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Cultural Commentary

Apple's CEO Tim Cook: 'I'm proud to be gay'

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 27, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."  So announced Tim Cook yesterday in a Businessweek essay.  (For my thoughts on his statement, read my article "Tim Cook: Is being gay a gift of God?".)  Meanwhile, Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer, says that she plans to end her life tomorrow, though she could still change her mind.

Now consider these facts: Americans will spend $7.4 billion on Halloween this year, including $350 million for pet costumes.  Nearly one in five Americans claims to have encountered a ghost.  Nearly a third of us believe that houses can be haunted.  The occult movie Ouija was No. 1 at the box office last weekend.  Other occult/horror movies in theaters this weekend include Dracula Untold, Annabelle, Saw, and As Above, So Below.

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How did one man use $10 to feed 28,992 children?

Portland native, Anton Cobb, on the first day of his campaign to raise money for the local food bank, sits at small table with a red-checkered tablecloth in Director's Park, with a sign that reads 'I am skipping lunch.  So that 30 children won't.  Will you join me?  Donate your lunch money to the Oregon Food Bank', July 24, 2014 (Credit: Heather Boyd via hOURLUNCH on Facebook) Anton Cobb decided to help the local food bank in Portland, Oregon.  So he put a checkered cloth on a table in a busy area near his office.  He sat there during his lunch break next to a sign which read, "I am skipping lunch.  So that 30 children won't.  Will you join me?  Donate your lunch money to the Oregon Food Bank."

He created hOURLUNCH to encourage others to do the same.  On the hOURLUNCH Facebook page he says, "Your $10 lunch money will buy a great burrito . . . OR lunch for 30-100 CHILDREN!"  His strategy has inspired a remarkable response.  People have been donating and posting photos to his Facebook page.  In total, one man's benevolence has provided 28,992 meals for hungry children in his city.

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Is artificial intelligence 'more dangerous than nukes'?

Bridget Moynahan, in a scene from the Twentieth Century Fox movie I, Robot, where her character robopsychologist Susan Calvin is taken hostage by the robot named Sonny (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox) The latest Harvard Business Review's cover story claims that "smart, connected products will transform your business."  The article tells us that Ralph Lauren's Polo Tech Shirt, available next year, will send distance covered, calories burned, movement intensity, heart rate, and similar data to the wearer's mobile device.  Babolat's latest tennis racket is the Play Pure Drive, with sensors and connectivity in the racket handle to track ball speed, spin and impact location through a smartphone app.  And a Tesla vehicle needing repairs can autonomously call for a corrective software download or send notification to the customer with an invitation for a valet to pick up the car and deliver it for service.

But all is not well in the technology world.  Elon Musk is the chief executive of Tesla and also founder of SpaceX, a revolutionary space transport services company.  Speaking recently at MIT, he was asked about artificial intelligence (AI), the growing capacity of robots to think like humans.  His response: we need to "make sure we don't do something very foolish."  He later tweeted that AI is "potentially more dangerous than nukes."

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I witnessed God's amazing work in NYC

New York City daytime landscape with its nearly completed One World Trade Center skyscraper, November 10, 2013 (Credit: Roman Iakoubtchik via Flickr)A driver in Colorado dropped a lit cigarette down his jacket, and jumped out of the vehicle to remove it.  However, his van kept rolling backwards, knocking him to the ground and rolling over his head.  He is expected to survive.  Meanwhile, a woman wanted for robbery called an Ohio police station to demand that they remove an unflattering mug shot of her from their website.  The officer suggested she come in so they could discuss the situation.  When she came into the station, he arrested her.

I decided to begin today's Cultural Commentary with some lighter news items, since today's headlines are uniformly discouraging.  Another victim of Friday's shooting rampage in Washington State has died.  The gunman responsible for the Ottowa terrorist attack had ties to other jihadists in Canada.  A suicide attack has killed 11 south of Baghdad.  And residents in Hawaii are preparing to evacuate because of lava steadily advancing toward them.  Does their situation feel like a metaphor for our times?

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Firefighters rescue woman stuck in chimney

California Firefighters recently rescued a California woman who was stuck in a chimney. How did she get there? Allegedly she was trying to break into the home of a man she met online. After neighbors heard a woman crying they called firefighters, who had to dismantle eight feet of the chimney and then lubricate the flue with dish soap to rescue her.

I'm not sure if there's a home security system that protects against chimney intruders. Or how small an intruder would have to be to get through one. Some problems are too unlikely to be worth our concern. And others are so large there doesn't seem to be much point in worrying about them.

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