Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve Stories Defining 2012

Twelve Stories Defining 2012
Nick Dobis

The Loaded Issue

This year was not the first year the nation had to cope with gun violence, but 2012 will resonate viscerally with Americans. On February 26th in Sanford, Fla., 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed to have shot Martin in self-defense. The shooting sparked a nationwide debate and a prompt response from the White House, but it was only the beginning. On July 20th, 24-year-old James Holmes opened fire at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado – killing 12 and wounding 58. Five months later, Ryan Lanza would walk on to the grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. and leave 26 people, 20 of whom were children between the ages six and seven, dead. Proposals for stricter gun laws were pledged to be sent to Congress within the next month, and how our elected representatives deal with the bloodshed of 2012 will be one the biggest stories in 2013. 

A Golden Age Ends, Another Begins

Michael Phelps swam off into the sunset as the most decorated Olympian of all time, deciding to hang up the goggles after winning 22 medals in his remarkable Olympic career, 18 of which were gold. In the London games this summer, Phelps won four gold and two silver medals in what he adamantly claims to be his last Olympics. His six medals in London made him the most accomplished athlete of summer games for the third time in a row. The nation will miss his breathtaking performances in the pool, but the US has plenty to look forward to in Olympiads to come, especially from its golden girls. 

The United States finished first in the medal count with 104, leaving the usually dominant Chinese a distant second at 88. The young Gabriel Douglas not only helped women gymnastics win their first team gold since 1996, but she became the first African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around medal. The women’s soccer team avenged their 2011 World Cup loss to Japan, defeating them 2-1 and claiming their fourth gold medal in their last five Olympics. 

Syria’s Civil War

The fury of the Arab Spring captivated the world in 2011, as a small protest in Tunisia led to the overthrow of their long-standing ruler, along with those in Lybia, Egypt, and Yemen. But Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad was not willing to be toppled as easily as his Middle Eastern counterparts. Although protests began in Damascus in 2011, Assad increased bombardment of rebel strongholds after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution to remove Assad from power in February. Despite efforts from UN Envoy Kofi Annan and his monitoring missions in the following months, the world watched as the violence in the country perpetually intensified. Statistics vary but it is estimated the civil war has left nearly 40,000 dead and 400,000 refugees in neighboring countries without a clear end in sight as the calendar turns over to 2013. 

President Obama Reelected

After contentious campaigns between opposing ideologies, President Obama was reelected on November 6, beating Governor Mitt Romney 332-206 in Electoral College votes. Despite the perceived mandate, the election in reality was in fact much closer, with Obama out-edging Romney by 2.8% in the popular vote. The numbers reflect a nation still deeply divided in its vision of its future. The victory gave Obama four more years to lead a nation recovering from one of the greatest economic disasters it as ever endured. Those efforts continue to this very day as he and Congress race the clock to steer the nation away from the “fiscal cliff.” 

King James’ Revival

Two seasons after the debacle of “the decision,” and a season after letting another title slip through his fingers, Lebron James silenced his critics by posting arguably his best overall season, leading the high-powered Miami Heat to an NBA Championship in June. In the regular season, James led the Heat in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, earning him the regular season MVP. In the 2012 Playoffs, James averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists a game. James was awarded the NBA Finals MVP after the Heat, who dropped game one to a young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder squad, won four straight to claim the title. 

After vindicating his move to Miami, James wasn’t finished winning accolades for the year. Under the direction of coach Mike Krzyzewski, James and the US team won gold in London in a largely dominating fashion, prompting Sports Illustrated to dub him their Sportsman of the Year. James has electrified audiences worldwide since his entry into the NBA at age 18, but 2012 will mark the year James set himself apart as the world’s best basketball player. 

One Small Step for Equality…

On May 9, President Obama stated his support of same sex marriage in an interview with ABC News, becoming the first active US President to do so. In response to his support, Maryland, Maine, and Washington joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont as states to legalize same sex marriages on November 6. The ratification re-invigorated the efforts of LGBT groups in their decades long struggle for equality. Although 30 states currently have banned same sex marriage, the US Supreme Court has agreed to review proposition 8, which was passed by California voters in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled gay and lesbian couples could marry. The high court’s ruling will likely not be made for several months, but their decision will unquestionably be a monumental story in 2013. 

…One Giant Leap for Mankind

Fifty-five years to the month after the Russian’s launched Sputnik into space, the world was once again mesmerized by a wonder in the October sky. On October 14th, 43-year-old Felix Baumgartner of Austria started his leap 24 miles above the earth’s surface from a helium balloon, and completed it in just over eight minutes in the New Mexico desert. Not only did Baumgartner set the record for the highest human free fall, but at one point shattered the sound barrier by reaching 833.9 miles per hour, becoming the only human to do so without aircraft assistance. The leap didn’t bring about world peace or end global hunger, but the leap captivated the imaginations of millions and once again pushed the boundaries of the impossible. 

The Sandusky Trial

June 11, 2012 marked the beginning of the trial against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was charged with 48 counts of sexual abuse against children as a coach under the once highly revered Joe Paterno. Over the next 11 days, 10 victims stepped forward to give tear-filled testimonies of their sexual encounters with Sandusky. After closing statements were made, the jury needed only one day to reach its verdict, which was delivered on June 22nd. Sandusky was found guilty in 45 of his 48 abuse charges. He was later sentenced in October to 30-60 years of prison, essentially putting the 68-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life. The sentencing marked the end of a painful chapter for the victims, who must cope with the memory of their abuse for the rest of their lives. But the repercussions for Penn State University had only begun. On July 23th, the NCAA fined the university $60 million, reduced the number of their scholarships, banned the football program from bowl games for the next four seasons, and wiped clean 111 of Paterno’s victories for it’s involvement in concealing Sandusky’s actions. 


By the time Hurricane Sandy finished its onslaught, the storm left 140 (60 in the Caribbean) dead and over $30 billion in property damage. The storm itself registered impressive numbers across the East Coast. According to, Sandy registered 94 mile per hour winds in Eaton’s Neck, NY, 33” of Snow in Clayton, WV, nearly 15” of rain at Andrew’s Air Force Base, and 30-foot waves in New York harbor. By the time Sandy made landfall south of Atlantic City, the storm’s diameter was an estimated 820 miles. The verdict isn’t conclusive if climate change directly made Sandy’s destruction more ferocious, but many scientists speculated the rise in sea level and temperature surfaces could have played a factor in Sandy’s unusual 90 degree turn back to the US mainland. 

Supreme Court Upholds Healthcare Reform 

On June 28th, the nation’s highest court narrowly ruled in favor of upholding the highly contentious Affordable Care Act of 2010. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the law’s requirement of most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty is authorized under Congress’s power to levy taxes. Despite the ruling, the court did retain the law’s ability to expand Medicaid coverage, claiming it exceeded its constitutional boundaries by unfairly coaxing states to participate in its expansion with the threat of losing current federal funding. Opponents of the act vowed to appeal the high courts decision, but the ruling was a major victory for President Obama and greatly aided his reelection efforts later in the fall. 

Financial Crisis Shakes Europe 

As the nation continued its struggle to breathe life back into its economy, the financial crisis grabbed hold of Europe. After months of debate, the European Union agreed to a $132 billion bailout of Greece, reducing their debt by 75% in order to stabilize the Euro. But it was later proved Greece wasn’t the only country facing economic calamity. On June 9th, the Spanish government requested almost $125 billion to help stabilize their banks and lower an unemployment rate nearing 25%. These profound bailouts proved to the world how intricate, yet fragile, a global financial system can be, and perhaps it will need a global effort to recover from a fiscal crisis originating on American shores in 2008. 

Newsweek Prints Their Last Words 

After 79 years of filling pages with definitive headlines and images throughout the decades, the national news giant Newsweek announced its December 2012 issue will be its last ever print edition. In the final print issue, Newsweek’s Editor Tina Brown ensured the magazine’s commitment to journalistic excellence despite its change in medium. Brown wrote in her column: “We are ahead of the curve. A magazine that will soon turn 80 will now be, when all the changes are unveiled in February, a vigorous young publication all over again, taking its readers to territory that is new and uncharted.” 

The emergence of the internet as a daily presence in our lives has forced newspapers and magazines to change, arguably for the better and for the worse. But with progress comes unintended consequences. When humans began writing words, oral tradition faded into history. Radio forced the written word to change, and television applied the same agent of change to radio. In light of this news, Empirical magazine faces the same challenge with both anxiety and excitement. We will remain steadfast in our dedication to bringing readers thought-provoking points of view and new paradigms, no matter the medium. 

January Excerpt: An Interview With Stephen Zunes by Emanuel Stoakes

US Politics and Foreign Policy: An Interview With Stephen Zunes
Emanuel Stoakes
PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller, US Air Force

Given that this is the first issue of Empirical in 2013 and the human race has survived yet another turbulent year (despite the predictions of Mayan calendar enthusiasts and others), it may be appropriate to take stock in some way, in keeping with the ancient traditions of New Year festivals across the world.

During the Jewish High Holy Days, the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is traditionally a time in which observant Jews are obliged to engage in sustained reflection on what’s been and resolve to do things better in the future. Other major cultural festivals such as Nowruz in Iran, Seol-Nal in Korea, and the Chaitra in the Hindu tradition, among many others, encourage varying degrees of contemplation and self searching amidst celebration of the year’s renewal.

With this in mind (albeit with a political focus), Empirical magazine caught up with the estimable San Francisco Bay Area scholar Stephen Zunes to discuss a cluster of controversial, sobering, and thoughtprovoking issues linked to the past and present actions of the government of the United States at home and abroad. Professor Zunes is Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, and is considered one of America’s leading scholars on US foreign policy, in particular Middle Eastern policy.

Professor Zunes has produced many widely read articles on Middle Eastern politics, US foreign policy, international terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, strategic nonviolent action, and human rights. He also spent many hours reading internal government documents in the national archives, as well as travelling extensively throughout west Asia and meeting key political actors in the region. I began by asking him about perhaps the most explosive issue of the last decade–the Iraq war.

Emanuel: What’s your opinion of the case that was made for the Iraq war? And what influence do you think that Project for the New American Century and its neoconservative membership had on how things turned out? [PNAC were an influential right-wing think tank during the 90s and 2000s who advocated “a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.” Supporters of the Iraq war, many PNAC members were part of the Bush administration.]

Stephen Zunes: They were a strong intellectual force behind it, in their intellectual rationalization, and a series of events, including 9/11, helped make it possible, along with some more traditional conservatives and the Christian evangelicals, and so on. So, it was a tragic confluence of various ideological and strategic tendencies, and they were certainly a major piece of it. I think a lot of people overplay their role in a sense especially the Zionist connection. If you read that famous memo from 1996, it’s more along the lines of what Israel can do for the US, than what the US can do for Israel. While I’ve certainly been attacked quite viciously by various Zionist groups, I’ve generally been one of those who has argued that the whole Israeli lobby angle is overstated, and so I agree with Noam Chomsky on this point. The invasion had a lot more to do with a broader hegemonic priorities than any one special interest group. I think what PNAC and those guys really were talking about was an idea–in many ways it is not a new idea–but by their very name, it goes back to that post-World War II period, when there really was that sense that the United States could reshape the world in our image. And again, it goes back in some ways to the Puritans. So in that sense I think they were able to capitalize on that part of American culture, by appealing to those that would be susceptible to that sort of thinking.

If you would like to read more of this interview in Empirical, the January issue is now available at your local bookstore and online at our website.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saying Goodbye to 2012!

Good morning Empirical community,

We are so excited to ring in the New Year here in Chico. The town is quiet. Without the presence of the college students, there is a veritable pall over the sun-drenched streets, freshly scraped after the strong rain that stung the greater North State. The February issue is at the printer and the January issue is now on shelves. 

If you are curious about the new issue, there is an introductory video that is nestled in the left sidebar of the blog. We also have a variety of videos that give a brief glimpse of what is in store for you when you immerse yourself in the latest issue. 

Also, we are offering advertising on the blog for the first time. We have had over 800% growth on the blog and we want to extend new opportunities to you in order to help you grow with us. Right now we are limiting the number we have available. There are 10 sidebar ads available for $50 each. You would provide an image, a link, and a caption.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 

Happy New Year!

January Excerpt: Fiddling While Rome Burns by Hugh Mercer Curtler

Fiddling While Rome Burns
Hugh Mercer Curtler
Baldock Solar Highway, Oregon

There is considerable talk these days about climate change and whether or not global warming is a fact or merely an opinion. Well, it is assuredly a fact in the sense that any verifiable empirical claim is a fact. The only thing that can still be debated at all is whether or not humans are part of the problem and that consideration is gradually shifting from opinion to cold, hard fact as well. But, as Diane Keaton recently said, “Climate change, like gravity, doesn’t give a damn whether you ‘believe’ in it or not. It’s happening regardless. While we sit around and debate its existence, it’s taking full advantage of the situation and using the time we’re giving it to make life miserable.” The problem is that in talking about it we may get the impression we are actually doing something about it when in fact we are not. As Keaton says, it just keeps happening.

The problem was made very real to me recently as I returned from Minneapolis to my home 150 miles west and south of that city with my two little granddaughters in the car. We passed dried-up drainage ditches and creeks; rivers where the water was barely visible and slowed to a crawl; we saw dust hovering in the air as far as the eye could see; we noted the burned-out lawns and the scattered crop residue in the parched fields now that the farmers have finished their harvest, such as it was. We also noted the small lakes and ponds that have shrunk below the grasses and reeds on the shore leaving several feet of dry shoreline exposed to the relentless winds. The words I have read and written myself about global warming began to be replaced by stark images as the message they convey moved from the head to the heart causing considerable distress and mild anxiety. I worried about the future of these two little girls. This is no longer an intellectual problem: at the risk of sounding dramatic, if something isn’t done to alter present conditions we will soon face a struggle for survival.

In this part of the upper Midwest the farmers have had a relatively decent year. It has been dry, but there were scattered but timely rains earlier in the summer and the farmers in this area will do fairly well–unlike others in the Midwest who have been hit hard by the prolonged dry spell that promises to drag on. However, the signs point to the severe drought spreading into this part of the country as well. And that’s the problem: the drought isn’t just part of the normal “cycle” of weather, as many of the farmers I talk with contend; it is something we are going to have to learn to live with–resulting in higher prices in the grocery stores and even the real possibility of rationing as food becomes scarce. And we could eventually be dealing with increasing levels of violence as well from growing numbers of hungry people who cannot find food to eat. In a word, the problem is here and talking about it won’t solve it.

If you would like to read more of this article in Empirical, the January issue is now available at your local bookstore.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

January Excerpt: Democracy by Gar Alperovitz

Democracy: From The Ground Up
Gar Alperovitz 
Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PHOTO: Tiffany Pan
Reprinted with permission by the author and the Democracy Collaborative. This article was originally published as Chapter Three in Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy, 2nd Edition (Democracy Collaborative Press and Dollars and Sense, 2011).

What of the central question of democracy itself ? Many have noted the trends of failing belief, the radical decline in voting, the massive role of money and corporate influence in lobbying, media, and elections–and in general, the large numbers who surveys show feel that “our national experiment in self-government is faltering.” That millions of Americans believe “people like me have almost no say in the political system” has been a wake-up call for many on the left, right, and center. 

Several lines of reassessment have become increasingly important as the crisis has deepened. The first, directed to foundational “grassroots” community issues, has come into ever more sharply defined focus in recent years.

The work of Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam kicked off a major debate on one aspect of the problem.

Putnam probed well beneath such surface-level issues as the fall-off in voting to focus instead on local citizen associations, networks, formal and informal clubs, neighborhood groups, unions, and the like. Large numbers of Americans, he suggested, were now both actually and metaphorically “bowling alone” rather than in association with others. Putnam suggested that a decline in associational activity, in turn, had produced a decline in trust and “social capital”–foundational requirements of democracy in general. His response was straightforward: the nation should develop as many ways as possible to encourage local involvement–the only way, he held, Americans could hope to renew the basis of democracy throughout the larger system.

Quite apart from Putnam’s studies, general analysis, and recommendations (many of which were challenged by scholars), of particular interest was the explosive reaction to his argument–and the reorientation of strategic concern it represented. The outpouring of interest his first rather academic article on the subject produced revealed that Putnam had struck a powerful nerve. “Seldom has a thesis moved so quickly from scholarly obscurity to conventional wisdom,” observed former White House aide and political scientist William Galston.

Especially important was what was not at the center of attention: Putnam and many who responded to him did not focus on national parties, national interest groups, national lobbying, national campaign finance laws, or national political phenomena in general. What he and they focused on was the “micro” level of citizen groups and citizen involvement. Here, at the very local level, was now the place to begin to look for democratic renewal. The heart of the larger foundational argument–and this is a critical emphasis–might be put thus: Is it possible to have Democracy with a Big D in the system as a whole if you do not have real democracy with a small d at the level where people live, work, and raise families in their local communities? If the answer is no, then a necessary if not sufficient condition of rebuilding democracy in general is to get to work locally.

If you would like to read more from Gar Alperovitz's article in Empirical, the January issue is now available at your local bookstore. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Empirical magazine wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday season. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Week In Review:12/22/2012

The Week In Review
Nick Dobis

Apocalypse Now…Or Later

If you are reading this, it means the world didn’t end yesterday, and our Empirical community is intact, to which our staff is tremendously grateful. The anticipation of the “Mayan Apocalypse” was certainly the talk of not only the nation, but also most of the world on Friday. There were those who shrugged it off as nothing from the start, and there were those who had prepared survival bunkers or traveled around the world to wait for aliens to bring them to salvation. Then there were those who, like myself, wished the world would swiftly end in order to cease the unforgiving onslaught of apocalyptic social media updates. As it turned out the date set by the Mayans, 12/21/12, didn’t bring about the end of the world, but indeed brought about the end of a Baktun, roughly 144,000 days in the Maya Long Count Calendar. 

Another misconception regarding the Maya is the myth of their complete annihilation by the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. According to a report by the BBC on Friday, the descendants of the Mayans who built Chichen Itza, still breathe 21st century air. The report stated between 800,000 and 1 million native Mayan speakers are alive and well, designating them as the second-largest ethnic group in Mexico.

Plan B Fails

The world may as well have ended for House Speaker John Boehner, whose “Plan B” for adverting the fiscal cliff was so unpopular with his Republican piers he pulled the measure without putting it to a vote and sent the House home for the Holidays. Boehner expressed confidence Thursday morning of the bill’s likelihood of being passed by the House and breezing through the Senate. He was greatly mistaken. 

Boehner’s “Plan B” essentially called for extending tax cuts for Americans earning up to a $1 million, but would have raised taxes for those who made more than $1 million. This apparently upset a majority of the conservative controlled House, who failed give Boehner the assurance needed to make a serious effort to pass the bill on to the Senate. This move may be an indication Boehner has lost the credibility to rally his party to compromise, and takes the nation another step closer to starting the new year with automatic tax increases and spending cuts. 

A Call to Action

Less than a week after the tragic shootings in Newton, Connecticut President Obama announced Wednesday he has assigned Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force responsible of composing “concrete proposals” to reduce gun violence. The aim of the task force will likely focus on a ban on the sale of military-grade weapons (like the AR-15 rifle used in the killings in Newton), guns with high-capacity ammunition clips, and stricter background check requirements on all weapon purchases. Obama promised the task force would not be “something the folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside,” and set a goal for the proposals to be finalized no later than January. The National Rifle Association, facing intense scrutiny since last week’s slayings, broke its silence on Friday. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre defiantly opposed stricter gun laws, proposing instead an unprecedented deployment of armed guards at every school. The proposition makes the Empirical staff wonder if the real solution to guns in our schools, is putting more guns in our schools. 

80 and 28 > 81 and 29?

When NFL fans and pundits across the nation didn’t gripe over the quagmire that is New York Jets football, the hot question has been whether two of the league’s brightest stars will eclipse season records set by former greats and current legends of the game. Minnesota Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson, who shredded defenses this season after shredding his ACL a year ago this month, needs 294 yards to surpass Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards. His NFC North receiving counterpart Calvin Johnson needs 182 yards to top Jerry Rice, debatably the greatest athlete to ever play the position. Both players have two regular season games left to accomplish their historic feats, and based on their consistent performances for most of the season, both have legitimate chances of setting new milestones. Some will say the new records, if broken, can’t be compared fairly with Rice and Dickerson’s, who played in an NFL with one less scheduled game. Despite this technicality, football fans should celebrate Peterson’s phenomenal return from an often career subduing injury, and a receiver who exhibits the same level of class and character as the man he aims to beat. 

Sea Sanctuary Saved

A 13-year long struggle came to an end this week as the Los Angeles Times reported the state of California finished the final touches of what has become the largest network of undersea parks in the continental United States. According to the report, the reserve stretches 848-square miles, spanning from the Oregon state border to the edge of the U.S./Mexico border. The effort to preserve the undersea refuge began in 1999 when state legislatures passed the Marine Protection Act, but faced the American Sportfising Association’s lobbying efforts to stymie the process. After surviving budget shortfalls and attacks from special interests, 16% of California state waters will hopefully remain marine reserves for future generations of Americans to appreciate. 

US Soldier Faces Death Penalty

The United States Army announced this week it will seek the death penalty against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with 16 counts of premeditated murder, six counts of attempted murder, and seven counts of assault. According to military prosecutors, Bales left his outpost in southern Afghanistan the morning of March 11 and murdered 16 Afghan civilians, nine of which were children. Bales, who was serving his fourth combat tour at the time of the alleged murders, has pleaded not guilty due to post -traumatic stress and a concussion suffered from an IED in one of previous three tours. If Bales is found guilty, military code requires death sentences to be approved by the president, which hasn’t happened since 1961. No matter the verdict, this case should force the Pentagon and both executive and legislative branches to re-examine the implications of sending soldiers on multiple tours of duty in a volunteer military. 

The Price is Right for NYSE

Stocks and commodities are exchanged at a feverish pace on a daily basis, but rarely does a market itself become a commodity. This week NYSE Euronext, operator of the New York Stock Exchange, has reached an agreement to sell itself to the Intercontinental Exchange. How much does a stock market cost you may ask? The Atlanta based electronic exchange operator agreed to pay $33.12 a share, stock-and- cash deal totaling $8.2 billion. The ICE, founded in 2000, has surged over the past decade as a leading market for commodities and energy futures exchanges. Both board of directors unanimously approved the deal, which is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2013 pending the approval of national and European regulators, as well as company shareholders.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Test Your Grammar Might

I bet you didn't think there would be a test, did you? A lot of these grammar rules and guidelines are taken from a writing course I teach. Here be three questions: test your might!

Can you select the correct one(s)?

  1. I mediated a talk between my brother and his wife. 
  2. I moderated a talk between my brother and his wife. 
  3. I mediated the damage done by talking to them individually. 
  4. I moderated the damage done by talking to them individually. 

Can you select the correct one(s)?

  1. I was effected by receiving a poor grade on my paper.
  2. I was affected by receiving a poor grade on my paper.
  3. Getting a poor grade on my paper definitely had an effect on me. 
  4. Getting a poor grade on my paper definitely had an affect on me. 

Can you select the correct one(s)?
  1. They’re working on a project where their was a large effect size for there statistically significant findings. 
  2. They’re working on a project where there was a large effect size for their statistically significant findings. 
  3. There working on a project where they’re was a large effect size for their statistically significant findings. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Day In History

We have started a new tradition on our Facebook page which we call This Day in History. To that end, I thought it would be fun to occasionally include a more comprehensive list that has some items you might be interested in. 

The last convoy of U.S. Army soldiers leaves Iraq, formally marking the end of the Iraq War

DeForest Kelly (Dr. McCoy on Star Trek) gets a star in Hollywood

NL releases short list of teams for 1993 NL expansion

Stanley Barrett exceeds land sonic speed (739.666 MPH)

Cleveland Cavaliers retire jersey # 42, Nate Thumond

Soyuz 13 launched into Earth's orbit for 8 days

Britain abolishes death penalty

Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" airs for 1st time on CBS

Wilt Chamberlain of NBA Philadelphia Warriors scores 78 points vs LA

The United Nations condemns apartheid

Christmas message by Eisenhower becomes 1st voice in space

Japan admitted to UN

Philadelphia Eagles beat Los Angeles Rams 14-0 in NFL championship game

Uruguay joins UN

Chicago Bears beat Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in 1st NFL playoff game

Automobile speed record set (39 mph)

"Nutcracker Suite" premieres

South Carolina declared an "independent commonwealth"

William Bond obtains 1st photograph of the moon through a telescope

Charles Darwin visits Vurland

George Washington's body interred at Mount Vernon

The Baltimore Monitor is the 1st U.S. newspaper to appear on Sunday

New Jersey becomes 3rd state to ratify constitution

1st national Thanksgiving Day

Thomas Fleet publishes Mother Goose's Melodies For Children

Writing Tip of the Day: Common Errors Part III

We have a lot of fun here on the Empirical blog poking fun at English conventions that we all take for granted. So in our continuing bit about common writing errors, we bring a few more noteworthy and easily avoidable editing gaffes. 

  1. Principal/principle
    • Both can be used as nouns, but only one can be used as an adjective
      • The principal on the project was Ms. Jane. 
      • The principal advantage of jogging is being able to outrun zombies. 
      • The most important principle of writing is to write. 
  2. Respectfully/respectively
    • Both are adverbs
      • Respectfully, I must disagree.
      • I find you and John to be fun and irritating, respectively. 
  3. Then/than
    • An adverb, adjective, and a noun versus a conjunction and preposition
      • If you want to pass a class, then you have to study. 
      • The then unknown physicist worked as a patent clerk.
      • This PowerPoint has more slides than last week. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Last Week in Review

Last Week In Review
Nick Dobis

Tragedy in Connecticut 

Days after three people were shot in a mall in Oregon, the nation suffered a visceral tragedy on Friday as 20 children and six adults were suddenly and brutally slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Rumors swirled around the Twitter-verse for most of the day, but what we know for certain is 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into the elementary school, dressed in black fatigues and armed to the teeth, and began firing upon students and staff before ending the massacre by taking his own life. President Barack Obama held a press conference at 12:15 E.T. the same day. He spoke not only as the nation’s leader, but also as a father as he fought back tears. There is a time to mourn for those slain so suddenly and brutally in Newton, Connecticut, and that time is now. But the time must finally come when we don't squabble over the politics and focus on the ultimate goal, creating a safer America for our children. 

Another Step Closer to the Edge 

Tis’ the season of giving…except for those partaking in the fiscal standoff in the nation’s capital. The tragedy in Connecticut will be the lead story in the coming week, but the threat of going over the “fiscal cliff” still looms over the nation. Counteroffers were exchanged between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday, but if a compromise isn’t found within the next two weeks automatic tax hikes and spending cuts will be engaged, a grave concern of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who announced Monday the Reserve will continue its contentious stimulus program in order to keep long-term interest rates at all-time lows. The nation can only hope the tragic events in Newton, Conneticut can help forge a compromise between the Left and the Right on this issue. 

The Fall of an American Hero 

America lost a least-known hero this week, as the Defense Department reported Tuesday that 28-year-old Petty Officer Nicolas Checque, one of the members of the SEAL team that killed Osama Bin Laden last May, was killed in a raid which successfully freed a doctor held hostage in Afghanistan. Checque joined the Navy directly after graduating from Norwin High School in Pennsylvania in 2002 and entered the SEAL program in 2003. In his 10 years as a SEAL, Checque received a Bronze Star and several other commendations. On behalf of a grateful nation, Empirical magazine would like to thank Nicolas Checque and all our military men and women for their service and sacrifice. 

Johnny Be Good 

Although Johnny Manziel won his Heisman last Saturday, this southern man has been the belle of the ball at various sports and late night talk shows this week. What’s all the buzz about this quarterback you may ask? Johnny Manziel, a.k.a ”Johnny Football,” became the first freshman to win the most prestigious award in all of collegiate athletics, out-edging linebacker Manti Te’o of Note Dame and quarterback Colin Kline of Kansas State. Heisman voters were not only swayed by his numbers (3,419 passing yards, 1,181 rushing yards and 43 total touchdowns, better numbers than Cam Newton and Tim Tebow when they won their Heismans), but his breathtaking performance in Tuscaloosa, upending the number one ranked and reigning champion Alabama. No matter what happens when Manziel and Texas A&M face off against their former Big-12 foes Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl January 4th, analysts and fans across the nation will ponder if Manziel will claim a second Heisman within the next two years. A feat which has been accomplished only once, and hasn’t happened in college football in nearly four decades. 

Baseball’s new $25 Million Man 

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim decided to join their southern California counterparts in spending boatloads of cash as the ball-club acquired one of the more feared bats in baseball. Rangers general Manager Jon Daniels confirmed Thursday that outfielder Josh Hamilton agreed to a five-year, $125 million dollar contract with the Angels. The deal means the Rangers have to face their former slugger 20 times a year, and the Angles gain a much desired bat in the middle of a prolific lineup. With Albert Pujos, Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, and pitchers Jarred Weaver and Dan Harren, it will be hard for many analysts not to pick the Angels to win the A.L. West. But the greatest concern for the Angels may not be Hamilton’s play, but his history of drug abuse. The all-star relapsed from his drug addiction last season, and will need to build a strong support system to avoid any temptation in the city of angels. 

Ravi Shankar 

On December 11th, the world lost one of its musical phenoms as Ravi Shankar passed away at the age of 92. Shankar, who grew up on the banks of the Ganges River in India, will be remembered for introducing Eastern music to Western gods like the Beatles and The Doors. Although he was a student of many forms of music, Shankar will be remembered for his haunting, yet captivating play on the sitar. In a report by Susan Stamberg of NPR, Shankar “once said he felt ecstasy when he made music - the world was erased, and he experienced great peace." Shankar is survived by his wife, his daughters, and countless fans around the world. 

Egypt: A New Uprising 

It’s been over a year since the revolution, but Egyptians are once again filling the streets in protest of a controversial referendum many see as a power grab by President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, and a step toward a less-secular Egypt. The BBC reported that nearly 250,000 security personal were called upon to maintain the peace as Egyptians voted on the referendum on Saturday, which was extended by four hours due to the enormous voter turnout. The strife reveals how divided the most populous country in the Arab world remains despite coming under one banner to oust former president Hosni Mubarak in the wave of last year’s Arab Spring. There have been some reports of violence breaking out in some of its provinces, but voting for the most part has been going smoothly. The referendum must be settled either way to finalize a constitution, which must be passed before elections can be held early next year. 

The Powder Keg Grows 

US and NATO officials have reported that Syrian President Basar Assad and his forces have prepared a number of explosives with lethal chemical agents, prompting both NATO and the US to deploy troops and defense missiles to the Turkey/Syrian border. The armament of these weapons may be a sign of desperation from Assad, as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov stated earlier in the week. Rebel fighters are gaining significant advantage in a nearly two-year civil war which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of refugees. The world can only hope this move by Assad is a final bluff to initiate a cease-fire on his terms, for a chemical attack would escalate this quagmire to global proportions and eliminate any chance of ending the bloodshed through diplomatic means.

From the Empirical Archives: A Moment With Nicole LaRoche

A Moment With Nichole LaRoche

Nicole talks to Empirical about the unique way in which her life as a marine biologist and photographer has come together in the amazing world of Big Sur, California

Nicole LaRoche is a marine biologist who lives in Big Sur and combines her field research with her excellent photography skills. Empirical recently had an opportunity to ask about her development as a photographer as well as her preferences in photography.

Empirical: We love Big Sur and we love your work. How did you initially get into photography?

Nicole: My father was an avid photographer when I was young. He always had cameras around and taught me about photography. I really got into photography in high school where I helped upkeep the photo lab and spent as many hours as I could in the darkroom.

Empirical: Did you pursue any formal training in photography after that?

Nicole: I decided to continue studying photography in college and enrolled at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. After about two years there with some wonderful teachers and some not-so-wonderful teachers, I decided that even though I love taking photos, the politics of the Academy were a bit much and I wanted to transfer to a state school. I decided since I most enjoy photographing wildlife that I would get a double major in photography and marine biology.

Empirical: Did you make a smooth transition from the Academy to the new program?

Nicole: At this time the Academy was not accredited and I could not transfer over my units meaning that I had to start over. I went to community college at Skyline for my general education classes and continued my involved with the photography department by working as the photo lab technician and taking photo classes.

Empirical: Were you able to build on that new beginning elsewhere?

Nicole: I transferred to the University of California at Santa Cruz and graduated with my Bachelor’s in marine biology in 2010.

Empirical: Is that when you got involved with work at Big Sur?

Nicole: While in school at UC Santa Cruz, I started working for Tim Tinker’s lab studying sea otters. Their current study is using sea otters as ocean health monitors. The study is comparing Big Sur and Monterey using Big Sur as the pristine environment and Monterey as the dirty environment (due to agricultural runoff and higher human use).

Empirical:So you’re still doing this work?

Nicole: I have been living in Big Sur tracking sea otters along highway 1 since I graduated.

Empirical:Had you been to Big Sur before?

Nicole: I have been visiting Monterey since I first moved to California in 2003 but didn’t really go to Big Sur much until I started working down here.

Empirical:So where were you from originally?

Nicole: I am from Illinois just outside of Chicago.

Empirical:: That’s a long way from the life you’ve grown into here.

Nicole: Yes, but I really liked visiting the Shedd Aquarium as a kid in Chicago and always wanted to live by the ocean. I moved to California in 2003 to go to college. I first moved to San Francisco where I attended the Academy of Art.

Empirical: And that brings us back to your photography.

Nicole: Yes, I also take the time I have here in Big Sur to capture some of that pristine environment with my camera. I believe that working as a biologist and photographing animals in my free time is a good balance of what interests me.

Empirical: Do you favor one over the other?

Nicole: I love photography and would never want to give it up. But I also really enjoy working as a field biologist collecting data and constantly learning about the world around me.

Empirical:Did Big Sur inspire you as a photographer?

Nicole: I still tend to take more of my photos in Monterey and Santa Cruz. I feel that Big Sur is a great place for landscapes and I tend to lean toward taking animal photos. That being said, I never leave my home without my camera! I take my camera with me to work and take opportunistic photos while out tracking sea otters.

Empirical:What do you most like to photograph?

Nicole: Lately I have been taking a lot of bird and marine mammal photos because these are the species that most intrigue me. But from time to time I enjoy shooting landscapes and other terrestrial animals. I generally stick to outdoor photography and generally very little human involvement.

Empirical:So you tend to take more wildlife shots than landscapes?

Nicole: I am quite happy in the wildlife niche but have been recently working on setting up more landscape shots. That is what I was doing this afternoon, photographing the sunset in Big Sur.

Empirical: What kind of equipment do you use?

Nicole: My main body is a Canon 7D and my 3 main lenses are the 100-400mm L, 24-70mm L and 15mm fisheye lens. My backup lens is a Canon 20D. Empirical: We saw you with that amazing lens in the self portrait (at the beginning of this article). Thank you so much for chatting with us. We wish you the best of luck in both of your developing careers.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

From the Empirical Archives: A Review of Death Comes to Pemberley by Carrie Wasinger

A Review of Death Comes to Pemberley: A Novel (Knopf 2011) By P.D. James
Carrie Wasinger
"Chatsworth House"
PHOTO: David Ooms

Originally Published in the June 2012 Issue of Empirical

The literary body is suffering from Jane Austen reflux. Pride and Prejudice just keeps coming back to us, in ever more caustic  forms. Journey to your local Barnes and Noble, and you will find yourself in the land of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Mr. Darcy’s Bite having passed through the forgettable villages of A Wife for Mr. Darcy and Mr. Darcy’s Undoing along the way.

What accounts for this contemporary fascination with a narrative that’s nearly two hundred years old? The ladies of the nation’s book clubs may answer as one, like a Greek chorus: “The epic romance speaks to the very marrow of the modern woman! Darcy is our ideal husband, a hero unknown among modern men!” Well ladies, first, I suggest you cut back on the chardonnay. Then, I ask: have you read Austen? Because epic, she is not. Romantic? Not even.

Austen’s novels are finely-wrought, sophisticated acts of rhetorical prowess that peek into the complexities of a social moment that we post-moderns cannot hope to know because it no longer exists. To put it simply, hers was a society built, very carefully, on character. To read Austen for the ebb and swell of romance is to mistake Simon and Garfunkle for Green Day.

As a much-needed antidote to Austen reflux, acclaimed mystery novelist P.D. James brings us Death Comes to Pemberley, the latest in the string of novels to fantasize about the post-nuptial events of Pride and Prejudice. Kicking the salivary glands of both Austen and James devotees into high gear, the novel attempts to marry two of the more antithetical impulses of fiction: the gritty, darkened world of criminal misdeeds and the carefully ordered rhetorical discretion of Georgian England. Death Comes to Pemberley sets out to remind us that the world of Pride and Prejudice (zombies notwithstanding) values reason and prudence above all else. All the beloved characters from the original are brought back to teach us that we should value reason and prudence, too.

The novel opens a handful of years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. On the eve of the annual Pemberley ball, a coach madly races through the estate’s woodland to deposit the estranged Lydia Wickham on the doorstep of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, her sister and brother-in-law, where she hysterically announces that her husband is dead. Darcy and his male guests tromp off into the night to investigate, only to discover Wickham, fully alive, leaning over the corpse of the Wickhams’ close friend, Captain Denny. The only thing more distasteful to Darcy than having the Wickhams on his hands again is the possibility that Wickham may be convicted of murder, which would entail scandal on all present and future generations of Darcys. To his credit, however, Darcy cannot bring himself to believe in Wickham’s guilt and sets out to ensure that justice be done.

PHOTO: Herry Lawford

From the first page, the reader of Death Comes to Pemberley can’t help but admire the adroitness with which James has adopted Austen’s prose style. James’s sentences, like Austen’s, unwind stealthily, with the pacing and phrasing that promise a satisfying bite of sarcasm at the end. But mere imitation is not James’s intent. In contemporary mysteries, forensic science often takes point in solving the crime. Death Comes to Pemberley takes place in a time before blood-typing and ballistics. The trial of Wickham, which occupies the last third of the novel, must therefore turn on evidence of character, not science. What is said about a person, what a person says about themselves, what is deliberately not said—these all conspire to create character, good or bad. The novelist’s job of drawing character becomes as important for this text as the magistrate’s job of ascertaining guilt or innocence. 

Austen presaged later novelists by gifting her primary characters complex, evolving psychologies. James does justice to the rakish George Wickham, who is neither more nor less dissolute than when we last met him. But elsewhere, there are problems. Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, who could cut as deeply as a Ginzu knife with a well-placed remark and make us love her even more, has been replaced by James’s dowdy Elizabeth Darcy, who maintains a zombie-like attachment to both prudence and Pemberley. Indeed, the opening scene of the novel, in which Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin, acknowledges to Elizabeth his aspiration to Georgiana Darcy’s hand, is all about Mrs. Darcy biting her tongue. (The ladies’ book club Greek chorus shouts “Nooooo!” into the unresponsive heavens.)

Darcy is more tolerable. Here James improves on the original. Permitting readers inside Darcy’s proud head in a way that Austen never contrived, James encourages us to understand gentility as it was likely experienced at the time: a complex system of patronage in which benefactors (like Darcy) and dependents (like Wickham) were symbiotically linked. In this way, James returns us to an unfamiliar era when democracy was largely untried and older political forms ordered all ranks of society—forms which depended for their success not on popular vote, but on the character of the individuals invested with power.

To that end, James has created a few new characters. The first is the second contender for Georgiana’s hand, the young lawyer Henry Alveston, a thoroughly modern type who interprets for us the intricacies of early 19th-century British law. The second, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, the magistrate to whom Darcy turns over the execution of local justice, is by far James’s best addition to Austen’s world. We meet him ensconced in his smoking room reading a tome, not unwillingly disturbed from his quiet, intellectual evening by this local tragedy. To Darcy’s eyes he represents “the embodiment of the law.” As Sir Selwyn’s is the only dialogue to approach Austen’s playful banter it comes as a welcome relief, yet his character is not much developed beyond this point. Colonel Fitzwilliam on the other hand, an original of Austen’s, receives so much development from James that he might as well be brand new.

In a move no doubt intended to spare her audience, James has largely exiled Mrs. Bennett, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh to the margins. Even Lydia gets less airtime than one would expect, considering her husband is on trial for murder. With them has also gone much of the comic intensity of Austen’s universe, leaving no buoyant idiocy to offset the morbidity of the murder mystery and no disgraceful thoughtlessness to relieve the morality of the respectable characters. In Austen’s world, Lydia’s promiscuousness and Lady Catherine de Burgh’s narrow-mindedness make Jane’s chastity and Bingley’s tolerance enviable qualities. In Death Comes to Pemberley, Jane comes off as perfectly vanilla and Bingley as an undiscerning dunderhead who exists simply so that Darcy can tell him to look after the women.

Chawton House: Once the home of Jane Austen's brother, it is now a library dedicated to the study of early English women's writing.
PHOTO: Herry Lawford

Less forgivable is the novel’s almost complete abandonment of those remarkable scenes of formal and informal social gatherings—the dinners, balls, musical evenings, and the like—that gave Austen a chance to pit her characters against each other and see what emerged. In Austen, the best and worst of human nature are revealed in conversation. James seems shy of such moments, preferring to let readers enter the thoughts of individual characters or give us only brief, unsatisfactory, often redundant dialogue. As a result, the plot slows, but doesn’t thicken. If Austen’s characterization is a landscape, full of peaks and valleys, James’s is a vast flatland, monotonous and rather dull.

But perhaps this is too harsh criticism; following in Austen’s footsteps is no easy matter, and after all, the novel of manners is not James’s milieu. Having penned the Adam Dalgliesh series for 50 years now, James is the uncontested queen of contemporary British mystery fiction, and setting a murder mystery in the world of Pride and Prejudice is a true stroke of genius. The mystery genre emerged in the 1840s, only thirty years after Austen’s major work, and in many ways, Austen flirted with its elements. Pride and Prejudice and Emma both turn on secrets that come to light unexpectedly, and Northanger Abbey, a sendup of the 18th-century gothic novel, is all about finding secrets where there are none. Moreover, it makes sense to set a mystery in Austen’s universe precisely because Austen drew the morality of that universe so carefully. Detective fiction—particularly of the kind at which James excels—endures because it both disrupts and reassures: if the criminal is a figure for corruption, the detective is a figure for the satisfying execution of justice.

Sadly, Death Comes to Pemberley steals away that satisfaction. Although Darcy shows early promise as a possible amateur sleuth, no proper detective figure ever emerges from the story. The plot is never twisty enough and the characters never corrupt enough to really disorder the novel’s moral universe. The revelation, in true Austenian fashion, comes by way of a letter that has the disappointing effect of exonerating just about everybody. Consequently, the resolution feels as tepid as the scandal, and the narrative positively limps to a close.

There are bright moments in the novel. Although as a mystery Death Comes to Pemberley may disappoint, as an escape from the absurdity of Austen reflux, it is a welcome addition to bookstore shelves. What the novel really offers, however, is a nostalgic retrospective of Britain on the threshold of industrialization. As such it reminds us—even through its failings—that good character is everything.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012


Good Morning Empirical Community, 

What we need from you today to help us grow together and really make this grassroots Chico magazine take flight is pretty simple. By following our blog you serve notice that people want to read our magazine. So if you have a moment today, please follow our blog. 

It is very simple. You can either follow in the Empirical community section on the left side of the page, follow by Google +, or simply follow by email. While you are doing so, please register for a FREE digital 3-month subscription to Empirical for taking the time to help us out (you can see the link in the task-bar of the blog). 

We thank you and wish you a wonderful holiday season.

From the Empirical Archives: The City of the Future by Dan O'Brien

The City of the Future
Dan O'Brien

Originally Published in the June 2012 of Empirical

As the world continues to suffer in the throes of energy and financial crises, a movement has emerged in eastern Asia. Auto giant GM has lent a hand to creating futuristic cities that seem more like a setting in an Asimov novel than in real life.

Before we run to the city of the future, let’s take a moment and examine Tianjin before the inception of an eco-city that might revolutionize how we perceive sustainability. Developed on land that was equal parts saltpan, deserted beach, and an unseemly wastewater pond, the city seemed more the part of a dystopian city lost in the mist than the staging point for a revolutionary idea.

This, however, changed when the idea came across the transom – to use a very old publishing term – and enlivened a nation. With the expectation of the fully realized city by the 2020s, the eco-city will comfortably house 350,000 citizens in a dynamic environment meant to leave the smallest possible environmental impact and enrich the lives of the people who live there. It is an attempt at an ecologically sound city; the surrounding environment will be maintained and feed into the platform of sustainability that the Sino Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is aspiring for. While local rainfall will not be able to buttress the water supply, much of the water for the city will be drawn from novel sources like desalinated water.

It boasts a light rail system that will be easily accessible and entirely sustainable. GM has offered to help the endeavor by creating the ENV, which looks and functions like a Segway PT — but with room for two. The onboard GPS systems will allow for object detection and distance technology that will mediate car lengths, and essentially allow you to sit back and have the EN-V take you where you want to go. The notion of a legion of bumper cars equipped like Night Rider – minus David Hasselhoff, of course – conjures an image of a futuristic city where everyone wears white vinyl jumpsuits. We can put away the tin foil hats, because this is an endeavor that we will see the fruition of in a decade or less.

The pursuit of a harmonious community is at the heart of this effort, as well as an attempt to satisfy the demands of a rapidly growing country – China – to create an environment where works can have a high quality of life. Much of the media commentary has focused on a concerted attempt to provide affordable housing for the lower income populations of the community.

This is Tianjin today, with older Chinese architecture dwarfed by modern skyscrapers.
PHOTO: Shubert Ciencia

The notion of a melting pot of socioeconomic classes is meant as a strong selling point for a social society predicated on a single community consciousness. What makes this futuristic city any different than a green city like Portland?

Where other cities that are trying to create a sustainable future, the reality of this eco-city is that it is starting out sustainable, without the need to rededicate and repurpose existing resources to become more green. The infrastructure is rife with community transportation and less dependency on outside resources to maintain continuity for the city’s inhabitants. Each year starts with the promise of changes for the future. Are we to believe that these changes will come about organically, or should we be cognizant of the kind of participation we can have in a movement toward a more sustainable future?

The promise of such a utopian concept as a city where vehicles drive themselves safely and the community itself is sustainable still seems like such a dream. What it will take to bring about the necessary paradigm shift in the world’s social consciousness that would make an eco-city a normal practice is something we need to ask ourselves as free-thinkers. This insistence on tribal thought is central to such a movement. We can see the pieces coming to together: the series of interconnected parts that are necessary to create a global phenomenon. The idea of sustainable, self-contained cities has to become vogue.

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