Two pieces caught my eye in the last couple of days. One, in the NYT, was that of the male plane passenger refusing to take a seat on discovering said seat is adjacent to that of a woman who is not their wife. Crazy, eh? The man stands in the aisle as a change to their seating is negotiated, which must be awkward as these men can't talk to the woman who is occupying the offending seat. I'm thinking maybe this can be monetized. The airlines could levy a surcharge based on neighbor desirability. For example, the guys in question can pay to be in a woman-free zone. And I can pay for the no-children section.
Which ties in well with the an article by Amy Davidson (TNY) on religious freedom acts. She summarizes the issue:
"A RFRA of some kind is not, in the abstract, a terrible idea. In the simplest terms, RFRAs offer someone who violates certain laws a defense: the law is a restriction on my religious practice; the state has another, less intrusive way to accomplish what it wants, and exempting me does not thwart some compelling state interest. The inspiration for RFRAs was the prosecution of Native Americans for rituals involving peyote. It is logical for the government, for example, to find a way to allow a Sikh to keep his turban on even in a place where regulations say that hats must be removed, and should be easy to do without creating a security problem."
All well and good. But ...
"But the idea of religious practice seems to have morphed to include a vague sense of offense at the lives of others. In Hobby Lobby, it was corporate owners who felt “implicated” by the contraceptive decisions of the employees whose health insurance they helped pay for. A Heritage Foundation paper cited a baker who thought that his religious freedom would be infringed upon if he delivered his goods to a same-sex wedding, because, he said, “when I do a cake, I feel like I am participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for”—as if he were being forced to get gay-married himself."
I am no longer naive. I'd like to think laws like the RFRAs are but bumps in the road leading to a better tomorrow, but the historical records of the civil-rights and reproductive-rights movements don't inspire much confidence.
What I'm (still) reading: Persuasion, annotated by Shapard. I'm a big fan of annotated works. It's like taking a lit class, getting the background on a text as you read it. The annotations clarify Austen's 1800s English and explain her characters' day-to-day lives. Shapard's annotations almost double the length of the book.
What I'm (still) listening to: Hamlet, annotated, from audible.com. I've been talking with a friend about attending a Shakespeare festival and this got me to thinking, do I like Shakespeare? I don't know. So I pulled out my complete works, courtesy of my mom's library, and started reading. But I didn't get far, and then I remembered grammar girl's repeated mention of her sponsor, audible.com, and decided to check their offerings. Their most expensive Hamlet just happens to be annotated so I'm listening to it as my first audible choice. As with Austen, I like the annotations, but I think at times I enjoy the annotations too much. Maybe once I'm done I'll return to listen to the whole play without the annotations.
This is what I call good news: a recent study suggests that young Americans are less superstitious than their elders. Hooray!
You might say I was lucky. As a very young boy in hyper-religious Texas I looked around the church I was sitting in and realized with a chill that those surrounding me actually thought someone was listening to their prayers. I told my mom that I'd never set foot in her church again. Fortunately for me, she was primed for my decision as my father had made the same decision when he was a boy. Of course, I've since visited as tourist many beautiful old churches which I look at as testament to religion's once-powerful ability to explain what was at the time unexplained. I keep hoping we'll move on from this illusion, and today's Times articles - there are two - give me some hope.
In a similar vein check out Andy Borowitz on "fact-resistant humans". Actually I'd recommend Andy Borowitz' take on anything.
Today's photo was inspired by bokeh, which is a popular photographic buzz-word for the out-of-focus areas of a picture. If you check out any of the photo blogs you'll quickly hear arguments over which lens has better bokeh. Bokeh quality is subjective, like art. Your taste in bokeh may evolve as you see more and more of it.
This out-of-focus area of a photo can be maximized with the use of a large aperture (small f-stop) but there are other ways such as the use of long focal lengths. Prime lenses, or lenses of fixed focal length, are popular for maximizing bokeh because the largest apertures are the purview of primes. Aperture shape and lens aberrations, among other things, also affect bokeh.
This shot was taken with an 85 mm prime set at f/2.2. It's a yellow bench viewed through yet another lens, a 50mm f/1.2. The big yellow blob on the right is of course the yellow bench completely out of focus.
The election results from Ireland came in quicker than I expected. My morning latte and scone were accompanied by the Guardian reporting that the margin for yes has already elicited a concession from the nos. Cool.
I've long considered making a visit to Ireland as I'm frequently seeing it charmingly portrayed on television and in the movies, and of course literature is full of Irish influence. Ireland's old town centers look to be well preserved and the countryside green and bucolic. Another plus is I'll be able to read signs and menus without a course in Duolingo, though I expect the natives may be hard to understand.
Those who voted no likely awoke to think the sky is falling. Maybe they can take comfort that other countries' experience with the issue predicts that in a few years the Irish will look back and say what was all the fuss about.