February 5, 2008
Got up this morning and voted for Obama. (I hadn't heard much about the other levels of campaigning going on so I declined to guess and vote.)
My reasons for supporting Obama are a bipolar mix of the cynical (Unfair as it maybe, I think Hillary Clinton would be too much of a rallying point for the opposition. Plus, Obama is a handsome devil, and I am PROFOUNDLY cynical about that aspect. Plus I think the USA lets itself be more sexist than racist.) the high spirited (Obama does seem to represent what I'd like to see as a new zeitgeist in politics, and I've seen more grassroots campaigning inspired for him than any other candidate. One friend sent me this Washington Post editorial Obama vs the Phobocracy.)
Tangent: Obama's campaign appears to have raised the bar for yard signs. They've gone up from small little pickets to mini-billboards.
Bryson Critique of the Moment
This 500 page volume isn't an exposition of science. It's a bumper book of jaw-dropping facts transformed into a jaunty narrative by a professional writer. There is almost no attempt to explain anything that could be called a scientific principle or to show what follows from it. Newton's universal law of gravitation gets a paragraph; thermodynamics is covered in a footnote. And a number of errors make one wonder whether its author always grasped what he was told. Peter Medawar once epitomised a virus as "a piece of bad news wrapped in protein." Bryson calls it a memorable phrase but by misquoting it as "a piece of nucleic acid surrounded by bad news" robs it of both sense and wit.
--Christopher Martyn on Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything".
Now, I have to say I'm not sure I agree with the assessment of the rephrasing; it's catchier, and as far as I can tell still makes sense. (Yes, it probably is the nucleic acid that forms the "bad news", but I think there's some leeway there, since the delivery mechanism is certainly part of the badness.) Also I'd be surprised if Bryson came up with the rephrasing himself.
I do confess that his science is a little spotty at places, I myself noticed when he brought out that old "you can see that glass is a liquid because old Stained Glass windows are bigger at the bottom" myth.