dr W. E. Lammerts, Livermore, California, American Rose Annual 1964.

Julian

|
***********************
***********************
Which is better - Oxford or Cambridge?

I think I've actually been to Cambridge, as a three-year-old with my mother. So that should give Cambridge the advantage in my mind. Traditionally, too, Cambridge is the science and maths university: the university of Newton, Darwin (sort of), Senior Wranglers, Watson and Crick, the Cavendish Laboratory. It is the university of mathematicians like Hardy, Ramanujan and Ramsey. What can Oxford show, to my mind? I suppose the Oxford Movement, the Inklings (Tolkien, Lewis, and their friends), Oxford bags, Oxford marmalade, Evelyn Waugh, Gerard Manley Hopkins. On the negative side, there were the "Cambridge traitors", although Oxford had its "All Souls appeasers" of the 1930s. Some rather unappealing types seemed to have Cambridge connections: FR Leavis, many of the Bloomsbury Set (Lytton Strachey). Russell was a fine philosopher up to a point, but not a fine man; and Wittgenstein at Cambridge may have been a net negative. On the other hand, there were the Oxford "ordinary language" philosophers, who were worse, if anything.

For some reason, I have read much more about Oxford itself, but I probably know at least as much about the intellectual output of Cambridge. I suppose, given its great importance in the history of science, I must award the palm to Cambridge, but I would probably enjoy a trip to Oxford a great deal, all the same.

Julian

|
*************************
*************************
Getting Specs

I have never looked very intelligent. Some people would say I have never been very intelligent either. Be that as it may, I have sometimes wondered if wearing spectacles would make me look smarter. I got some today and checked: no, I just look like a dumb bloke wearing glasses. It is a bit like those women in advertisements who model spectacles they obviously don't need. Some people are the glasses type; some are not.

I am only using them on occasions when I need to read fine print, such as on medicine bottles, footnotes, the telephone directory, contracts, maps, some of the text in my Latin Mass missal. As luck would have it, I had to read some fine print directly after I bought my specs from the pharmacist today, actually perusing a contract with the "swing tag" of the glasses still attached.

It is great to have them, since "fine print" can proverbially be crucial. Presbyopia is the condition requiring correction, a typical ageing process.

Julian

|
********************
********************
What I think about the Pope

We recently had a scare about John Paul II's health, and a certain amount of commentary, a practice session almost, on how he would be perceived in the future. My personal opinion is that he probably will be canonised, and maybe even known as John Paul the Great, but that would be no guarantee of his being right on everything of course, or even of his judgement on matters great and small. Nietzsche apparently said that it was important to know when to die, and I think John Paul has been unfortunate in having lived, in a sense, too long. He has presided over some unfortunate developments in the Church, particularly on disciplinary matters, and his pontificate has been badly scarred by the recent clerical sexual abuse scandal, surely one of the worst scandals in the history of the Church.

John Paul II's achievements are almost too well-known to need listing. So I won't. I'll focus on his weak points. Paradoxically, one of the worst is something that he shares perhaps with John XXIII, and which has made both men such excellent candidates for canonisation - a personal holiness which is not sufficiently cognisant of the realities of fallen human nature. They were both what the Americans call "cock-eyed optimists", far too trusting and compliant. John Paul II has gone a long way, many would say too far, towards trying to please everyone: the Orthodox, Lutherans, other churches in general, various Church pressure groups. His crusade has been ecumenism. His creed has been accommodation. He has failed to discipline even when "the very stones" cried out that discipline should be applied. Bishops have done things that would have had them removed promptly from office once, but there have been no repercussions. He has been like a much-loved, but weak, Daddy.

All this is standard complaint in certain quarters. I expect there will be a lot more, quite strident, complaining when he goes.

Eventually some pope, whether he is the next one or not, will have to act. He will have to do something decisive in response to the clerical sex abuse episode, something that combines potent symbolism with decisive action. He will have to tidy up some of the recent messy theology with which recent popes, not the least John Paul II, have burdened us. John Paul II has been "too clever by half" theologically, floating all kinds of balloons of speculation. I think he has been creative more than careful, imaginative rather than sound, and far too much the postmodern European thinker.

A pope must soon clarify the status of the Vatican II documents. Rome has sent mixed signals in recent years, and no more so than in relation to this important matter. Equally sincere Catholics hold very different views on the status of Vatican II teaching, and it is time that the matter was clarified, ideally with some kind of official key to reading Vatican II in the light of Tradition.

A man can be a saint, even a great saint, and still be wrong, tragically wrong, on many things. After John Paul's flawed brilliance, it might be time for somebody a bit more mundane, in every sense.

Julian

|

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

******************
******************
Why were Tasmanian Aborigines Dark-Skinned?

Scientists, especially those who live in the Northern Hemisphere, often suggest that it is anomalous that the Tasmanian Aborigines were dark-skinned. Here is an example from the prominent Gene Expression blog:

QUOTE

" One point people bring up is the relative darkness of Australian Aboriginals even though much of the continent is in the "temperate" zone. It could be fairness (or the genetic variants that result in it) is not in the "genetic" background of this population, but blondeness among Aboriginals of the deep desert seems to falsify this thesis, and one supposes that the original populations that exited northeast Africa were also rather small and lacking in genetic diversity. But, Australia is mostly dry, and so rather sunny, in comparison to Europe. Only Victoria is really in a temperate maratime climate. And, to my knowledge, no group of Aboriginals wore very much clothing.

A more interesting case is that of Tasmanian Aboriginals. This group, now extinct in an un-admixed state, was very dark skinned, and had been isolated on Tasmania for about 10,000 years. Tasmania does have a cool maratime climate like much of Europe. My impression is that Tasmania aboriginals were not totally naked. "

UNQUOTE

My comments on this are as follows. Australia straddles the Tropic of Capricorn, so Australia is only partly a temperate zone country. Tasmania itself is at the same latitude in the South as Corsica is in the North. It is not that far South, really. It has a mild climate. Why did the Tasmanian Aborigines have dark skin? Well, one reason, as I've already indicated, is that Tasmania is fairly sunny. It is certainly not Norway, or even Vermont. It is hard to be certain, but some early accounts suggest that the Tasmanian Aborigines did not wear a lot of clothing. Another point is that they were hunter-gatherers, with access to meat and seafood, which could have provided good sources of vitamin D. Oddly enough, there seemed to be a taboo on fish, but they certainly ate seals, seabirds and shellfish. Many of the tribes would have had access to such coastal resources.

In summary, the dark skin of Tasmanian Aborigines is something of a puzzle, but there are some possible explanations that can be fitted into the usual model of human skin colour that relates skin colour to the local levels of sunshine and other sources of vitamin D.


Julian

|
***************
***************
The Abortion Debate in Australia

I doubt that the current arrangements on abortion in Australia reflect median public opinion. Clare Martin, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, may want the current debate shut down by her queenly fiat, but it isn't going to happen. One of the most mordantly funny things has been the succession of prominent people who keep saying that there is no real demand for any change on abortion policy. Says bloody who??

It reminds me of a joke in the old Punch magazine, which showed a bartender crankily telling a customer: "I'm sick of telling people: there is no demand for real ale!"

What we have now on abortion is absolute open slather (with a few wrinkles perhaps, in places like Qld). I don't think that is what people in general really want. Two things have damaged the "progressive" position on this: the easily-remembered and obviously high figure of 100,000 abortions in Australia per annum; and greater knowledge about foetal development from TV documentaries and ultrasound images ("baby's first picture").

I think, though, that our local Chief Minister, here in Canberra, Jon Stanhope takes the cake. He won't even collect abortion statistics, lest it embarrass his side of the argument. O Noble Fruit of the Enlightenment!

Julian

|

Friday, February 04, 2005

******************
******************
The Churching of Women

Another addition to my blogroll is Restore the Church, a Traditional Catholic blog. While on the subject of traditionalism, here is a note on the The Churching of Women, which gives the traditional liturgy, or paraliturgy. I have seen it claimed that the practice only died out after Vatican II, but I can't remember it as a feature of Catholicism before Vatican II (I can just remember the early 1960s). Someone I know was strongly recommending its reinstitution. Certainly, with so much of Traditional Catholicism returning, this may return as well. We shall see.

Julian

|
*******************
*******************
The weird "tropical" weather

... we had here in Canberra earlier in the week may have actually been the beginnings of some very strange weather we've had since, with unseasonal storms in south-eastern Australia and the coldest February day on record in Melbourne. In Canberra, it has been pretty chilly too. I can't remember such a rapid change in the weather. Even the professional meteorologists seem flummoxed by it.

I have added two new blogs (well, a blog and a homepage) to my blogroll. One is Tim Lambert's very interesting blog that is basically analysis of statistical claims made in support of political ends. We live in an age of the survey and the statistician, as Steve Sailer points out, and we need guides to help us interpret and assess the arguments, which are often of profound policy importance. Tim Lambert does an excellent job from a leftist perspective.

Another new item on my blogroll is the Footscray not Western Bulldogs Homepage. I share the opinion of the person who maintains this rather good website that the Footscray Football Club should return to that name and cease calling themselves the "Western Bulldogs", which is just a modish name. I content myself with the observation that the players still have a discreet "F.F.C." on the backs of their uniforms, that is "Footscray Football Club".

Still, the time to worry about football is winter. It is still summer, although it doesn't feel like it right now. As I said to my daughter last night, 2005 has really begun, now that the new season of "ER" is back. I only saw about two-thirds of the first episode, but it is clear that they are reassembling the old crowd. Maybe my tastes have changed too, but I found all the action a bit irritating, perhaps because I have come to appreciate the more cerebral approach of the CSI series. CSI seems more intelligent and scientific. Anyway, they are bringing the nurse with the fuzzy blonde hair and the problem son back to Chicago, and Abby is now a doctor. Corday is still around (I thought she'd left the show). Weaver is still stumping around. There is a new crop of students. I think I can see already which is going to fit into which stereotype. Basically, there seem to be two categories: cocky and overconfident or too diffident. Speaking of too diffident, Neela is back with some tale of woe. The inept white male student, Morris, seems to have had an emergency brain transplant and is actually showing some aptitude. (I find the crazy way in which the competence of the individual doctors varies over time quite odd: Corday, Luca, now Morris, have all had their "ups" and "downs").

A particularly annoying feature is that Carter and his boring African girlfriend are still moping around.

The whole thing is looking a bit tired. I hope it perks up soon or I may have to give up on the show, although I would miss the nice bits of jargon and medicalese.

Julian

|

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

*******************
*******************
Tram Town

Tram Town is the name of a blog from my birth town of Melbourne (Australia, not Florida). Great town and a great name for a blog, so I am adding it to my blogroll.

It has been hot (common) and humid (rare) in Canberra today. It has felt and smelled like a greenhouse. Quite tropical and aromatic.

Tram Town mentions the Science Fiction TV series "Space 1999". I chiefly remember that show because of the icy blonde who was one of the main characters. As I said to somebody recently, if Tolstoy is the kind of literature in which characters have real, human emotions and motivations, science fiction is anti-Tolstoy. People either have no motivations, or bizarre ones (Cf. JG Ballard). The woman on Space 1999 seemed cold and emotionless. Why is it that series set in space in the future (as this one was) often have characters who seem to have lost normal human emotions? I remember some episodes of Dr Who in which a whole alien society was a bureaucracy and everybody talked "bureaucratese". That was fun. But I have often wanted to see a future society portrayed in which people behaved more emotionally than they do now.

Julian

|

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?