Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Typewriter history

From the ASME announcement:
The Sholes & Glidden typewriter, the first commercially successful mechanical writing machine, will be recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for historic significance and contribution to the progress of mechanical engineering.
See also the typewriter's Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Religious Freedom

The Maryland Catholic Conference has an interesting document about religious freedom and how it is being attacked. Related to this is an article on "The Most Important Religious Liberty Case of the Past Thirty Years."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

As we enjoy the last glory of autumn, here are some verses from the Book of Wisdom to consider:
For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Manhattan Declaration

The Manhattan Declaration's key paragraph:
Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.
If you agree with these points, you can sign it online.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Christianity and science

Returning to a topic often covered here: The October, 2011, issue of First Things has an article by James Hannam entitled Modern Science’s Christian Sources. The article provides more arguments about how Christianity did not impede the growth of science but instead provided the conditions necessary for it to start, and Hannam focuses on showing how two key myths are false: (1) "science has advanced by fighting religious superstition and making the world safe for rational inquiry" and (2) "Westerners only picked up the baton from the ancient Greeks, or, as has been more recently alleged, the Islamic caliphate." Some highlights:
Science as we imagine it today—with laboratories, experiments, and a professional culture—did not appear until the nineteenth century, but its origins can be found much earlier, in the period commonly known as the “scientific revolution.” And the “scientific revolution” was a continuation of developments that started deep in the Middle Ages among people whose scientific work expressed their religious belief.
With the exception of mathematics, in medieval Europe things were different. Aristotle’s faulty method was struck down by the Catholic Church, allowing previously forbidden ideas to flourish. The Church also made natural philosophy a compulsory part of the courses it required trainee theologians to follow. So, science held a central place in Christian centers of learning that it did not hold in Islamic madrassas. And Christianity itself provided a worldview especially compatible with experimental science.
Christianity made science a theologically justified and even righteous path to pursue. Since God created the world, exploring how it works honors its Creator.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Organ Harvesting in China

Wesley Smith's description of the report by two Canadian lawyers that describes how Chinese authorities are harvesting organs from members of the Falun Gong and a call for a boycott of scientific and medical interchange with China concerning transplantation

Friday, September 09, 2011

Galileo's Story

A couple of articles about Galileo and the myth of his persecution:

The Myth of Galileo: A Story With a (Mostly) Valuable Lesson for Today, by Joe Carter at First Thoughts.

The Copernican Myths, by Mano Singham in Physics Today.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

World Youth Day and Religious Freedom

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput's address at World Youth Day discusses what religious freedom really is and where one can get reliable information about the Catholic faith:
Religious freedom means being able to worship as we choose. It’s also the liberty to preach, teach, and practice our faith openly and without fear. But it involves even more than that. Religious freedom includes the right of religious believers, leaders, and communities to take part vigorously in a nation’s public life.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cooking for A.J.

Molly's cooking skills were featured in this article at Heavy Table. A.J. gets mentioned as well:

A.J. may even turn out to be a tastemaker like his mother. “He’s got this recipe he made up and wants to try: corn, barbecue sauce, and cucumber,” Herrmann says. “I said sure, and we’ve got all the ingredients. He eventually forgot about it, but when he remembers and wants to make it, I’m ready for him. If we’re asking kids to be adventurous, we should be, too.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Perfect Game

David B. Hart's article, A Perfect Game (First Things, August, 2010) is an ode to baseball and an effort to describe why it is perfect.

[Baseball] requires a whole constellation of seemingly bizarre physical and mental skills that, through countless barren millennia, were not only unrealized but also unsuspected potencies of human nature, silently awaiting the formal cause from beyond that would make them actual. So much of what a batter, pitcher, or fielder does is astonishingly improbable, and yet—it turns out—entirely natural. Clearly, baseball was always intended in our very essence; without it, our humanity was incomplete. Willie Mays was an avatar of the divine capacities that lie within our animal frames. Bob Feller’s fastball was Jovian lightning at the command of mortal clay.

He also compares it to the oblong game (football, soccer, basketball, etc.): "a contest played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone."

Comparing baseball to even the most complex versions of the oblong game is like comparing chess to tiddlywinks.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Measuring faculty workload

Efforts to Measure Faculty Workload Don't Add Up, a recent article by Alison Yin in the Chronicle of Higher Education, discusses the (perennial) debate between state legislators (and others) who want to know how many classes university faculty are teaching and the university faculty and administrators who argue that such measures are woefully incomplete:

Faculty productivity, or the lack thereof, is a common concern raised by politicians and others looking for inefficiencies and waste in higher education, especially when budgets are tight. Lawmakers often go out of their way to contrast the everyday employee who works 9 to 5 or longer at the office, or who pulls extra shifts doing manual labor, with the stereotypes of the elitist academic who teaches one or two hourlong courses a few times a week, takes summers off, and travels to far-flung places in the name of research.

Experts and professors in general say they don't mind the measuring of faculty work. What they're against is so much of what they do being left out of the equation. They are concerned about data elements that are incorrect, misleading, and not complete enough to allow outsiders to get an accurate picture of how professors use their time inside and outside of the classroom.

Unfortunately, the article fails to point out that a root cause of this debate is that each group has a different understanding of the objectives of a contemporary research university. Essentially, it comes down to whether universities should have (and faculty should spend their time in) classrooms or research labs. Until everyone agrees on what research universities should be doing, the arguments over measurements will continue unabated.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not the novel by Anne Perry

This blog shares a name with but is not connected with Bethlehem Road, the 1991 Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novel by Anne Perry.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book reviews for parents

Common Sense Media search page.

Bad Books for Kids: A Guide to the World of Youth Literature & What You Can Do About It from Touchstone Magazine.

Book reviews for parents and
Teen Lit: Now Without Witches! from Focus on the Family.

Monday, June 13, 2011

St. Mary's in Joplin, Missouri

“The neighborhood around St. Mary’s was scoured clean,” said Bishop James Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Bishop Johnston was preparing to travel to Joplin today with the director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri. “Our biggest challenge will be addressing the needs of the grade school, which was just flattened, and pastoral care for families in the parish.”
All that remained of the church were some walls and a large cross.


Choices in Majors

At the Wall Street Journal, Harvey Mansfield complains about "meathead" majors.

In this happy season of college graduations, students and parents will probably not be reflecting on the poor choices those students made in selecting their courses and majors. In colleges today, choice is in and requirements are out. Only the military academies, certain Great-Books colleges and MIT (and its like) want to tell students what they must study. Most colleges offer a cornucopia of choices, and most of the choices are bad.

(For the complete piece, do a Google News Search for "Sociology and Other 'Meathead' Majors.")

Top 10 misused English words

A list of the top 10 misused English words at Listverse.

I welcome any attempts at a single sentence that uses all 10 words incorrectly.

Hat Tip: First Thoughts.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

EPA administrator defines engineer

According to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson:
An engineer is somebody who can formulate a problem and then solve it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

News from 1972

The Pittston Dispatch carried the following flashback from 1972:
Three Pittstonians were on hand at ceremonies launching the nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz at Newport News, Virginia. Along with Congressman Dan Flood were the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Committee John Garrity, of Port Griffith, his wife the former Mary Marek of Dupont, and Michael Clark, who was the legislative assistant to Congressman Flood.

The group met with Navy Secretary John Warner and Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the atomic powered submarine the Nautilus. According to its web site, “the Nimitz measures more than 18 stories high from keel to masthead and has a total length of 1,092 feet. Carrying a full compliment of 5,800 officers and crew and 85 combat aircraft, its enormous 4.5 acre flight deck serves as the launching pad for the supersonic jets of Carrier Air Wing 11.”

General Chester W. Nimitz became one of the first submarine commanders; he built the submarine base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. During the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he assumed command of the Pacific Fleet. When it came to fighting the war, Nimitz said, “It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it is not fought on U.S. soil.”

To see photos of the launching of the Nimitz go to

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Joe Carter coins a new term to describe the culturally and politically conservative members of Generation X. Among his observations:
X-Cons are pragmatic idealists. We have strong faith in religion, small government, and the free market. Yet we are not Utopian and have no illusions that politics will make life much better (though we believe government can make it much worse).

Wyoming Catholic

Wyoming Catholic College is a Catholic college and, in the words of George Weigel,
a by-product of the most striking exercise in unintended consequences in the history of federal higher education funding.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The New Roman Missal

The new liturgical year, which starts November 27, 2011, will bring with it the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.

Hat tip: Dad.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A reflection on Good Friday

From Joe Carter's post about notifying the next of kin when someone in the military dies:
Over two millennia ago, the greatest “casualty call” in history spread throughout a small Roman province in the Middle East. The news that the truest friend, the most beloved son, the gentlest teacher anyone had ever known had been crucified must have spread like wildfire through the land, sparking the most profound grief our universe has ever known. From this side of the calendar we can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of loss that must have weighed on the hearts of Christ’s followers, family, and friends. We look backward on Good Friday, seeing it from the perspective of the glory that came on Sunday morning. But they saw only the darkness and pain, the loss of hope and bewilderment; they saw nothing but heartbreak.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scrabble Baseball Team

A team of professional baseball players whose first and last names are acceptable Scrabble words (via The Washington Post).

Professors and Politics

Nami Schaefer Riley's views on professors and politics (from The Washington Post, April 3, 2011):
A significant portion of the professoriate sees engagement in politics as part of the job description. ... The academy has not become politicized because of a few radical professors. Rather, entire departments and university administrations see the goal of higher education as political.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Art of the Spreadsheet

David Greusel's post on The Art of the Spreadsheet encourages us to take a broad view of creativity:
What we miss when we limit creativity to "the arts" are the innumerable ways that humans express their creative nature in all kinds of work: in spreadsheets, in repairing things, in devising helpful gadgets, in combining recipes, in shopping, in tax accountancy. There is no realm of human endeavour in which creativity does not come into play.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Patron saint of teachers

Thursday (April 7) was the feast of Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, a French priest who founded the first Catholic schools and is the patron saint of teachers.

A memorable game

On April 9, 1994, we saw the Baltimore Orioles defeat the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards. Here is the box score.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kitchen in the Market is open

This weekend, Molly (the Tastebud Tart) and her business partner Tracy Morgan open Kitchen in the Market,
a shared commercial kitchen for caterers, producers & manufacturers, mobile food trucks, and others ... scheduled and private classes ... a retail store [with] a carefully chosen assortment of chefs tools, cookbooks & magazines, and - best of all - grab-and-go nosh, including many dishes created by our chef/tenants.

KITM is at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Renuart leads Haines City to win

Haines City High School won this year's Polk County High School Academic Tournament on Thursday. Jacob was selected for the All-County team that will compete at the state competition.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Swahili Our Father wins Grammy

The lyrics to "Baba Yetu" are the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili. A recording by the Soweto Gospel Choir became the first song written specifically for a video game to win a Grammy award.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Adults with college degrees

Interactive map showing the percentages of adult (and subgroups such as males) with bachelor's degrees by county over the last 70 years. From the Chronicle of Higher Education (hat tip: First Thoughts).

Beaumont Family video

This video from 1986 is a story about my talented cousins, the Beaumont Family. Featured are my Aunt Margaret and my grandparents, Joe and Rose Herrmann. Numerous other family members appear throughout.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Challenger Accident Weather

Weather's Role in the Challenger Accident, by Andy Cox, Space Weather Correspondent, The Weather Channel, goes beyond the cold that froze the O-rings.

The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes

Table of Contents to essays by Richard Beck on The Theology of Calvin and Hobbes.

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code describes a statistician in Toronto who figured out how to buy only winning lottery tickets.

Monster Mini Golf

Mike and I played a round at Monster Mini Golf in Jessup (sorry, COLUMBIA), Maryland.

One of the holes had a spinner that randomly assigned you a handicap or advantage - I got "Tee off using the handle of the golf club," and Mike got "If you make a hole-in-one, score it as 0." The holes were generally easy (except the awful #17!), but I would have preferred more of the random penalties/awards to add some interest.

Hint: on Saturday get there early enough so that you start play before the birthday party groups do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The decline effect

Two articles by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker discuss the decline effect and the selective reporting in science.

The first article argues that finding the truth is harder than we think:
The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that’s often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

The second one discusses some of the letters that Lehrer received.

Via Dennis L.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New business model for healthcare

Article about Cleveland Clinic and Medstar in today's The Washington Post.

From the article by Lena H. Sun:

The Cleveland model is a combination of royalties from licenses of technologies to established companies and the sale of shares in spin-off companies. Royalties from licensing generate about $10 million yearly, but overall revenue is increasing significantly, said Chris Coburn, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations. Last week, Boston Scientific paid $78 million for a Cleveland Clinic spin-off that is developing a system that uses deep-brain stimulation to treat traumatic brain injury.

How to reform college football

Sally Jenkins suggests six easy steps (The Washington Post, January 10, 2011).

Why does it need reform? Because it is "an illegitimate system in which nearly the half the top-level college football teams in the country were excluded before the first kickoff ever went up," she goes on to explain in another column today.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How to declutter and clean

Article in the Wall Street Journal on one woman's experience with different spring cleaning methods.

Via Nicole Coomber's Symbol and Sustenance.

History of Engineering

The October 2010 issue of ASEE Prism had Robin Tatu's review of Engineers: A History of Engineering and Structural Design by Matthew Wells.

From the review:
This sort of contextualized overview enlivens Wells’s study of Baroque England’s penchant for “dismemberment” – the systemized study of parts, reassembled into wholes; the 18th-century struggle to devise a theory of elasticity; the technical idealism that suffused Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire building; and the frenzy of American industrialization, during which “almost every possibility for advantage was grasped at.”

It sounds, therefore, that this history is quite different from Henry Petroski's histories of particular artifacts, which focus on the never-ending challenge of overcoming a design's shortcomings.