December 17

JK Rowling Response to Fans About LGBTQ+ Characters at Hogwarts

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past decade or so, JK Rowling is a British novelist best known as the author of the Harry Potter series which have sold over 400 million copies worldwide – becoming the best selling book series in the world and, later, the highest-grossing film series in the world.

JK Rowling has a reputation of responding with witty and/or heartfelt remarks to fans on her Twitter page. It seems like she really takes time to connect with her fan base in an intimate and meaningful way.  Yesterday, she replied with this Tweet in response to a fan’s question, “@jk_rowling it’s safe to assume that Hogwarts had a variety of people and I like to think it’s a safe place for LGBT students”

 

JK Rowling, my heart belongs to you!

Stay beautiful.

December 14

The Reason’s Album “We’re So Beyond This” – A Hidden Gem

"We're So Beyond This" (2007)

Canadian post-hardcore turned indie rock band The Reason is my current musical addiction. I found their album We’re So Beyond This (2007) while meandering through the dark depths of iTunes looking for a local Colorado band. I cannot even begin to describe how much I’m in love this this album. The band, sure, is very good, but this album is a well-thought-out work of art.

The album opens with a fast-paced, short, anthem-like song “My Broken Legs” which will have you searching for the repeat button on your iPod almost immediately. The song is a brilliant opening to the album, getting the listener pumped for what’s to come, but leaving them wanting more. Later in the album, “Unquestionable” gives us a fun instrumental intro that feels like the guitars and bass are speaking to each other, conversing alongside the lyrics. The 7th track on the album “If My Tongue Could Talk” takes a slight deviation from some of their other songs and almost sounds like something that could have easily been a song by an early Three Days Grace. Their title track “We’re So Beyond This” features Sara Quinn of Tegan and Sara who provides a perfect compliment to Adam White’s powerful and raspy vocals.

I could go on and on about each of the tracks which each have something special to offer the audience. But, what I think I like most about this album is how much the music meant to each song – which is really refreshing. So many songs are composed of a really simple chord structure that a 10-year-old could pick up in minutes. It takes a lot of courage to switch genres like The Reason did, but that didn’t stop them from putting their heart into this album and for that I’m extremely grateful. Adam White’s powerful vocals, Ronson Armstrong’s groovy bass lines, the dexterity of James Nelan and Jeremy Widerman’s guitar riffs, and the thoughtful beats of Cam Bordignon on drums make this a truly fantastic listening experience.

Pro Tip: for some unknown reason, listening to this album while playing Pokemon Yellow on the GameBoy makes you feel like a real bad ass.

Category: Music | LEAVE A COMMENT
December 11

Star Wars Episode 7 Is Really Just the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7 Finale

While I don’t have much in the way of a theory of the exact content of the upcoming Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, I have a feeling like it is going to be the Jedi version of the Slayer awakening in the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know, I know, I’m talking about a lot of fandoms here, but hear me out.

The idea behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that their is one Slayer, “one girl in all the world, a chosen one who alone wields the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons and forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. The point being that there is ONE Slayer. But there are always “potential slayers.” Potential slayers are a handful of girls around the world who may become the Slayer if the current Slayer dies (the Slayer is like Santa Claus in that way vis-à-vis the Tim Allen movie). Buffy and her gang of friends use an ancient Scythe to unlock the Slayer power and give it to anyone and everyone who could potentially be a Slayer – meaning there are a whole lot of Slayers now. So, being a Slayer just isn’t as special as it used to be.

While looking at the Star Wars Episode 7 trailer, I noticed that what the movie is probably gearing towards is a Jedi awakening in similar fashion to the Slayer awakening. Somehow the power of the Jedi which has laid dormant for some time will come back and with a vengeance. Seems like the writers over at Disney have been watching too many Joss Whedon shows if you ask me (or not enough, I really love Joss Whedon).

Watch the new Star Wars trailer, and a segment from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale (start the video at 1:13) to see what I mean.

Start at 1:13

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below! =)

March 11

Google Glasses: A Glimpse into the Future of Privacy Problems

Google Glasses are a work of art that may propel us into the future of … a boat load of privacy battles. The device has yet to hit the market and is already spurring up privacy concerns.

Google Glasses are essentially glasses without frames and a small monitor that enters your vision when looking up and to the right. The device is voice activated and can do anything from performing a simple search to video chatting with your friends to taking pictures. Google chief Larry Page claims that this technology will revolutionize the public’s approach to information. However, others like The 5 Point Cafe in Seattle has preemptively declared that they will not allow Google Glasses in their establishment. This leads us to wonder how exactly Google Glasses impact our lives once they hit the market?

Google Glasses will essentially give people the opportunity to be “wired in” at every minute of every day. People have cameras connected to a headset that will allow them to record whatever they would like without so much as a push of a button. While this may provide some artistic opportunities, given the potential to really record the human experience through the eyes of another person, this also implicates privacy problems with those in the vicinity of persons using Google Glasses. It will be interesting to see how the government will be able to reconcile an individual’s right to privacy with the continuing development of new technology that has the potential to cross privacy lines.

December 30

Will We Ever Run Out of New Music?

I am a music nerd. I love to listen to and write all sorts of different music. That being said, I’ve frequently muse about the possibility that one day we will run out of new music. I mean, it’s no secret that there are many pop songs out there that sound very similar. There are multiple blogs and websites devoted to finding songs that all sound alike – this one being my favorite: http://www.thatsongsoundslike.com/. Even when I write songs I find myself reusing similar chord progressions and beats. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to think that we’ll run out of new music.

I let YouTube’s Vsauce do the math, but mathematically speaking, it is not likely that we will never run out of possible unique combinations for melodies (the number of unique combinations is finite, but the number of possible combinations is incredibly large and varies based upon the assumptions made when making calculations about unique measures – anywhere from 1.23×10^35 to about 78 billion different combinations). Thus, there will always be a possibility for new music. The thing is that there our brains only allow us to enjoy certain types of songs. Research done by Nicholas J. Hudson suggests:

Musical appreciation may be influenced by a deep cognitive process relating to information compression. Musical beauty may have a more objective basis than is commonly accepted, relating to the complexity mis-match between initial sensory perception and ultimate cognitive resolution.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1756-0500/4/9

What Hudson means by this is that the way in which a song compresses is predictive of how enjoyable the song is to the average human. He essentially uses Information Theory to make the seemingly complex and subjective Arts explainable by objective Science. Below, Hudson gives a mathematical range for musical patterns that we find enjoyable:

From a compression standpoint, highly ordered patterns are boring because they are too simple while random chaotic patterns are boring because they are too complex. On the other hand, intermediately complex patterns – those that promise a chance of compression following some effort – are of particular interest. I use the terms the “edge of order” and the “edge of chaos” to define points of inflection in the imagined relationship between information content and ease of compressibility. The high pay-off zone is somewhere in the middle.

Hudson BMC Research Notes 2011 4:9   doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-9
Download authors’ original image

Therefore, although it is not likely that we will ever run out of possible unique musical measures, there is a very limited range of music that, when compressed, is enjoyable to the average human. Moreover, humans are limited by the number of pitches that we can distinguish between.  This may be why we come across so many songs that sound alike.

So, what’s the answer then? Mathematically, we will never run out of new music. It is also unlikely that we will run out of music that we find enjoyable to the human ear any time soon. The number of possible unique melodies is finite, but we will not likely reach this number in our life time. Maybe the problem of a plethora of similar songs exists in our own lack creativity. If we can find some new ways to put together interesting melodies we can bypass the “doesn’t this song sound like…?” problem.

In the meantime, here are some pop songs that all use the same four chords (though many more pop songs than the ones included use these same chords):

Category: Music | LEAVE A COMMENT
December 25

What is the Second Amendment Really About?

Recent tragedies involving the use of deadly firearms have brought the debate about gun control back to the minds of citizens everywhere. In order to critically analyze questions about gun control, I think that it’s important to first look at the Constitutional Amendment that is used to defend individual’s rights to possess firearms.

The Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads as such:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment

The debate that arises is in the Founder’s intended scope for the Second Amendment. Did they intend for this Amendment to protect individual’s rights to possess firearms, or did the Founders have more collective and militaristic intentions?

In recent cases such as the District of Columbia v. Heller 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court found that the Second Amendment protected individual’s rights to have firearms. This ruling is likely due to the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” that appears in the Amendment. The interpretation of the Second Amendment that was used in this case upholds a theory of individual rights in which restrictions cannot be made to prohibit the possession of firearms by individuals – any such prohibitory or regulatory measures ought to be deemed unconstitutional. However, the Court did find that felons and the criminally insane cannot possess firearms – not taking the individual rights theory to as extreme a level as I outlined. What this ruling doesn’t take into account is the first part of the Second Amendment and the idiosyncratic usages of the language of the time when this Amendment was written.

First, let’s examine the first part of the Second Amendment which reads: “a well regulated Militia”. This phrase seems to point to the intention that Framers only wanted to prevent Congress from creating any legislation what would do away with state’s rights to self-defense. Remember that in the time when the Second Amendment was written the militia played an integral part of a state’s self-defense – and thus the militia played an integral military role. Moreover, the language of the time suggests that any usage of “to bear arms” was meant in a militaristic sense. Therefore, through the optics of the Framers, it seems that we ought to observe a militaristic and collective view rather than an individual view regarding this Amendment. Thus this view is more of a collective theory of rights – that citizens do not have individual rights to possess firearms, rather that state and federal legislative bodies have regulatory and prohibitory authority over firearm usage by individuals without implicating any constitutional right.

In the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court held that the right of an individual to have a firearm is completely unconnected to the militia or service to any body of self-defense for a state. I think that the ideology behind the Court’s finding in this case is inherently flawed. Even outside of the collective v. individual rights paradigm that I’ve constructed, there is still historical references to the regulation of firearms in the time after the establishment of the Second Amendment. According to scholar Nathan Kozuskanich:

The  historical  record is  clear  that Americans  owned  guns (which  Individual  Rights scholars have  proven),  but it is  also  equally  clear  that those  guns were subject to  robust  regulation,  most  often  by  the  militia  organizations  and through  the militia service  laws.  The right  of self defense was widely accepted  as  a  natural  right  that  had  been  incorporated  into  the common  law,  but  none  of the  sources  in  these  databases  make  the crucial link between  personal safety  and a  constitutional right to bear arms.  Also,  many people  of the  time saw  the  militia  as  a key  component in  securing  personal  safety.  Indeed, Americans  of the  colonial period  and Early Republic  had  a more  nuanced view  of bearing  arms than  either the Individual Rights  or  Collective  Rights  Models  can  accommodate,  a  view intimately  tied  to  notions  of civic  duty  and  communal  responsibility.  Rather  than  an  individual  or  collective  right, Americans  viewed  the right to  bear arms as a civic  right linked to militia service.

-Originalism, History, and the Second Amendment: What did Bearing Arms Really Mean to the Founders?  – by Nathan Kozuskanich

https://www.law.upenn.edu/journals/conlaw/articles/volume10/issue3/Kozuskanich10U.Pa.J.Const.L.413(2008).pdf

No matter what context you look in, evidence seems to suggest that the Framers intended for our right to “bear arms” to be in a militaristic context of self-defense subject to regulation and prohibition on the individual level of firearm possession. However, the debate remains a heated topic and likely will until we can find a reasonable solution – I do not find the “let’s arm more people and place them in public schools” of the NRA a viable solution.

This debate will continue on for me even at home as I try to explain to my brother that our definition of “the right to bear arms” is completely different:

Billy Mays Antics

Billy Mays – My Baby Brother

Category: Social Issues | 1 Comment
December 20

A Package Truly Worthy of Indiana Jones

During our week for final exams, an interesting package was sent to the University of Chicago. A package was sent to the university’s admissions building addressed to Henry Walton Jones Jr. One of the students working in the office found the name Henry Walton Jones Jr. to be familiar and maybe you do to. Henry Walton Jones Jr. is more famously known as  Indiana Jones. It is theorized that the character Indiana Jones was based off of a University of Chicago professor.  In fact, the package had a replica of  Abner Ravenwood’s journal from The Radiers of the Lost Ark movie. Thus, the first thoughts of the admissions office was that maybe this package was meant to be sent to Haskell Hall or maybe even the Oriental Institute.  The following are the contents of the package:

indiana-jones-final

The contents of the package look to be mostly handmade – the calligraphy on the pages being typed instead of handwritten and the replicas of old pictures, money, and stamps are all very nice, but are not real. Thus, the question is how this package made it to the university in the first place. The postage on the package was not real, yet the package showed signs that it had in fact been through the mail – trusty black marks and weathering as a clear sign that this package had been through the US postal system. Needless to say that our admissions office was perplexed. They wondered for some time about who sent the package and why – mostly why someone would be so awesome and send the package in. The admissions office has received crazy things from applicants in the past – including a bronze phenoix statue – so it wasn’t completely out of the question that an applicant sent this amazing package in. However cool it would have been if a student sent this in for their application to the college, that is simply not the case. Actually, a better story is behind how this package got to the University of Chicago.

It turns out that the package was the product of an Ebay seller Paul from Guam (aka Ravenbar). The university confirmed with Paul that the package originated from him. However, Paul did not know how the package made it to the university. The answer is that Paul had sent this package as a part of a larger package from Guam to a recipient in Italy. The portion of the package that made its way to the university fell out of the larger package in Hawaii where the USPS sorting service in Honolulu routed the package to the University of Chicago because the address Paul put on the small package for an aesthetic effect. The university believes that the post office wrote the Hyde Park zip code on the package and sent it to the university believing that the Egyptian postage was real – nice job on the replica Paul! As the university said:

From Guam to Hawaii en route to Italy with a stopover in Chicago: truly an adventure befitting Indiana Jones.

ij13

ij22

Here is the evidence of how the package made its way to the university. Coincidentally, the person in Hawaii who re-routed the package to the University of Chicago is also named Paul.

Paul, the Ebay seller, allowed the University to keep the packaged and is currently making a new journal for his original recipient – this Paul guy is the bomb dot com! The University of Chicago has decided that this package’s contents will find their way to the Oriental Institute because a work like this clearly belongs in a museum. An entire exhibit will be made in honor of this package’s adventure.

A mystery that baffled the University of Chicago’s admissions office into a frenzy of curiosity has finally been solved. This will surely go down in history for the admissions office at the University of Chicago.

ij-final

December 17

A Death Star for the United States?

Does the fact that Disney recently bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise got you down? Well, if it does, maybe this will cheer up your inner Star Wars nerd. The petition to build a “Death Star” by 2016 reads:

“By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.”

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/secure-resources-and-funding-and-begin-construction-death-star-2016/wlfKzFkN

The petition received just over 25,000 signatures as of December 14th. This means that the petition has enough signatures to merit a response from the Obama administration. I don’t know about you, but I would love to hear the response that the Obama administration has in store for this one. Let’s just hope that it’s not some rejection with a lame Star Wars reference in it.

That being said, let the force be with these petition signers!

November 27

Philosophy Bro

Have you even been working on a tough philosophy reading or paper for hours on end? Do you just need a break to laugh? Instead of watching those cat videos on YouTube that everyone seems obsessed with, have a laugh or two at Philosophy Bro. It’s just a bro who happens to love philosophy. Philosophy Bro speaks the language of college students while keeping up surprisingly well with the material.

So go! Take a break a Philosophy Bro and have some serious laughs =)

nietzsche

October 29

Ender’s Game Movie

I remember when I was in grade school and I had finished reading Orson Scott Card‘s book Ender’s Game. It was, and remains, one of the best books I have ever read. Ender’s Game is filled with drama, action, and – of course – a futuristic setting where children are trained to fight an impending alien attack that might just cause the end of the world. The best was that at the end of the book there was an announcement that a movie would be released in 2007. Well, now it’s 2012 and all hopes that I had for a movie have died long ago. However, it turns out that a movie is IN FACT in the making and will make its way to a movie screen near you in late 2013! If you want more information, visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1731141/

A promise six years in the making is finally being fulfilled!

Get EXCITED!