Dec. 23, 2012: Hey, guess what? The world didn’t end on Friday.

Yes, apocalypse fanatics aside, life goes on. Dec. 21, 2012 has come and gone, and the world continues to turn. The only impending change of any significance is that most people will forget all about the Mayan civilization over the next few months.

Speaking of not learning from history, how long will we have to wait for the next apocalypse myth?

With that said, I am currently visiting family and, due to a set of serious hardware issues with my laptop, do not have access to my normal computer setup. As such, I don’t have the means to open hundreds of news stories at a time, the way I usually do to enrich the articles here. I think it would be best to just take a momentary break and pick up where we left off once my schedule is a little more predictable again.

The blog is currently on hiatus. Regular postings will resume this fall, after the completion of my Ph.D.

Dec. 16, 2012: MY LAST POST EVER! MAYBE!

…Well, actually, only if you still buy into all that 2012 apocalypse chatter. If the world ends next Friday, I’ll be hard-pressed to post on Sunday, won’t I? But let’s be honest: if it’s anything like all the Y2K hubbub, we’ll just watch a few end-of-the-world parties unfold and then go back to our daily lives.

While you’re almost certain to see another post here next week, this one will be a bit shorter than usual, as I feel that it’s appropriate to focus on just one news item this week: the school shooting in Connecticut.

On Friday morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza of Newtown began the day by shooting his mother in the face with one of her own guns. He then grabbed at least two more of her firearms, and with no less than three semi-automatic weapons on hand, donned camouflage gear and embarked on a two-mile trek to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Upon arriving, Lanza forced his way into the school, firing several rounds through the front door in order to bypass the newly-installed security system before marching into the building. As teachers and staff frantically tried to call the police and hide the children, Lanza went on a rampage, entering one classroom after another and killing as many children and adults as he could find.

A chilling intercom broadcast alerted other students and teachers to the danger. It’s not clear whether the intercom was activated for morning announcements, or whether it was switched on for the sole purpose of informing the school, but classes across the school heard their principal’s cries and screams as she lunged at Lanza; her efforts to delay the shooter’s progress cost Principal Dawn Hochsprung her life. While the broadcast was surely traumatic, it served its purpose, giving teachers a few precious extra moments to safeguard their students before Lanza reached them.

As Lanza began his attack, several other courageous individuals took action, some losing their lives in the process of protecting those around them.

One librarian, Mary Ann Jacob, shouted “Lockdown!” to alert her fourth-grade students, then crawled with them into a storage closet and barricaded the door — which had no locking mechanism — with a file cabinet. Only when police officers slipped a badge under the door did the teacher and her students remove the barricade.

First-grade teacher Vicki Leigh Soto “put herself between the kids and the gunman’s bullets.” She hid her first-graders in the closet so that when the shooter arrived, he would think that the room was otherwise empty. The 27-year-old teacher’s ploy worked. Lanza killed her and then, seeing no children in the room, moved elsewhere to look for other targets.

This is the face of a hero.

Even some of the students acted to protect their classmates, keeping their classmates calm and ushering them to safety during the evacuation to a nearby fire station.

But not everyone was fortunate enough to escape the attack. All told, Lanza murdered 20 children and six adult women at the school before killing himself. Counting the culprit and his mother, a total of 28 lives were extinguished in this horrific assault.

All of the 20 children who Lanza murdered came from two first grade classes. According to reports, “It came out pretty quickly that there were almost two full classes missing.” One of the girls who was killed had just turned seven on Tuesday.

Even more disturbingly, every single one of the 12 girls, eight boys, and six adult women who Lanza killed was shot multiple times, according to Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II. When asked about the autopsy, Carver called it “the worst I have seen.

The attack was the deadliest incident at an elementary school in U.S. history. It is also the second-deadliest shooting at an American school of any level; only the 2006 Virginia Tech assault claimed more lives.

As the shock turns to grief, figures from around the world offer their well wishes to those affected by the tragedy, and parents are reminded just how fragile and precious their children’s lives are, the key question that remains is what could have prompted such viciousness. It does not appear that Lanza did any special preparation for the attack, but rather spontaneously went on a killing spree. So what could have driven Adam Lanza, pictured below, to maliciously kill every child and teacher he could find?

Adam Lanza

Well, that’s one question for which we’re still trying to get answers. Police are still investigating the matter, including why Lanza would target an elementary school, of all places. (Contrary to early reports, it does not appear that Lanza’s mother was a substitute teacher at the school or affiliated with it in any other capacity.)

Lanza reportedly suffered from a personality disorder, and his older brother described him as “somewhat autistic.” Other descriptions included “loner” and “a genius and a computer geek.”

Notably, Lanza visited the school the day before the shooting and got into a “wild argument” with four of the teachers. Three of those teachers were among the six whom Lanza killed; the fourth was not at school on Friday. The sole survivor of the altercation has been interviewed by police, and reporters are speculating that her statement may hold the key to Lanza’s motive.

Shockingly, the mass murder in Connecticut wasn’t the only such plot that day. In Oklahoma, a Bartlesville High School student was arrested in his home at 4:30 a.m. on Friday following reports of a planned attack during that schoolday. Evidently, 18-year-old Sammie Eaglebear Chavez had tried to convince other students to help him lure classmates into the auditorium, where he would then chain the doors shut and start shooting them. He also reportedly planned to place bombs at the auditorium doors and denotate them when police arrived.

Many believe that the tragic events on Friday are bound to stir up fresh debate on gun control laws in the U.S., and some say that the latest shooting may be the tipping point that forces Congress to take action. In a statement responding to the tragedy, President Obama appeared to agree, telling reporters that “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

Rather than focusing on laws or politics, however, most are directing their attention to honoring the memories of the children and teachers who we lost two days ago. From candlelight prayer vigils to Twitter mementos, everyone is finding their own way to grieve and to leave one last memento of their parents, children, colleagues, and friends. And you have to feel for those parents who had to ask police to tell them about their children’s final moments.

It is easy for us to think about tragedies like these for a few months and then, if we don’t personally know someone who was involved, move on with our lives. After all, it’s only been a few months since James Holmes’ attack on 70 unsuspecting moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, yet that incident crossed few people’s minds today. Perhaps this time, we can make the memory, at least, last a little longer. Perhaps this time, if there is anything for us to learn from this massacre, we can keep those lessons with us.

Other articles of interest:
Tensions rise as Egyptians vote on new constitution
Police: 8 year old Girl Gang Raped by 4 Boys
Torrance DUI suspect hits pedestrian, drives 2 miles with dying man stuck in windshield
Catholic basketball schools announce Big East departure
Barack Obama Tells NHL and Players to ‘Do Right by Your Fans’
ESPN’s Rob Parker Suspended After Calling Robert Griffin III a “Cornball Brother”
Stunning Geminid Meteor Shower Wows Skywatchers
New meteor shower might coincide with 2012 Geminids!
Nearly 1 million in Mass. exposed to secondhand smoke from neighbors
Ray Kurzweil Joins Google In Full-Time Engineering Director Role; Will Focus On Machine Learning, Language Processing
Wal-Mart puts iPhone 5 on sale for $127; are iPhone sales dragging?
Google Maps, Apple Maps, What Each Can’t Find
Why Making Robots Is So Darn Hard
Opening the Doors to the Life of Pi
Scientists pinpoint the age of cheese: 7,000 years old and counting

Dec. 9, 2012: Unicorns Exist.

…Yeah.

Although some of the details are still emerging, North Korea’s state-owned Korean Central News Agency first reported on November 29 that leading archaeologists had discovered the remains of a “unicorn lair” in Pyongyang, North Korea. The story indicated that the Academy of Social Sciences had “reconfirmed a lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong, founder of the Koguryo Kingdom.”

Their evidence: a rock carved with the words “Unicorn Lair.” That’s irrefutable!

Science.

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Dec. 2, 2012: Chiefs Linebacker Commits Murder-Suicide, Glass Found in Anti-Cholesterol Medication

How about we shake things up a bit this week? Let’s start with some sports news for a change.

College football’s regular season came to an end yesterday, with the Alabama Crimson Tide edging out the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship, 32-28, to win a national title shot against the undefeated Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish boast the second-stingiest defense in college football, with approximately 10.33 points allowed per game. Only Alabama itself allows fewer points per game: 10.31.

In hockey, federal mediators have failed to resolve the stalemate in the NHL’s labor talks, leaving the entire season’s cancellation feeling more likely by the day, while my St. Louis Blues’ inability to even win a virtual hockey game grows just as paramount. (Thanks, EA Sports.)

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Nov. 25, 2012: Egypt’s New Dictator, Black Friday Fury, and Mammograms

I know it’s tempting to kick off the week with the obvious local Black Friday headlines, but let’s start with a wider gaze, shall we? You probably recall the Arab Spring that began unfolding around two years ago. It’s not clear, however, if the revolution did the region much good.

Egypt, which featured a great deal of positive press coverage during the revolution, is perhaps the most obvious example, as it is now under the thumb of new president Mohammad Morsi. On Wednesday, Morsi won widespread praise for his role in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas forces — many commentators in western nations called out Morsi for apparent partisanship toward the Hamas faction, but much of his own country hailed his work as a shining success. On Thursday, however, he stunned the people in his fledgling democracy by granting himself incredibly broad new powers, making his own unilateral decisions trump those of any Egyptian court.

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Nov. 18, 2012: Hamas Leader Killed in Air Strike

Let’s get straight into the big news item of the week. As you’re surely already aware, Israel has been fighting with Palestinian forces for many years, with consistent hostility between the two groups. Last week, for instance, southern Israel was being pummeled by rockets from Hamas, the terrorist organization which controls the Gaza Strip, in addition to a few stray shells from Syria. In a major turn of events, however, Israel’s most recent air strike, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, was a successful assassination of Hamas’ military commander, Ahmed Jabari.

The Wednesday attack further destroyed over 20 underground rocket launchers belonging to Hamas and the affiliated Islamic Jihad, which Israeli leaders hope will neutralize much of the long-range threat against their nation. Hamas, on the other hand, said that Israel “has opened the gates of hell,” and promised a vicious response. Hamas official Ismail al-Ashqar says that the organization plans to “burn Israeli cities” with attacks that may include suicide bombings similar to those employed by al Qaeda operatives.

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Nov. 11, 2012: President Barack Obama Wins Re-Election

The presidential election reached its conclusion late Tuesday night, with incumbent Barack Obama earning a second term in the Oval Office over challenger Mitt Romney. The result thrilled Obama’s supporters, who waited well past midnight to hear their candidate proclaim victory under the night sky in Chicago, reviving the inspirational rhetoric that drove voters in 2008. And it was a night of anguish for the Romney camp, with the team searching for an explanation — after all, if Romney had merely received as many votes as John McCain did in 2008, he would have won the election — and with Republicans astonishingly losing ground in the Senate when they hoped to instead overtake the left-wing majority.

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