February 2011


I’ll probably watch some of the oscars on Sunday night so I thought I would have a scorecard to make things a little more interesting, because lets face it the ceremony can go on a bit.

BEST PICTURE

127 Hours

Black Swan

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King’s Speech

Winter’s Bone

True Grit

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

My prediction: The King’s Speech

Ann’s prediction: The King’s Speech

Who I think should win: Toy Story 3, a close call with King’s Speech, Black Swan & The Social Network, but surely this is the greatest trilogy ever and deserves to be the first animated movie to win best film.

Note: I haven’t seen True Grit, The Fighter or 127 Hours.

BEST DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan

David O Russell – The Fighter

Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech

David Fincher – The Social Network

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – True Grit

My prediction: David Fincher – The Social Network

Ann’s prediction: Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan

Who I think should win: David Fincher – The Social Network

Note:   I’m really surprised that Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated for Inception, which was brilliantly directed.  I haven’t seen True Grit or The Fighter.

BEST ACTOR

Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network

James Franco – 127 Hours

Javier Bardem – Biutiful

Jeff Bridges – True Grit

My prediction: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Ann’s prediction: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Who I think should win: Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Note:  I haven’t seen 127 Hours, Biutiful, or True Grit.

BEST ACTRESS

Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

My prediction: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Ann’s prediction: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Who I think should win: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Note: I haven’t seen Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale – The Fighter

John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner – The Town

Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

My prediction: Christian Bale – The Fighter

Ann’s prediction: Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Who I think should win: John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

Note: I haven’t seen The Fighter

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams – The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Melissa Leo – The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit

Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

My prediction: Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Ann’s prediction: Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Who I think should win: Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

Note: I haven’t seen any of these performance except Helena Bonham Carter’s.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Biutiful – Mexico

Dogtooth – Greece

In a Better World – Denmark

Incendies – Canada

Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) – Algeria

My prediction: Biutiful – Mexico

Ann’s prediction: Biutiful – Mexico

Note: I haven’t seen any of these, but I really want to see Gods and Men, which I’ve heard loads of good reviews about so I’m astonished that this wasn’t nominated.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Mike Leigh – Another Year

Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay), Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (story) – The Fighter

Christopher Nolan – Inception

Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg – The Kids Are All Right

David Seidler – The King’s Speech

My prediction: David Seidler – The King’s Speech

Ann’s prediction: Christopher Nolan – Inception

Who I think should win: David Seidler – The King’s Speech

Note: I haven’t seen The Fighter or Another Year

BEST ANIMATION

How to Train Your Dragon

The Illusionist

Toy Story 3

My prediction: Toy Story 3

Ann’s prediction: Toy Story 3

Who I think should win: Toy Story 3

Note: I’ve only seen Toy Story 3.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy – 127 Hours

Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

Michael Arndt – Toy Story 3

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – True Grit

Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini – Winter’s Bone

My prediction: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

Ann’s prediction: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy – 127 Hours

Who I think should win: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

Note: I haven’t seen 127 Hours or True Grit.

RESULTS

Me: 7/10

Ann: 4/10

 

So I’ve mentioned in previous posts (here, here, and here) the essential importance of the coffee grind.  It is important to have a consistently uniform distribution of coffee particles.  The cheap blade grinders aren’t able to provide this (they also generate a lot of heat causing deterioration of the coffee bean) this is why it is ideal to have a burr grinder.

I have a Baratza Maestro coffee grinder (pictured below) purchased at Expressotec, Richmond, BC, Canada.  From my research this seems to be the cheapest household grinder that is capable of grinding the full range from fine, needed for espresso, to coarse, needed for French Press.  I’ve had it for well over a year now and am entirely satisfied with all range of use.

In a previous post I discussed the scientific discovery of exoplanets and the race to find an Earth-like planet outside our solar system.  These discoveries combined with other recent work on exophiles (a related previous blog post here) have led to a renewed interest in the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

For example, a great collection of current scientific papers in a recent issue of Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society are available from this link.

SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) has now been searching our ‘close vicinity’, within the milky way, for 50 years, but has yet to detect any signals that show signs of having been derived from an extra-terrestrial intelligence.  By the way, if you want to play a part in this search, you can sign up and get free software that enables your computer (while it is idle) to crunch through the data in search for interesting signals.

What would be the theological implications if a discovery of intelligent extra-terrestrial life were made?  The key theological issues surround our own place in the universe and the universal nature of salvation.  The Bible teaches that we (humankind) are the image bearers of God:

“God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Could it be possible that other life forms are also made in the image of God?

How about the essential Christian doctrine of God incarnate in human form – would the death and resurrection of Jesus be sufficient for an alien’s salvation, as it is for humans?  In other words is one earthly incarnation, in Jesus of Nazareth, enough for the entire cosmos? Or are multiple incarnations a likely possibility?

Owen Gingerich has a nice little essay in his book God’s Universe, here’s what he has too say:

“I am personally persuaded that a superintelligent Creator exists beyond and within the cosmos, and that the rich context of congeniality shown by our universe, permitting and encouraging the existence of self-conscious life, is part of the Creator’s design and purpose.  Yet like many Christians steeped in a conservative ethos that human beings are central to God’s plan, my gut reaction is to disparage the possibility of the existence of intelligent life on other worlds.   But I remind myself, Beware!  Not only is such a view inonsistent with the notion that the universe has been deliberately established as a potential home for self-conscious contemplation, but it sets unwarranted human limitations on God’s creativity.”

“… as the physicist John Wheeler once suggested to me, perhaps the universe is like a large plant whose ultimate purpose is to produce one small exquisite flower.  Perhaps we are that one small flower.”

There is a also great discussion, on radio, between Paul Davies and John Lennox on this subject, the audio is available here.

I’m waiting for Paul Davies latest book to come out in paperback.  This is entitled The Eerie Silence – Renewing our search for alien intelligence.

There is a news feature on the Templeton Foundation in the current addition of Nature entitled Religion: Faith in science.  Here is the link for those that are interested.

The John Templeton Foundation is a philanthropic organization that funds inter-disciplinary research about human purpose and ultimate reality.  This is their mission (in their own words):

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

They also present the Templeton Prize, an annual award that honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.  See a previous post here.

An exoplanet, or extrasolar planet, is a planet outside our solar system.  The first confirmed detection of such a planet occurred in 1992 [scientific paper].  Since then there have been 528 confirmed detections (as of 12th February 2011) with many more being added to the list on a constant basis.  A full and updated catalogue of exoplanets can be found at The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia.

These planets are so far away and so faint that they can only be detected indirectly.  Various detection methods exist; for example, you can look for a tiny wobble in a stars position caused by the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet, or you can look for a faint dimming of a star’s light as the orbiting planet passes in front.  The NASA Kepler space observatory, launched in 2009, uses the latter method for its mission to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.

The race is now underway to find that first “Earth-like” exoplanet, sometimes dubbed Earth-2.0 or the Goldilocks planet.  Such a discovery seems now inevitable and only a matter of time, but when it comes will nonetheless surely be a moment of profound significance.  This planet would have to be of similar size to the Earth and within an orbiting zone of its star that would allow for the existence of liquid water – the so-called “habitable zone“, and not be tidally locked i.e. not have one side of the planet always facing the star.  Although the exact criteria for an Earth-like planet as well as how and when this discovery is likely to be announced is not altogether clear, see here.

The Kepler space-based telescope has already produced a windfall of potential candidates [scientific paper][BBC article].

Recently published results have thrown up surprising planetary configurations, such as a planetary system comprised of six planets in very close orbit to their star, causing astronomers to rethink theories on how planets are formed [scientific paper][BBC article].

There is still the possibility that a rouge planet (in interstellar space having been ejected from its planetary system) could support an ocean (kept warm by geothermal activity) beneath its frozen surface leaving open the intriguing possibility of life in unexpected corners of the universe.  [scientific study][summary].

The discovery of multiple extrasolar planets (with estimates of at least 40% of solar-type stars having low-mass planets [BBC article]) has intensified interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life.  I shall leave this discussion for a future post.

The French press, also known as the bodum, cafetiere, coffee press/plunger, press pot etc.  This is perhaps the most cherished coffee brewing method, quite simply one of the best ways of making great coffee.

Again the grind is really important here, for this method you’re wanting larger uniform sized particles.  Because the grinds stay in contact with the water for longer (~4 minutes) and don’t go through a paper filter fine coffee sediment and oils add to the coffee flavour.  But leave it to steep too long  and the taste can become too bitter and hence you should pour soon after plunging.

Here is the geeks guide on how to make the perfect French press coffee.

If anyone feels like experimenting and trying out a non-traditional brewing method for the French press, check out this alternative “advanced technique” below:

The Book of Job, provides a debate, in poetic form, on whether the righteous are always rewarded and the wicked alway punished.  The dialogue surrounds the character of Job who has led a successful, just and honourable life but is suddenly and unexpectedly stricken by immense physical and mental suffering.  The dramatic arguments are often filled with allusions to natural phenomena and to farming and this is a theme that I’ve been following in this blog.

Here is another example illustrating this theme, see also previous posts here and here.  In this case Job is comparing humanities grim reality to that of a tree:

For a tree has hope:                                                                                                                though cut down, it can still be removed,                                                                       and its shoots will not cease.                                              Though its root grow old in the ground                                                                             and its stock die in the dust,                                                            from the scent of water it flowers,                                                                                         and puts forth branches like a sapling.                                          But a strong man dies defeated,                                                                                         man breathes his last, and where is he?

(Job 14:7-10) Translation by Robert Alter

The irony is that even trees manage to survive and regenerate unlike perishing humans!  Here’s a few images of fallen tree trunks and old stumps providing a natural nursery for new tree growth.  Perhaps this type of procedure was used as an ancient agricultural practice in the time of the writing of Job.

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