Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Parable of the Miners

The Parable of the Miners, by Patricia Snow, discusses how the rescue of the Chilean miners earlier this year can be seen as a parable of how God saves us.
But for Christians, and especially for Catholic Christians, who share the faith of the miners themselves, this was a profoundly Christian event, understandable both in its details and its overall scope only in Christian terms. It was a teaching moment, rich in theological references. It was a kind of parable, worth considering as an Advent reflection, with its strong movement from darkness to light.

Via On the Square.

The Digital Story of the Nativity

Saw this humorous take on the Nativity story yesterday on First Thoughts and thought it was cool, but when I mentioned it to my family, my mother-in-law said she had seen it last week!

More Unwritten Laws of Engineering

Part 3 of 3 has tips regarding personal and professional behavior in the workplace.

Links to Parts 1 and 2 can be found in my earlier post.

Via Mechanical Engineering Magazine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

200 Hundred Years of Human Health

A very cool visualization showing how countries' wealth and health have changed over 200 years.

Via First Thoughts.

True Size of Africa

A map designed to show the true size of Africa.

Via Keith.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

billions of bills

You would think that they would fix the problem before printing 1.1 BILLION $100 bills, some (but not all) of which have mistakes.

(Thanks, Mike!)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Comments on George Bailey

Joe Carter (in On the Square today) has an article about George Bailey, the protagonist of the classic film It's a Wonderful Life. Carter discusses Bailey and Howard Roark, from Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead.

Carter' conclusions:

What makes George Bailey one of the most inspiring, emotionally complex characters in modern popular culture is that he continually chooses the needs of his family and community over his own self-interested ambitions and desires—and suffers immensely and repeatedly for his sacrifices.


Capra’s underlying message is thus radically subversive: It is by serving our fellow man, even to the point of subordinating our dreams and ambitions, that we achieve both true greatness and lasting happiness.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

College admissions, beyond the No. 2 pencil

College admissions, beyond the No. 2 pencil is an opinion piece by Robert J. Sternberg (provost and senior vice president of Oklahoma State University) in today's Washington Post Outlook section about admissions tests to assess creative, analytical and practical skills and general wisdom. It is based on the author's theory of successful intelligence.

Sternberg has also written College Admissions for the 21st Century.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering by W. J. King was first published in 1944 as three articles in Mechanical Engineering magazine, which is excerpting laws from the book, presented in three articles just as in 1944, with comments from contemporary authorities.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

Academic Ostpolitik

Articles by and about Todd Hartch (a history professor at Eastern Kentucky University who wrote a letter opposing the university's decision to extend benefits to domestic partners akin to those available to married couples): Hartch's experience in his own words (from Public Discourse) and End Academic Ostpolitik (from First Thoughts).

Monday, October 25, 2010

America has been taken over by a New Elite.

Sunday's Outlook section had a piece by Charles Murray on the "New Elite."

Far from spending their college years in a meritocratic melting pot, the New Elite spend school with people who are mostly just like them -- which might not be so bad, except that so many of them have been ensconced in affluent suburbs from birth and have never been outside the bubble of privilege. Few of them grew up in the small cities, towns or rural areas where more than a third of all Americans still live.

To find out if YOU are in the New Elite, take the quiz.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For Christians in College

This month's First Things has an open letter to young Christians on their way to college by Stanley Hauerwas:

To be a student is a calling. Your parents are setting up accounts to pay the bills, or you are scraping together your own resources and taking out loans, or a scholarship is making college possible. Whatever the practical source, the end result is the same. You are privileged to enter a time—four years!—during which your main job is to listen to lectures, attend seminars, go to labs, and read books.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good Business

Tomorrow's Newsweek has Joel Schectman's brief article on social entrepreneurs. The articles cites TOMS Shoes and Organic Valley dairy co-op as examples.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

From the October 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz's Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time discusses increasing productivity by managing our body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Bucs were rolling in 1979

While I was waiting in the dentist's office yesterday, I flipped through the current issue of Sports Illustrated, which had a "Vault" piece on the Buccaneers first taste of success in 1979.
Ah, Ricky Bell, Doug Williams, and the Selmon brothers...
Check out the cover or read an HTML version of the article.

The original article is on page 30 of the magazine (click on "View this issue").

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day

Had a beautiful Labor Day today and enjoyed it by going into the city. Stopped at Georgetown Cupcake's store on M Street to pick up our order, met my aunt Mary Sue and cousin Jonathan (a medical student at the GWU medical school), and had brunch at Peacock Cafe (they have great Eggs Benedict and French toast). Later, we saw the the Madeleine Albright Collection of pins at the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle).

Listened to part of the Nationals' 13-3 victory over the Mets on the way home.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Last week I was in Utah, where I taught a three-day short course on Probabilistic Risk Assessment and Management at Hill Air Force Base. I stayed in the suburban hamlet of Layton, which reminded me of Bowie, Maryland, right down to the shopping centers with Target and Lowe's.

After the third day of class, I had some time to explore. First I quickly toured the Hill Aerospace Museum, which has a great collection of military aircraft, including fighters, bombers, and helicopters, including a Bell TH-13 similar to those that brought injured soldiers to the 4077th in M*A*S*H.

Then I continued north, on the advice of one of the students in my course, and drove up to Ogden. I toured the city's historic Union Station and the Eccles Rail Center next to the station, which has some impressive locomotives and rail cars. The city is not from from Promontory Summit, where the transcontinental railroad was completed, and was an important railroad junction. Today the station is a collection of museums and the Union Grill, where I had the carrot soup and the meatloaf for dinner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Probability of God

British theoretical physicist Stephen Urwin uses Bayes' Theorem to model belief in the existence of God.

See also the post at First Things.

The quantity D is the ratio of two probabilities; in particular, D equals the probability that the evidence occurs given that God exists divided by the probability that the evidence occurs given that God doesn't exist. Of course, these probabilities are subjective probabilities.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Hate to wait

Article in The Washington Post travel section today by a man who hates to wait when traveling:

I have a fantasy of air travel, and it goes like this: I cab to the airport with my pre-printed boarding pass in hand, go through an efficiently moving security line and get to the gate just as the flight is starting to board.

Prince of Denmark's March

The processional at our wedding 15 years ago was Prince of Denmark's March.
See the Wikipedia entry and this nice video.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parking underground

Mom Garrity sent me this link to a video describing an automated underground parking lot in Europe. It is an impressive system. The plans at the end give some hint of how they get cars out from the back row.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Denali National Park and Preserve

We spent a couple of nights at Denali. (The mountain is still known as Mount McKinley, but the park name was changed about 30 years ago.) We toured the large visitor's center, saw an excellent movie about Denali, saw the dog sled demo, walked some of the many trails, and saw lots of wildflowers, especially fireweed. It was rainy and cloudy on Sunday; on Monday we had a beautiful day for a drive and could actually see Mount McKinley from the Parks Highway.

As Mike Warner does when writing about national parks on his blog, I'll presume to rate the park.

Visitor's Rating (ratings out of 5)
Fun -- 4 -- scenic drives, hikes, movie, dog sled demonstration.
Beauty -- 4 -- forests (taiga), mountaintop views, wildlife, if you're lucky; views of the tallest mountain in North America on very nice days.
Significance -- 2 -- no important historical events or buildings, but the history of the park itself is interesting.
Facilities and Displays -- 5 -- outstanding visitor's center, bookstore, campgrounds, trails of all kinds, all in good condition.
Overall: 4 -- a national park as large as a state with the tallest peak on the continent; outstanding facilities and activities; stuff for everyone from families with kids to serious backpackers; quality of the views depends upon the weather; some parts of the park are hard to visit.

Time required: one could spend weeks camping and hiking through the place; at least a full day for the typical visitor.

Accessibility: it is in the middle of Alaska; the drive from Anchorage takes about five hours. Once you are there, most facilities are easy to reach, but private vehicles are not allowed past the 15-mile mark on the park road. Buses serve other sites farther down the road.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Scientists have opinions

Last Sunday's Outlook section included a piece by Chris Mooney about how scientists misunderstand the public.
(See also his full report.)

He failed to note that scientists have opinions too, which prompted me to write a letter to the editor, which appeared today in The Washington Post. In general, his piece and his report betray an attitude that scientists know best.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Catholic higher education

The Archbishop of Denver offered his views concerning Catholic higher education earlier this year:

The genius of a Catholic education is to anchor the yearnings, the brilliance and the glory of the human mind in the greatness of God. Man has no security outside the guarantees of God’s love. If we deny Him, we deny ourselves. If we do not know Him, we cannot know ourselves.

And he hopefully provides this quote from St. Augustine:

Bad times, hard times -- this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times. Such as we are, such are the times.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Harry's performance as Seeker

On a recent trip to Minneapolis, I had the great pleasure to stay with my brother Keith, his wife Molly, and their son A.J. We visited the fascinating Mill City Museum, and Keith showed me his useful and well-done addition to the Wikipedia entry on quidditch: Harry's performance as Seeker.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Father and son to serve in priesthood

Article in the Baltimore Sun about a widower and grandfather who has become a priest. He has four children, one of whom is already a priest.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

America's new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control

Title of an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America's Future."

Two excerpts:

...a new struggle between two competing visions of the country's future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise -- limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution.

Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success. Earned success involves the ability to create value honestly -- not by inheriting a fortune, not by picking up a welfare check. It doesn't mean making money in and of itself. Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others. Earned success is the stuff of entrepreneurs who seek value through innovation, hard work and passion. Earned success is what parents feel when their children do wonderful things, what social innovators feel when they change lives, what artists feel when they create something of beauty.

South Dakota

As I have been to the state a couple of times and enjoyed both visits greatly, this piece on First Things caught my eye: in South Dakota Dreamin’ R. R. Reno discusses the positive and hopeful cultural and political climate in South Dakota:
Thus my optimism, encouraged by my experience on the Great Plains. Most of us do not want to live in the political equivalent of a housing project administered by remote bureaucrats. Nor do we want to live in the political equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange where every dimension of civic life has a selling price. And because we don’t, if we are reasonably vigilant and energetic, odds are we won’t.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The (lack of) news from Nashville

In case you missed it, Nashville experienced a tremendously damaging and deadly flood (the same weekend as the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square attack). I have heard on the country music stations of some country music stars donating money and organizing benefit concerts but read little about it in the paper. Getreligion.org addresses the issue in an article about the lack of media coverage.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Liker on Toyota

Jeffrey K. Liker, a professor at the University of Michigan, has written an article about the situation at Toyota and their response to their problems.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Herrmann Building Dedicated

As previously mentioned here, St. Leo decided to rename its mail center after Stephen Herrmann. Pictured are family members at the dedication ceremony.

Do Movie Critics Matter?

Do Movie Critics Matter? An article in First Things about the role of movie critics and the rise of self-published movie reviews and review aggregators on the World-Wide Web.

The essay is adapted from a speech given by Armond White, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, at the group’s annual awards banquet on January 11, 2010.

More about Aunt Barbara

More about coverage of her efforts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Essential Engineer

Review of The Essential Engineer, by Henry Petroski. Review by Thomas Hayden, The Washington Post, Sunday, February 28, 2010.
From the review:
Petroski reminds us, quite rightly, that while scientists may ring the warning when it comes to potential disasters, "warnings are not solutions -- nor are they necessarily a death knell. It will be the optimistic engineers who hear the warnings not as doomsday scenarios but as calls to tackle significant problems."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Betty Herrmann

Betty Herrmann died February 25, 2010.

From the obituary:

For many years Betty worked for Joe Herrmann’s, Inc. (Saf-T-Gas) and later served as secretary to the president of Saint Leo College. Betty was married to Stephen C. Herrmann in 1968. They lived in Atlanta, GA for 24 years before retiring to Blanton in 1991, where they grew citrus, owning and maintaining a tangerine grove. Betty was widowed in 2001. She was kind to animals and fed wild birds. Betty will be dearly missed by all who knew her.

I was at Tech during the time that they lived in Atlanta, and they were very kind to me and invited me to dinner multiple times, including at holidays like Easter when I couldn't get home. May they both rest in peace.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the
Stephen Herrmann Scholarship Fund at Saint Leo University.
(How to make a gift.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Curling and operations research

We've watched a good bit of curling during the Winter Olympics, and I keep thinking that one could apply operations research to make better decisions in a game.

Apparently I'm not the first: see the article by Kostuk and Willoughby on a long-running dispute in curling.

Bobby Cremins

Column by John Feinstein about Bobby Cremins.

"Bobby Cremins is still doing his thing at College of Charleston," The Washington Post, Sunday, February 21, 2010.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Everybody Dance Now

Karen and some friends danced in a charity variety show last weekend. The fundraiser was for the missions ministry of Houston's First Baptist Church.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Herrmann Building Dedication will be April 8, 2010

St. Leo will be naming its student mail center after Stephen Herrmann. The dedication will be April 8, 2010.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

End of the World Parody

Parody of local news and their the world is ending attitude about ultimately insignificant events - especially appropriate given the nonstop coverage of the (admittedly historic) blizzard. Plus it has music by the greatest American rock band ever.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Classic Elvis Presley

See this video of Elvis singing "Trying to Get to You" on a 1968 NBC special.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More about Tiger

A post last month mentioned Mike Wise's article about Tiger Woods and suggested that Tiger was looking for something that only God could provide.

Then Brit Hume made his infamous comments about Tiger and religion.
The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat defends Brit Hume and the virtue of including faith and theology in the public square.

Cicero is a superstar

That was the line on the cover of the January issue of First Things. Mary Ann Glendon discusses the life of Cicero, the Roman statesman, and what he "thought about many of the issues that young persons with political aspirations still ponder today."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Norman Rockwell's photos

A new book offers a revealing look at how the artist created his homey illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.

Norman Rockwell's Neighborhood, by Richard B. Woodward, Smithsonian magazine, December 2009.

Early maps of America

Two obscure 16th-century German scholars named the American continent and changed the way people thought about the world: The Waldseemüller Map: Charting the New World, by Toby Lester, Smithsonian magazine, December 2009.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Monopoly games never end

Some Monopoly games never end. Some folks at Cornell have explained why and estimated the probability that a game will never end as approximately 12 percent.