NYC Transit Stats

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I learned 2 very interesting stats during the recent transit strike. The NYC mass transit system moves 7 million people a day. To put that number into perspective, it is greater than:

  1. The total populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana and Wyoming combined.
  2. The total populations of Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

In strike related news, I’ve been on a biking kick lately as I biked to work on Tuesday and Thursday due to the strike. Then, yesterday I rode to work because, well, I was used to it. This morning, when the weather was nice, I biked again in Central Park. I love biking and had not been out for a spin in a long time before this strike nonsense. I guess the strike was a good motivator.


Musical History Lesson

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Mr. Long Island Billy Joel’s song “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” has been put into a flash movie (with appropriate images appearing in sync with the tune) by Ye Li, who I assume based on the movie URL is or was a student at the University of Chicago. I like how she included the lyrics and the year that goes along with each name/place/event. After watching it, I have decided to take today to learn more about Johnnie Ray (40’s), Pannumjom, Santayanna, Malenkavo, Prokofiev, Roy Cohn, Dacron (50’s) and Pasternack (60’s). It seems that I’m pretty up to date on everything from the early 60’s to today.
Since I have never seen the Patron Saint of LI in person, I bought 4 tickets to see him at MSG in February. I just know way too many of his songs to not have seen him live. The first 7 shows sold out so they added an 8th. He’s giving Mr. NJ (the Boss) a run for his money (in terms of the number of “hometown” shows played in a month) but I think Bruce’s record run of 14 sold out Brendon Byrne Arena shows is still safe. So far its only Jessie and I going. Make a good case as to why you should get the other 2 tickets and we’ll talk…


Quote of the Day

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“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah.” – Union Gen. William T. Sherman to President Lincoln on today’s date during the Civil War in the year 1864.

That is a cool present. I’ve never gotten a city as a present before. A village yes but a city? What a nice gesture. I hope Lincoln wrote a prompt and very nice thank you note.


Just End The Season Update #4

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I took off a week after the J-E-T-S beat the Raiders (I game I attended) but considering they lost to the Fins in Miami to finish with their worst road record in franchise history (0-8), I thought I would write update #4. Sunday’s game was prototypical Jets – rally, get incredibly close and then fall short at the very end. They are now 3-11. They are tied for the 3rd worst team in the league with the Packers and the Saints (though the Saints beat them so they are technically better than the Jets).

Going back to the Raiders game, when Curtis Martin didn’t come out to play, I didn’t know why. It was only after I got home that I realized he was shut down for the season. Not just that, but he may be done. As in “stick a fork in it” done. Injuries, non-guaranteed contracts and a salary cap add up to tons of job insecurity in the good old NFL. I’m hoping that Curtis is back next year starting for the Jets, especially since they let my main man LaMont go last season. In his first season in Oaktown, he’s done alright and I’m sure he’s going to be better and badder next year. A lot of people are already whispering that he’s finished playing, at least for the Jets, and that would be a sad way to end a HoF career.


ID Denied

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A Pennsylvania judge has prevented a public school district from teaching Intelligent Design in biology classes. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III wrote, “Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.” All I can say is “Thank the lord.”

That reminds me – I need to hit up the Darwin exhibit at the AMNH. It closes at the end of May so I have some time.

After the jump, read the full article.

December 20, 2005

Judge Bars ‘Intelligent Design’ From Pa. Classes


HARRISBURG, Pa. — “Intelligent design” cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.

Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said. Several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs, he said.

The school board policy, adopted in October 2004, was believed to have been the first of its kind in the nation.

“The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy,” Jones wrote.

The board’s attorneys had said members were seeking to improve science education by exposing students to alternatives to Charles Darwin’s theory that evolution develops through natural selection. Intelligent-design proponents argue that the theory cannot fully explain the existence of complex life forms.

The plaintiffs challenging the policy argued that intelligent design amounts to a secular repackaging of creationism, which the courts have already ruled cannot be taught in public schools. The judge agreed.
“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion.

The Dover policy required students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. The statement said Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact” and has inexplicable “gaps.” It refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, “Of Pandas and People,” for more information.

Jones wrote that he wasn’t saying the intelligent design concept shouldn’t be studied and discussed, saying its advocates “have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors.”
But, he wrote, “our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

The controversy divided the community and galvanized voters to oust eight incumbent school board members who supported the policy in the Nov. 8 school board election.

Said the judge: “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

The board members were replaced by a slate of eight opponents who pledged to remove intelligent design from the science curriculum.

Eric Rothschild, the lead attorney for the families who challenged the policy, called the ruling “a real vindication for the parents who had the courage to stand up and say there was something wrong in their school district.”

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which represented the school board, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The dispute is the latest chapter in a long-running debate over the teaching of evolution dating back to the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which Tennessee biology teacher John T. Scopes was fined $100 for violating a state law that forbade teaching evolution. The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed his conviction on a technicality, and the law was repealed in 1967.

Jones heard arguments in the fall during a six-week trial in which expert witnesses for each side debated intelligent design’s scientific merits. Other witnesses, including current and former school board members, disagreed over whether creationism was discussed in board meetings months before the curriculum change was adopted.

The case is among at least a handful that have focused new attention on the teaching of evolution in the nation’s schools.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Georgia heard arguments over whether evolution disclaimer stickers placed in a school system’s biology textbooks were unconstitutional. A federal judge in January ordered Cobb County school officials to immediately remove the stickers, which called evolution a theory, not a fact.

In November, state education officials in Kansas adopted new classroom science standards that call the theory of evolution into question.


Nicest Commute Ever

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Today, I enjoyed one of the most pleasant commuting experiences ever. Bundled up, I simply rode against non-existent traffic down Madison Avenue from my apartment to my office. Due to the transit strike, the NYPD has closed 5th and Madison so that emergency traffic can get around town. So, it was me and almost no one else cruising down Madison. Aside from my fingertips getting a tad chilly (I had on bike gloves that look like they are 80’s breakdancing gloves), it was so nice that I’m thinking of doing it more often. I was afraid that I would get to work too sweaty and while that may true in the spring or summer, today everything ended perfectly. I think I sweat more riding on the subway believe it or not.

As for the strike itself, I think the union is shooting themselves in the foot. They are going to lose a lot of money via lawsuits for their illegal strike (see NYS’s Taylor Law) and the pension plan that they are fighting over is ludicrous. The idea and implementation of pensions as a whole in this country needs to be revamped because we’ve seen lately that the old model is not sustainable (see Delphia filing for bankruptcy, GE’s recent round of 30K layoffs, etc). The TWU’s inflexibility will only hurt their future workers, not help them, because its setting up a situation where the entire pension “house of cards” will come crashing down at some point in the future instead of proactively managing the change that invariably needs to happen.

I for one am off tomorrow but in a way I hope they keep striking so I can ride traffic-free again on Thursday.


Snip Snip

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What a great ad. It was spotted by my B.I.L’s F.I.L in Savannah, GA. In the “Question to Ask the Mohel” section of the Rabbi’s web site, I learned the answer to the question What items do I need to purchase or supply for the bris? which is,

“The most important one is a male baby. Besides that, please have a table, two chairs, a sleeping pillow, a talis (prayer shawl), a spare diaper and wipes, and a bottle of Manischewitz grape wine ready.”
Its good that he has a sense of humor.

Via Amos


Turtle Braces

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I wish this wasn’t true. Hermie the Turtle is getting braces for Christmas. Oy vey. After the jump, read all about it courtesy of the Associated Press.

Via Jessie.

Christmas Miracle: Turtle Gets Braces

By the Associated Press

Filed at 11:27 a.m. ET, 12/16.
Hermie the Turtle’s little defective beak made meal time a struggle. Unable to close his mouth completely, the tiny 20-gram reptile’s very existence was at stake.

But today, this map turtle has a new lease on life thanks to the work of two doctors who outfitted young Hermie with braces. Now, some are calling the orthodontic work a Christmas miracle.

”I’ve worked on animals before but nothing this small,” said Dr. Peter M. Virga, a Watertown dentist who along with veterinarian Jeffrey G. Baier performed the unique procedure.

After receiving Hermie in May, zookeepers at the New York State Zoo in Watertown’s Thompson Park noticed the turtle was having difficulty eating. Medical exams then showed Hermie’s lower jaw growing downward.

”He may have adapted to eat like this, or he may have not made it,” Baier said.
Turtles, who are toothless, use their beaks to break food down before grinding it with the plates in their mouths.

After Baier injected Hermie with two anesthetics Wednesday morning, Virga inserted four pins into the turtle’s jaws, according to the Watertown Daily Times which published an account of Hermie’s ordeal Thursday.

During a meeting with reporters, the doctors placed the immobile turtle, believed to be between 2 and 3 years old, on a table. As Baier held Hermie’s head, Virga placed two rubber orthodontic elastics — the same kind used by children with braces — on the pins across the turtle’s mouth.

While Hermie recuperates, zookeepers will remove the rubber bands once a day to allow the turtle to eat. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, the doctors chose red and green rubber bands for Hermie’s beak.

”It’s very exciting and I was glad to help,” said Virga, who’s performed root canal surgery on dogs.

Baier’s wife, Angela, the zoo’s executive director, said she was thrilled such a small zoo could take part in such a rare procedure.

”Miracles happen this time of the year,” she said. ”Hopefully his beak will be fixed.”