A Not-Now-Missing Link?

I love news articles about science, and as any reader of this blog knows, I particularly like Darwin’s theories because of their many potential uses. So, imagine my interest when I saw this article about the discovery of fossil remains of a creature that some scientists consider the “missing link” between the rest of the animal world and modern humans. Very cool! Notch another bit of tangible evidence in support of the theory of natural selection.

One admirable thing about real science is the willingness of scientists to disagree about theories and then test those disagreements through formulation of hypotheses and the use of the scientific method. So, it also was heartening to see that some scientists are downplaying, somewhat, the significance of the fossil find. Healthy disputes and vigorous debate are what science is all about.

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Ending With A Whimper

The last, two-hour episode of 24 aired last night, and with the episode the storied Death Pool also came to an end. I did pretty well — ending up tied for first — but it was a bit of a choke job, because I had a big lead that got frittered away as the characters on my team remained disgustingly healthy over the last few episodes. Unfortunately, the President’s daughter, the hardball political operative she consulted to find a contract killer for Jonas Hodges, and Kim Bauer and her husband all survived the last two hours of the day, too.

I thought 24 was decent this year, but it ended with a whimper, not a bang. It seems like the show has consciously tried to be a bit more sensitive. So, Jack Bauer, after being infected by some toxic gas, is comforted by an Imam. Agent Renee Walker (known to Death Pool participants as “Freckles”) decides to torture the ultimate bad guy, and we don’t even get to see it. The hardball political operative lets the President’s daughter live on, even though she is an obvious loose cannon who will spill her guts to the authorities at the first opportunity. Tony Almeida turns out to be both good and bad, sacrificing dozens of people’s lives for a chance at revenge on the ultimate guy who was responsible for the death of his wife and unborn son — and when he gets caught, he doesn’t even get the courtesy of a heroic death.

Part of the enormous appeal of 24, to me, is its promise (usually fulfilled) or unbridled mayhem. When a show like that gets reflective, it starts to lose its moorings. I don’t mind Jack Bauer having a crisis of conscience now and then, or even seeking solace from a Muslim cleric — but I want him to promptly follow that up with a few dead bodies.

Trouble In Sin City

According to this article, more than two-thirds of the homeowners in the Las Vegas metropolitan area owe more on their mortgages than the houses are worth. That statistic is hard to believe, and tells you as much about the quality and credit analysis of the bankers in Las Vegas as it does about the homeowners. In any case, it will no doubt take years for the housing market in Las Vegas to recover.

The chart of the ten cities in the U.S. with highest percentage of homes with “negative equity” also tells you a lot about where the housing bubble was the biggest and flimsiest — California, Nevada, Florida, and Arizona. Expect the elected representatives from those areas to push hard for some kind of long-term legislative relief for the risk-taking bankers and homeowners who helped to make that bubble grow in the first place.