Fun with mercury

In recent years, mercury has required a bad reputation as a toxic chemical that one should avoid. Back in the day when I was a schoolboy, mercury was the element that was the most fun. We would handle it with bare hands in science classes to measure atmospheric pressure and rejoice when a mercury thermometer broke and we could play with this fascinating liquid metal and its strange properties that would try to form itself into a sphere if possible and would slide over surfaces so easily.
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It’s good to be the king or, failing that, rich

Some may recall a post of mine from back in August that dealt with how the extremely wealthy people living along a private street known as Presidio Terrace in San Francisco failed to pay the appropriate taxes for it and the city went ahead and sold the street at auction to a couple of investors who planned to charge the residents for parking. Naturally, this caused an outrage.
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Can there be redemption for those who have behaved badly?

I believe that people can redeem themselves, that just because they have done something wrong at some point in their lives does not mean that they are beyond the pale and permanently unworthy of our regard and even friendship at some later point in their lives. Hence I try not to be too judgmental about others. Part of this is admittedly self-interest. In my own past, I have believed, said, and taken stands on issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and a whole host of other political and social issues that I now deeply regret and am ashamed of. All I can say in mitigation is that I did not know any better then. I like to think that over time I have grown, matured, and perhaps even become enlightened. I would hate to be thought of now as the person that I was then.
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Sleazy sting artists get badly bitten

Project Veritas and its head James O’Keefe are a sleazy right wing outfit whose mode of operation is to interview people in any organization that does not serve their agenda and then misleadingly edit their footage to make it appear that the organization is deceitful and unlawful. They recently tried to come to the aid of Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by many women of pursuing them when they were teenagers, and engaging in sexual contact with a girl when she was just 14.
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The difficult road for ex-Muslims even in the US

It is hard for Muslims to renounce Islam. In 13 Muslim-majority countries such an act is punishable by death but even in other countries that are more secular, there is tremendous family and community pressure to stay within the faith. People who say they no longer believe can face being ostracized even by the members of their immediate families. Given the close-knit nature of Asian families and the strong deference expected to be shown by children to their parents, it is extremely hard for young people to do anything that might harm those ties.
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The M-word

In my review of the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, I wanted to discuss one weakness and that was the role played by Peter Dinklage but I faced the quandary of how to describe him without being offensive. I was not sure if the word ‘dwarf’ was acceptable. I had read somewhere that the term ‘Little People’ was preferred by members of the community but it seemed a little awkward (to my ears at least) but I was not sure if it had become the exclusively preferred term.
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The weird world of social media celebrity

The world of online social media influencers seems to be wider and more menacing than celebrities covertly shilling, a phenomenon that I wrote about yesterday. People who have not acquired fame elsewhere in other fields can apparently become purely YouTube and Instagram celebrities with a whole lot of passionate fans who follow the minutiae of their adored one’s lives with almost obsessive devotion. I wrote earlier about this phenomenon in China but it is apparently big here in the US too.
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Film review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

I wrote two days ago about how the trailer for this film was so good that it made me want to see it. So I did yesterday. It is definitely a film worth watching though a little different from what I was expecting. The trailer seemed to indicate that it was a comedy, and though there are many very funny moments in it, it is at heart a serious film dealing with important issues.
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The assault on American higher education

If you have been following news about things happening on US university campuses, you might have got the impression that they are hotbeds of indoctrination and intolerance, where radical students have taken them over and are imposing a rigid orthodoxy in speech and thought. This is an image that is being widely promoted by the right-wing as part of their assault on higher education, as this article illustrates.
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