Labor Day

I am going home for the long weekend. Amber has made me promise that I won’t surf the net while I am there, so no blogging until I return Monday.

Cavolfiore al Forno con le Cipolle

On another blog, Ikram Saeed was talking about how Pakistanis in general are meat-eaters. So I thought I would post a veggie recipe that I am making. This is baked cauliflower with onions and cheese from the book “Modern Italian Cooking.”

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lb cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grate parmigiano

Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower and detach the florets. Boil or steam the florets until tender but still firm to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a baking dish.

Melt the butter in a medium-size skillet. When the butter foams, add the onions and sauté over medium heat until the onions turn pale yellow. Add the parsley and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for about 1 minute.

Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish. Sprinkle generously with the parmigiano and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Book List

I have changed the way my reading list appears. It now shows the cover of the book from Amazon. Thanks to Yaser for his technique of easily doing this. Also, thanks to Anders Jacobsen for how to do this using SSI instead of PHP and to Adam Kalsey for his MTAmazon plugin.

POSTSCRIPT: Do you think the page loads too slowly now? Are the book cover images of the right size? I am especially interested to hear from readers with dialup connections. Please let me know.

I Have A Dream

From a Slate article, I learn that tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

ABC will be showing a documentary, Peter Jennings Reporting—I Have a Dream, to mark the occasion tomorrow at 10pm ET. Virginia Heffernan calls the documentary “intelligent and rousing.”

UPDATE: The Right Christians has the complete speech annotated with the sources and allusions that Dr. Martin Luther King used in his speech. It’s worth reading.

Favorite Presidential Lies

The Washington Monthly has rated the lies told by recent Presidents and has come up with George W. Bush as the biggest liar (surprise!)

I am interested in the article, however, because of these gems from Reagan.

  • After opining in August 1980 that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do,” Reagan arrived at a campaign rally to find a tree decorated with this sign: “Chop me down before I kill again.”
  • “In England, if a criminal carried a gun, even though he didn’t use it, he was tried for first-degree murder and hung if he was found guilty,” Ronald Reagan claimed in April 1982. When informed that the story was “just not true,” White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, “Well, it’s a good story, though. It made the point, didn’t it?” Reagan repeated the story again on March 21, 1986 during an interview with The New York Times.
  • “We did not—repeat, did not—trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we,” Reagan proclaimed in November 1986. Four months later, on March 4, 1987, Reagan admitted in a televised national address, “A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”

Via CalPundit.

Immigration Reading

Here’s some stuff I have been reading (via Perverse Access Memory).

  • Matt Welch posts about some of the problems immigrants had in the US in the past and how people consider that era now to be whitewashed into nice assimilation of immigrants.
  • Henry Farrell writes about his recent experience with immigration requirements while returning to the US with a one-way ticket.
  • Here’s a New York Times article about the Mexican ID being accepted for identification in some cities in the Midwest.
  • Also a USA Today report about immigrants moving into the interior from expensive states like California and New York.
  • And finally a NY Times article about biometric identifiers for visas and passports.

It should be remembered that if we require visitors to have passports with biometric data for the visa waiver program, for example, then the other countries might start implementing it for Americans since most of these requirements are generally reciprocal.

The article does have its share of goofs:

Biometric systems tested by the United States at the Mexican border have been sensitive enough to distinguish between identical twins.

What does that mean? Any data on false positives as well as negatives?

Under the new standards, countries would also be allowed to add additional biometric technologies to the passports, like fingerprints or iris scans.

Now photographs and fingerprints are well-established, but iris scans? Do we really want to get our irises scanned?

But Mr. Shagnon said the passport system relies partly on facial measurements that do not change as people age or even get plastic surgery.

Now really? Every facial recognition system breaks down at some point. A good system must be able to differentiate among millions of people while at the same time being robust to lighting, facial expression and changes in facial appearance from day to day. I am not considering pose here since it can be assumed that for applications like this the subject will be facing the camera.

Blog Milestone

Some time in the last couple of days, the number of visitors here passed 10,000 since I moved to MT in mid-May. As I had a total of around 10,000 visitors on my old Blogger weblog, it means that I have had 20,000 visitors in 9 months.

Thermodynamics and Evolution

I got suspicious when I found out that Harun Yahya was not a scientist. People who have not studied science can sometimes misinterpret scientific laws and ideas. Still, I was interested in reading his book “Darwinism Refuted”. After printing, I was perusing it when I found out that he thinks that the theory of evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Now, as an engineer, I have studied thermodynamics and while it was not a popular course among us electrical engineers, I do understand the 2nd law. I might not know biology but this claim is one I can evaluate and there is no way anyone can convince me that evolution violates this law.

It turns out that this is part of the standard claim of creationists.

Kashmir

I am working on a few posts related to Kashmir. I can’t promise when they will be posted since I have to do a lot of research on the topic and am busy with my dissertation as well.

You might ask why I want to write about Kashmir, a place where I have never lived and have visited only a couple of times on the Pakistani side. There are two reasons, one of which is personal. My Dad was born in the city of Jammu (currently part of the Indian Kashmir) in 1937. My ancestors lived in Jammu for a few generations before migrating to Pakistan in the chaos that was partition in 1947. However, I am not an ethnic Kashmiri.

The other reason is my interest in international affairs and conflicts everywhere combined with the fact that most of the world sees Kashmir as a border dispute between two nuclear-armed countries. Recently, people have also taken an interest in the terorrist dimension of the conflict. Most Pakistanis and Indians see Kashmir as their property as if no humans lived there. Not many people are interested in the history of the region and its people.

Discussion about Kashmir among Indians and Pakistanis often gets very acrimonious with extremist viewpoints prevailing. I’ll try to be as impartial as I can be and hoepfully my readers will keep it civil and correct me when I am wrong or shrill.

Also, if I can convince my Dad to write his memoirs of his early life in Kashmir and his travails during the massacres in 1947, I’ll post them here.

Evolution Discussion Continued

My previous posts on the topic are here, here and here.

Aziz Poonawalla has now posted his own viewpoint on the topic. In broad details, we agree.

Aziz also points to an article on Evolution and the Quran at Talk Origins Archive. There are also some links to the Quranic verses related to creation in their creationism FAQ.

Andya Primanda, a Muslim biologist from Indonesia, has posted some refutations of Harun Yahya’s book “The Evolution Deceit” from the scientific point of view.

And finally, here are some must-read articles from the Talk Origins Archive: