* James Hanley has a good post on what often passes for academic assessment.
* Mr. Patterson's cipher
* Thony C corrects some notable myths about Newton. One thing that people forget is that pre-Lavoisier, alchemy was in some sense science: it did experiments, it theorized, it made genuine discoveries, many experimental philosophers besides Newton did work in it. One of the common exchanges in the early day of the Royal Society was of various 'recipes' for getting various chemical effects. When Berkeley appeals to Newton, Boerhaave, and Hamberg in Siris he wasn't dabbling in the weird: he was appealing to speculations based on the most advanced chemical knowledge of the day. It was a time when, as Thony notes, alchemical investigation could very easily be a part of one's life as an active scientist. What Lavoisier and others did in order to make what we think of as modern chemistry was reorganize the alchemical work already done, regularize terminology, discard some problematic assumptions, and approach questions more systematically; there was definitely change, but the break was not as sharp as we often seem to think it was.
* An Anne Rice interview at Busted Halo
* A good analysis of the excessive media coverage of Michael Jackson. This was especially amusing:
CNN.com posted a story the next day describing the problems entitled, "Jackson Dies, Almost Takes Internet with Him."
So many Google users searched for information about the dead singer that the popular search engine mistook the interest as a potential malware attack. For a short period of time, Google users were greeted with a message that read, "We're sorry, but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application."
The popular communication site Twitter crashed, and Wikipedia experienced more than 500 edits to Jackson’s profile in less than 24 hours. AOL’s popular instant messenger service went down for approximately 40 minutes and the company released a statement that read, "Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth."
* John Henry Newman will most likely be beatified.
* The canonization cause for controversial Mary Ward looks like it's underway in earnest. Ward founded the Congregation of Jesus and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary on radically different principles than most religious institutes had at the time, walked from France to Italy to get recognition for them, was jailed, was condemned by the Inquisition as a heretic under Urban VIII, and had her cause for canonization opened in the 1930s by Pius XI.
* Secretum Meum Mihi is an interesting spirituality website for Catholic women.
* Despite what the BBC says, "the Vatican" has not asked Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International. Rather, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has suggested that Catholics do so, which is very, very different, since a Pontifical Council is effectively a think-tank, and has no actual authority over anyone; and the mere fact that a Cardinal has an opinion on a subject doesn't mean much.
* Rebecca reviews a book on Calvin; it looks interesting.
* Sherry's Hundred Hymns list continues:
#72 O Love that Will Not Let Me Go
#71 Jesus I My Cross Have Taken
#70 Hark the Herald Angels Sing
#69 All My Hope on God Is Founded
Apparently there are three more hymns coming that are often regarded as Christmas carols; my guesses would be "Silent Night", "Joy to the World", and (my own preference) "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". We'll see how close my guesses are over the next few weeks.
* Rather remarkably, Google Book claims that the author of this book, on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, is -- the Holy Trinity.
* Alexander Pruss has an excellent post on rigorous comparison of infinities in decision matrix interpretations of Pascal's wager.