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May 16, 2014: Prehistoric skeleton in Mexico, Bobby Fischer’s dad, blog name change, David Foster Wallace

13,000-year-old skeleton found in underwater cave in Mexico:  A near-complete skeleton of a 15-16 year old girl has been found at the bottom of what was once a pit in the ground, surrounded by the skeletons of other ancient elephant-like mammals called gomphotheres, saber-tooth cats and giant ground sloths that fell into the same hole over time, all now part of an underwater cave system.  At the time she would have fallen into the hole, during the late Pleistocene timeframe, the last ice age we’ve seen on earth, the water was lower than the ground where her skeleton was found, but over time, the water has risen to cover all of these skeletons, preserving them.  This girl would have been a contemporary to the woman known as Arlington Springs Woman whose bones were found on an island off the California cost in 1959 by Phil Orr.

The sociopolitical love affair drama around Bobby Fischer’s real father:  In a random conversation today at Kingdom Coffee about Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, and chess, all because one of my coworkers has never seen the 1993 movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, we ended up looking up Bobby Fischer’s Wikipedia page to figure out when he died.  We were surprised by the World War II-era drama around the question of who his actual father was.

Fischer born in 1943 in Chicago to Regina Wender Fischer, an American citizen of Polish-Russian Jewish descent who was born in Switzerland but raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  While studying medicine in Moscow, she married Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, also known as Gerardo Liebscher, a German biophysicist, in 1933.  He is listed as Bobby Fischer’s father on the 1943 birth certificate.  But Bobby’s mother had fled Russia to Paris due to anti-semitism, and then in 1939, she fled to the United States under the threat of German invasion of France.  Hans-Gerhardt Fischer tried to move to the US as well, but he was never allowed into the country due to his German citizenship.  They had separated in Moscow but were not divorced until 1945.

Fischer’s mom became pregnant in June 1942 and was effectively homeless in 1943 when she had Bobby.  She moved around quite a bit and raised Bobby and his older sister as a single parent, eventually settling in Brooklyn, New York, obtaining a master’s degree in nursing and beginning a career as nurse.  A 2002 investigation has shown that the FBI tracked Bobby’s mom and her circle of friends in the 1950s under the suspicion that she had Communist sympathies, and in that process, the FBI determined that Paul Nemenyi, a Hungarian Jewish physicist was actually Bobby Fisher’s father.  The FBI tracking shows that Mr. Nemenyi made child support payments on occasion, once reported Bobby’s mom to social workers, and paid for Bobby’s schooling until Mr. Nemenyi’s death in 1952.   After his death, Bobby’s mom wrote a letter to Mr. Nemenyi’s son, asking if anything had been left in his estate for Bobby’s benefit. The whole story could be read, though, that Mr. Nemenyi just had a concern for Bobby and wanted to watch out for his well-being.  On top of it all, Bobby’s mom gave differing details to social workers about Bobby’s father.  On one occasion, she told a social worker that she hadn’t seen Hans-Gerhardt Fischer since 1939.  On another occasion, she told the same social worker that she’d traveled to Mexico in June 1942 and seen Hans-Gerhardt Fischer, and that Bobby was conceived during that visit.

This is the type of historical intrigue you’d hear on the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast.  It’s fun to sort through history because humans are such a scrappy bunch.  A while back, I bought the domain name, and I’m thinking of switching this site over to that domain instead of its current  It’s a little longer, but it’s easier to spell and means a little more than just on the name I use for social media.  I like the positive feeling it creates.  So, I may shift over this blog to use that name in the next few days.

David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture: We live in strange days, and it’s interesting to what how irony and cynicism has become so constant, especially in technology. It’s rampant on social media, comments, forums and it’s migrated to television and movies. It’s inherent in our culture, but it seems to eat at our ability to be introspective, mindful and sober in our thoughts. I’m good with a little irony and cynicism, but it seems to be eating up our culture like a uncontrollable virus. I’m intrigued to see what comes next. History typically sees a counterbalance come into play to even out such an extreme, but I’m curious to see in what form that comes about.

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Daily Download: October 8, 2013 (Obamacare sticker shock, Reid’s refusals, Mid East gay death penalty, nuclear fusion)

Obamacare’s winners and losers in Bay Area — Here’s a good representative article of the sticker shock that some are now feeling now that Obamacare is officially in effect. Some with preexisting conditions are seeing some relief in their premiums, while some who are healthy with no preexisting conditions are seeing an increase, and it seems the difference is primarily based on where they live and how much they make per year with those living in nicer areas and making more money being the ones seeing premium increases. (Can anyone say “class warfare”?)

The story recounts a self-employed father of 4 whose annual family premiums went up by over $10,000. He says that he was laughing at the Republicans in Congress until he got his insurance bill in the mail, and now he suddenly realizes that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t intended to be affordable for him.  Another whose rates went up gave this classic Obamacare quote:

“Of course, I want people to have health care.  I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

In the article, the woman who has previously had breast cancer has seen her insurance rates fluctuate from $317 in 2005 to $1,298 in 2013. Her new rate is now $795. She’s the protagonist in this article, closing out the story by citing the benefits of the new law and encouraging optimism:

“Obamacare is a huge step in the right direction for those of us without employer coverage,” she said, adding that she hopes everyone will “join in and make this new legislation a success for all.”

Can it be a “success for all”? According to the article, the new law will “often” make “some” policies more expensive because it limits out-of-pocket expenses to $6,350 annually for an individual and $12,700 for a family. In addition, the law restricts the minimum and maximum premiums that people can be charged based on their age. Before the new law, a 64-year-old could be charged almost five times more than a 21-year-old, which one would assume makes sense because a 64-year-old is more likely to have health problems. But, beginning Jan. 1, the difference will be a 3-1 ratio, although 64-year-olds didn’t get any healthier overnight. I’m just concerned that these increased costs aren’t sustainable long-term, especially as our population ages.

GOP congressman: We stumbled into war over Obamacare — An anonymous GOP congressman lays out what happened to cause the fight over Obamacare and the ultimate federal government shutdown, showing that it was really caused by Harry Reid’s refusal to negotiate on anything offered on anything by Boehner.  While Boehner takes the blame in the press, the article seems to show that the real fight started because Reid was surprised by the strength of Ted Cruz’s campaign against Obamacare, and Reid in turn sought to embarrass Boehner before his GOP conference, ultimately leading both sides to dig in. The congressman makes a good analogy using the Battle of Gettysburg and how neither side intended to have a battle but instead stumbled into a pretty intense and historic moment.

Gulf states to introduce medical testing on travelers to ‘detect’ gay people and stop them from entering the country — I’m really curious what kind of medical test these Middle Eastern Gulf states are developing to detect homosexuality and how intrusive it is. Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) member countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – outlaw homosexual acts.  I’m surprised to learn that it’s illegal to be gay in 78 countries, with lesbianism banned in 49 countries. Even more, 5 countries will sentence gay people to the death penalty  – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania. Since 1979, Iran has executed more than 4,000 people for committing homosexual acts. In Sudan, the death penalty is issued to men after their third offense, but women may be stoned after their first offense of a lesbian act, or if not, they’ll be given thousands of lashes. Mauritania will stone publicly anyone caught in an “unnatural act”.

Nuclear fusion milestone passed at US lab — This is a big deal. Nuclear fusion would revolutionize the energy industry, but it’s been elusive for so long. It’s great to hear that a US-based lab is leading the way in developing nuclear fusion technology.

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Daily Download: October 3, 2013 (Light sabers, Sinead O’Connor)

Star Wars light sabers finally invented — My boys have had a collaborative vision to invent light sabers, but they haven’t advanced very far in their attempts.  Fortunately, it appears that another team of scientists has also been working on the problem of bringing light particles into a mass that can be self-contained and do a little intergalactic damage.  And who says we don’t have scientific priorities in the United States?  This science is coming out of Harvard and MIT, thank you very much.  Says Harvard physics professor Mikhail Lukin:

Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless and do not interact.  What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they act as though they have mass, and bind together to form molecules.  It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers. When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.

Hopefully they’ll have the technology completely figured out in time for light sabers to be the Christmas gift of choice the year the new Star Wars Episode VII comes out.  Maybe they could even create a miniature version for inclusion in LEGO Star Wars sets.

Sinéad O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus — I’ve posted quite a bit about this Miley Cyrus image change.  I’m intrigued by it and the business behind it.  Many are acting like this is a personal problem without recognizing the business strategy behind it, and the combination and merging of the personal and business in this situation is what keeps me thinking about it.  Sinead O’Connor is thinking about it as well now that Miley said in a Rolling Stone interview that her look and the “Wrecking Ball” video took inspiration from Sinead O’Connor’s own look and her “Nothing Compares 2 U” video.  Sinead wrote a compelling open letter to Miley, and she doesn’t pull any punches in laying out her iconic angst toward this executives who run the music industry.  Having lived  a life of making waves  in the music industry, Sinead writes from experience, and her advice is worth the read for all women, but particularly those in entertainment.

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Daily Download: Sept. 19, 2013 (Faith/science books, Miley’s Wrecking Ball, apologetics tension, New Zealand sky)

Some Brutally Frank Relationship Advice from a 98-Year-Old Woman — For starters, this interview is taken from “Dana Adam Shapiro’s You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married), a by-turns funny, wise, harrowing, and heartbreaking collection of interviews with divorcees,” so don’t expect her to be telling stories of her perfect, loving marriage of 60 years. And the representative quote from the article is:

“First of all, you have to be sexually compatible. That’s very important. If anyone tells you different, they’re nuts.”

That’s a glimpse of where this is going, but it’s a very entertaining read knowing that it’s coming from a 98-year-old woman. And if you avoid reading the advice of people who aren’t coming from a Judeo-Christian worldview, I’d skip this read. As one friend noted, you won’t be reading this advice in Christianity today.

Faith Outside the Bubble — Speaking of Christianity Today, a friend pointed me to this review of the book The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith by Matthew Lee Anderson. The subtitle of the review is “Christians who question their beliefs deserve better than defensive slogans and cliches,” which is a great quote in general. Reviewer Alister McGrath notes:

Anderson cuts to the quick, avoiding scholarly detachment and academic jargon. A series of well-chosen examples allows him to probe why we are reluctant to engage questions, while at the same time illuminating how such questions can enrich faith. We need to do more to help Christians—especially those attending college—to internalize their faith, gain a proper confidence in its roots, and learn to express this in gracious responses to the questions they will inevitably encounter.

I’ve always been a fan of Christian apologetics, helping defending the faith to challenge, and I even was once working on an institutional Certificate of Christian Apologetics offered from Biola University. Over the years, though, I’ve found apologetics, while having value, can also chop questions off at the knees and can actually stunt the growth of those who simply trust the apologist instead of working through the challenges and questions for themselves. Apologetics, as important as it is from an intellectual point of view, can lead many to pat answers instead of honest questions and relationships with those who really want to own the answers. There must be a balance. McGrath, who is known as an apologist, notes in his review that the straight apologetics approach:

neglects the crucial relational aspects of faith. More problematically, it also encourages people simply to learn the answers, without having internalized the deep logic of Christianity. Anderson worries—with good reason—that a faith that knows the answers, but doesn’t understand the questions, is both superficial and vulnerable.

Although the book is directed to pastors, I may have to check it out. McGrath wraps up his review:

Anderson is right to point out that the current emphasis on “dialogue”—particularly within emerging church circles—can stand in tension with a commitment to truth. But it doesn’t need to. I wish the book had included more on the role of dialogue as a form of apologetics or a means of spiritual development. And I would have liked more on the role of friendship as a way of helping us to cope with doubt, of deepening our appreciation of aspects of our faith, and as a context for exploring disagreements without provoking division.

But on the whole, this wide-ranging and well-written book does a fine job of opening up the place of questioning in the Christian life. Anderson has insightfully explored how questioning can be a legitimate form of intellectual inquiry, and a means of growing in faith. Further questions remain, not least about how to convert these ideas into pastoral practices. But it’s a great handshake to begin a conversation.

Origins, Faith, the Bible and Science — I’ve been engulfed in a very engaging conversation with friends about the origins of the universe and how to mesh Genesis and science. How important is it, as a follower of Jesus, to believe that the earth was formed in six 24-hour periods? Some would have you believe it’s vital. Others are fine with an Old Earth view that includes God and his handiwork. I’m intrigued at how much energy is spent in the Christian world on these question. Some have really made a believer’s views of Genesis 1 & 2 a litmus test of faith, and I’m not so sure it’s as vital as it’s made out to be. I once was a very solid Young Earth believer in the idea of six 24-hour days, but I’ve backed off that in recent years. I can heartily make all the arguments for the shorter period, but I’m no longer as certain as I once was when I look at the scientific discussions on the matter, and I’m admittedly disenchanted with the sometimes adamant evangelical tone that can demand a certain belief. Is this type of hyperfocus on certain pet issues really what Jesus came and died for? I’m really struggling with that question because in some circles, they really hammer on this topic.

My friends and I have shared lots of articles and book titles with each other, and I’m trying to find time to fit them all in, but I figured I’d share a few links of you’re on this journey yourself. The conversation started based on the article “A Defense of Six-Day Creation” as juxtaposed against Peter Enns’ book Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. I’ve read much on the topic over the last 20 years or so, but my reading list is suddenly multiplying. Thanks to and its ability to recommend books that might be worth your reading when you’re looking at a subject, as well as some personal recommendations from the group based on books we’ve read or are reading, we’ve come up with the following aspirational reading list on the subject:

I can’t specifically recommend any of these books, but I haven’t read any of them yet, but they come out of personal conversations and Amazon results, so take them as you will. I’ve created an Amazon list to track books on the subject that I find. If you want to jump in and read as well, go for it. It’s sometimes a very technical topic that is routinely oversimplified on both sides, and we all want to understand it a little better. If you’re in the same boat, I hope this list jumpstarts your study.

Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball — Last week I made the case to a friend that Miley Cyrus knows exactly what she’s doing. This isn’t Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan or Justin Bieber acting out their wonder years because they didn’t get to be children. Miley Cyrus, whose career has been quietly tapering away as the former Hannah Montana, is taking a calculated risk that she’s about to make a ton of money and climb the mountain of fame. I would argue that this moment in her career is as calculated as anything Justin Timberlake has executed in his rise to fame. She’s taking the reigns of her career and shapeshifting into the Madonna of this decade. She is in the midst of a tightly choreographed career change, surrounded my agents, managers, and handlers who are helping her pull it off. No one was really noticing until her VMA appearance with Robin Thicke but that was the kickoff of the main event. Between that VMA grandstanding and her very naked and suggestive Wrecking Ball music video, Miley is making the move, and it’s no mistake. As this insider article notes:

Miley Cyrus is incredibly smart, she’s manipulating the clueless … to increase her fame, to drive her record to number one, and she’s executed beautifully.

To me, it’s obvious that this isn’t personal to her. It’s business, and she’s aggressively making her way in the entertainment business. Agree or not, she will get rich and famous off this for a while. No, that’s not the point of life, but that is one of the resounding and persistent themes of show biz, and she’s in show biz. I’m glad Mr. Lefsetz agrees with me.

Amazing New Zealand night sky time-lapse video — My mom sent me this link to an article about a photographer who has focused on time-lapse sky photography in New Zealand. Apparently, you can really see the sky in New Zealand. The photographer notes that sitting out under the stars and creating these images over long periods of time has become a spiritual experience for him. After watching the video, I can understand why.

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