My Zunivers

31 May 2005

Maryland and Ohio

I survived the trip to my wife's parents' house. I had beef and chicken.


I want to make a quick note, before I go, on some sad news from Ohio that a few of you have probably heard. The town of Bellfontaine, Ohio is a wonderful place, if their ambassador to my school is representative of the general population. In fact, I think I know someone else from there but I can't remember who it is. Anyway, keep them in your prayers this week (or do whatever you non-praying people do).

26 May 2005

Big Business Sucks Nads

One of the major banks, I don't feel like looking up which one, is releasing new credit cards to all customers in the coming months. The new cards have RF chips along with the magnetic strips. This makes them easier to scan. This all sounds well and cool, but we actually have a problem on our hands. The credit card people are making these new credit cards signature-free. In other words, along with using these cards in an RF scanner, one does not need to hand the card to anyone, show the card to anyone, sign anything, or do anything like provide an address.

This is being done, by the way, in the name of security. Does anyone else think the situation is a little absurd?

This particular bank, under the headline of "new, convenient RF chip cards" or some such, is making the cards more convenient not by the RF chip itself but by streamlining the way that the card is used, a point tucked away in the article such that you'd never know it from the headline and opening paragraphs that applaud the RF chips. They could do the same streamlining with a magnetic strip card, but I honestly think that they feel the need to hide the steamlining behind some other heading. Big businesses are quite into making us do things their way or the hard way. If you don't believe me, go to Wal-Mart and try to find the clothing you want, rather than wanting the clothing they have. Or cars. Do you buy cars that look like and do exactly what you want, or do you buy from among what is available?

I don't like this streamlining. What it means is that people who take your card and use it, no questions asked. Granted, there are few questions asked now, but there are a lot of places where people who use credit cards and are forced to sign or provide a billing address. The only situations where you can skip the necessities are in places like gas stations, where purchases are always small and credit card purchase amounts are limited (because the necessities aren't required, really, not the other way around).

I honestly don't see what the trouble is with having pin numbers for all cards of any kind, credit or debit. The only problem I see is the one where the credit card company has to pay to set up the infrastructure. Oh, lok, here we are again. The big business bottom line is imposed on us.

Of course, my problem is less with the cards themselves than with two things. The first is the already mentioned "it wil be mroe secure this way" because "the card never leaves the consumer's hand." Um, yeah, most missing credit card problems are because people drop their cards. Even if that's true, the best soultion should not make other kinds of credit card misuse (stolen cards, internet transactions) easier if the card does get lost.

The second problem I have, though, is the brainless people who applaud our computer based financial and information systems. Sure, it's "efficient." It's very efficient, until people open an instant credit account in someone else's name and use it, at which point it becomes very inefficient for the person whose name was used but only a single, few minute case fraud case and a few dollars lost for the credit card company. It's very efficient until hackers steal and sell information, at which point the bank says

"We're sorry our system wasn't secure. They can't be perfectly secure, you know, but don't tell Joe Public about that because he should be able to see past all of our 'your data is safe with us' propoganda and already know. It's now your job to fix everything that might be wrong because it's your data and we didn't give it away to thsoe crooks. And don't think about suing us for any damages you face from our being neglegent. Who cares if electronic stuff isn't secure. We have a whole barrel full of smoked red herrings to offer, like paper is not perfectly secure either and it's not our fault that we do business the way we choose becasue our bus=iness is run by little birdies-- they all are these days-- so it's someone else's fault. And besides, if you did sue us, only your lawyers would make any money from our last minute out-of-court settelment that we probably won't need to offer because our lawyers are better anyway. Look on the bright side-- we don't use paper records anymore. You can get credit approved now in minutes instead of weeks, so your life is so much improved over that paper age because you are so stupid as to think you benefit from not havign to wait for anythign material in yoru life. By the way, we're offering mortgage rates of 4.35% APR on fixed rate loans to qualified customers. See your local branch for details. We know you will, because all the other banks do business just like we do so you can't get anything better by changing."

Compouter based economics is very efficient for anyone, until something goes wrong, at which point it becomes inefficient. But is it more inefficient for the people who have the system imposed upon them than the people who made the system. Everyone with a bank acocunt has their records, including lots of things the bankss get that have nothing to do with your acocunt (they don't sell your information but they do buy it), in their computers.

Don't give me that "People just shouldn't have bank accounts if they are so paranoid about it" crap. It's a nice theory, but our culture requires bank accounts. Culture, although abstaract, is a real, not imaginary, thing. And besides, if you can't do it yourself then I don't think you should be telling other people to do it.

I hope that people are so weirded out by computer held personal information that they work together to do something about it. I am opposed to not having people check signatures, having central databases of personal information, national ID cards (directly or via standards for other ID cards), and electronic check scans being equally useful as the originals. I don't really like direct deposits or automatic bill payment, either. And I cnertainly don't approve of biometric credit card readers, which put very personal data either on a card on in a comptuer database, two palces where it can be stolen.

Most people, sadly, don't get it.

25 May 2005

Computers Suck, Today Anyway....

I spent today fighting with computers.

Chelsea is working just fine, but I had an extended fight today with some long-winded C++ code.

Heidi had a new OS install, again. I need to get a bigger hard drive for her so that I can better work with what I'd like to use. (Do you know how fricking expensive antique hard drives are? I mean the shipping, which runs aroudn $10.00, doubling the price.) Tomorrow I'm going on an ancient computer hunt-and-gut around the department. I also need to get the necessary parts to run her at school. Like I said, I need a mouse, keyboard, and NIC (which I can't gut without specific permission, since the suckers can be tracked). I know some people who might have a junker or two that I can gut for free, unless they got rid of the things in the past few weeks. Once I have the parts, I need to set up for LAN access. Oh, and I can't even find any information about these two antique video cards to determine which one is better, the Trident 975 or Cirrus CL-GD5465. Let me know if you have a clue.

I learned all about Condor, which is a scheduler we have on our Beowulf clusters. Now I need to get down to the nitty-gritty, like exactly how to submit jobs with varying parameters and how my programs are supposed to output things so that I can get the results. Then, once I'm done fighting with the code on Chelsea (and/or Heidi, once I have her on my desk, online and stable), I can compile it and get to work.

All this comptuer fighting has my head hurting.

24 May 2005

Read something else for a change...

I'm going to let a South African do my posting tonight. It's longer than my posts, and probably boring for many of you, but I can think of a few former roommates who may be interested in The Science and Religion Dialogue: Where It Stands Today and Why It Matters.

Read it.

George Ellis is a physicist. What I enjoyed about this article is that I have often thought quite frankly about the relationship between knowing and being. Ellis briefly takes on the same quesiton in this paper, and he and I come to the same conclusions. Lack of evidence does not imply non-existence and evidence does not imply existence.

When religion and science matters pop up at my school, I often go on an active hunt for statements that confuse knowing and being. Although most people don't realize it because they don't understand the words I'm using (physicists usually have no philosophical vocabulary), the hardest intellectual bodyslam that I, in my opinion, ever throw is "Your epistemology is crossing your ontology." (© 2003) That usually ends the conversation immidiately. I like to think it's because I win the debate, but I'm pretty sure it's actually because I confuse people too much.

I should make t-shirts. Nobody would bother me again, ever. (I'm thinking about one of John Polkinghorne's favorite stories involving a similar but contradictory t-shirt.)

Sadly, I am not going to be able to attend the Metaxexus Institute conference in Philadelphis in a few weeks. Registration is in excess of of my spending money. It's too bad, really, because I could use that kind of atmosphere to recharge my intellectual batteries. George Ellis and a whole bunch of people I'd like to meet will be there, and maybe they would each like a free shirt.

23 May 2005

Weddings, Impotence and Bachelors

I went to another wedding today.

This time it was a guy that I knew when I was younger but who I have not seen in, well, ages, actually. I think the last time was probably summer or late fall 2000 or so. Overall, it was a pleasant day to talk to a few old friends. My wife was terrified of these people before we got to see them (shyness) and even more terrified afterwards (conversations about delivering the bubbles via drinking the fluid with a Mexican meal, and fluctuations thereabouts).

Honey, you need to know, these people greatly influenced my development as a person, and there really isn't anything wrong with us (me and them, cursed language with too few pronouns). Socially unacceptable to outside parties, maybe, but not wrong. We know each other well enough that we know near whom we can say what without getting clobbered. Today's socializing group happened to contain a portion of the least proper of the bunch (in other words, youth group buddies and people like them), so gas it was... whenever there was nothing better to toot. And the groom, by the way, is very much at home with the crowd we were with. We carried on with his true spirit (pun intended).

Any of you who want to know about dresses and table settings and such, or any other relevant details that I left out because I always think outside the box, will have to go to NEB's blog... if she writes about it.

Let's switch gears...

My general observation on weddings is that they are short. I mean short. Very short. I think this is probably a symbol of male staying power on the virginal wedding night. You see, in a culture where so many people mix up the proper order of loss of virginity and eternal commitment, we need something on the wedding day that lasts for only a few minutes when it should last longer. (FYI, I'm saying this as an overall cultural statement, not an individual slam to any of you who I know made the mix up and occasionally need to come to terms with it. God can forgive.)

One final ramble...

This winter I realized that my ideas on education did not have a place for mothers who are educated but not using their education. I came to this realization while talking to some friends for whom this overeducated housemother thing is true, and I remember being completely embarassed because I shifted my opinion mid sentence and then tried to explain myself. But since my friends weren't in my head, they didn't see the shift, they only saw what was on the outside, which made me look like I was intentionally bumbling around to try to make an excuse of why the individual mother in the conversation was different.

It was actually an internal paradigm shift (still sort of in motion, to tell you the truth) and the bumbling was the normal bumbling that is to be expected when a cranial load topples mid-voyage, making one side of the head too heavy and causing mental dizziness. So sometime I'll explain my modified my theory for you. For tonight, I thought you would just be happy to hear this story, which you'll probably find more interesting than the theory anyway.

A readership audit

If you've been reading and you want to come out of the closet, let me know. I'm not much for comments, because I don't really care what you think, but I'm surious to know how many people, of the couple of dozen people I invited here, actually waste their time reading this garbage.

Actually, it's not garbage. I'm just being hyperbolic because I'm truly not as much interested in fame and such as I am in whether or not people who I know take a look at what I have on my mind. I'm a writer, not a talker, and I put things here that I would never dare say. I expect to get about six responses to this audit, but more would be a pleasant surprise.

If you don't know my e-mail address, I now have the e-mail ink up and running in my profile. It goes to my spambox, not to one of my regular e-mail accounts, because I don't post my real e-mail address online or use them when I see "Sign up for..." I don't get spam in those accounts, by the way. (Long story, but my system of accounts is due to a circa 1999 suggestion of a webmaster at a major ISP. My real account has been running since then and has gotten less than a dozen spam messages in these six years.) Anyway, if you use the e-mail link and want a response, I may not write back for a week or so because I only check the junk every once in a while, or when I buy things online.

No matter where you send your note, put the word "blog" somewhere in the subject line so I can find it easily. You don't need to comment on anything or smack your brains around to try to think of something to say. A blank message will suffice.

22 May 2005

Gender and Personality

It's a double post morning, because I wanted to go back and pretend that I cared about personailty tests again. I think I've warmed up to some ways of sorting people, as they seem to be reliable so long as you remember the limitations and are careful about the language used. I'm particularly interested in MBTI based Jungian categorizations. I'm more interested in sociological quesrtions of culture than in psychological questions of behavior, however, so you sociology haters had better be bored to death by this.

According to statistics I've seen, I find the disturbing fact that E outnumbers I about 65/35, and S outnumbers N by a similar margin. Even in my little physics world, where I spend more time getting to know people than doing physics (because I seem to be Everybody's Favorite Introvert everywhere I go dispite being, well, crochetly ol' me), and I'm convinced that a third to half of them are E types. Remember that in the Jungian system E and I have much less to do with how social a person is than whether their primary function is internal or external. Almost all of these physics types enjoy quiet time and are lonely unless surrounded by geeks, but a third to half of them wear their primary function on the outside.

Such numbers are good and bad for us fringe types. It turns our social lives into Inferno. At the same time, it will give us more power when we end up dominating the world. My type (remember, I'm not disclosing it, but you can get some hints in the archives) will, upon seeing the tide turn our way, break forth from our shells and rule the world, passively, using others as our tongues and hands, of course. Heck, one look at Karl Rove should prove that we already do. He and I do share something-- we enjoy quietly manipulting the ESTJ and mildly unintelligent culture that dominates America.

Anyway, I am interested in T/F results and gender correlation. So are psychologists, so it's easy to find statistics on T/F. The T/F split for men is 60/40 and for women is 40/60. What's harder to determine, and what actually interests me more than numbers, is strength of development of tertiary/inferior F functions for women compared to men. My guess is the following: T women have better developed F sides than T males.

If this is true, though, then MBTI tests may be a problem for T women. In fact, having F men with highly developed T functions will cause a symmetrical problem. Well developed tertiary/inferior functions will screw up the tests like nothing else. Consider the following-- some women may naturally be thinkers, but they have been taught that women are emotional, not thinking, so they have learned quite well to process emotions to feed the thinking function because they are "supposed to be" emotional. This can, through various means and to various extents for different I, E, N, S, J, and P combinations, make a T look more F-like in the test. I don't know how much of an issue this is, and I probably never will because I can't devote enough time to finding out.

Let's shift focus, though, to Christian culture. All women are feelers, all men are thinkers, we are told. Well, not in those words, because everyone can tell that such a statement is false when it is made that plainly, but when it comes to application we find that women are supposedly feelers and men are supposedly thinkers. And men are more fact oriented while women are more process oriented. Todgers are fact-oriented litle boys with big brains while fannies are analyzing little girls with big hearts, or something, and so havign such thinigs attached to our midsections makes us who we are.

Considering the 60-40 splits, this is nonsense from the get-go. Consider couples. Only 36% of randomly matched couples would be this combination, with 16% completely in reverse and 48% with both feelers or both thinkers. All that this proves, however, is that I can multiply probabilities, because mating may not be random, although there is a quite a bit of evidence that mating is random across MBTI types. So this fiddley-diddly about what personalities men and women have should be alienating some two-thirds of couples. And what of the nearly 50/50 splits for the other MBTI categories, regardless of gender? We should have a lot of confued individual women and men out there in the pews, too.

Telling us men's and women's personalities to people's satisfaction can mean only one of two things. Either Christians have a very different in personality cross section than the rest of the world, or that people are easily duped into believing whatever they are told.

Let me tell you, I have friends at church who I can tell, as they babble about such male-female differences, do not themselves match up with such gender-equals-personality hocus-pocus. One exmaple is a cuddly guy I know who is so F-type it's not funny but who talks about how men are thinkers and women feelers. Similarly, I know a gentle "model-submissive" woman who, quite frankly, looks very tame but is no doubt willing to eat her husband for not letting her be independent enough.

I think that these folks and their spouses would grow more in their relationships if they looked at how they really are as people, rather than how they "really are" because the church keeps telling them that's how they must obviously be, based on genitalia.

Quite frankly, I think the church needs to get its act together on this matter. There is a difference between gender roles and gender personalities, and there is a huge grey gap between Christian culture and Christian truth when it comes to genders.

A gender role is how a person should behave in culture. A role answers the question "What is proper conduct and what is a proper lifestyle?" A personality, on the other hand, relates to internal behavior, an individual characteristic. Knowing someone's personality will answer "What are this person's natural tendancies?" and "How can we relate to this person?"

The church has no business assigning personalities, and indeed the church cannot do so. Personalities are fundamental properties of an individual. If the church took on such a stupid task then the best that could happen is people feeling guilty for being the "wrong" way and the worst that can happen is that it can make Christians look like idiots. Actually, let me rephrase that. Our overall culture is basically ESTJ, and Christian culture reflects this. Most people won't feel guilty because, SJs and with IQs of about 100 as they mostly are, people just accept whatever crap you give them in the name of God's Will. I stand by the part about idiocy, though. And you know what? The church has taken on this stupid task, as any trip to a Christian bookstore will show.

The church does, I feel, have business in assigning gender roles. But remember how I contrasted culture and truth? The church should be in the business of Truth. Culture is important, obviously, as we are beings of culture. But the church cannot dictate culture as right and wrong unless that culture violates truths. The church should, for example, support cultural elements that deter sin (an example of such deterrence is criminal justice systems).

My question, though, for standard Christian Talking Heads is this-- What truth on gender roles is upheld by insisting on gender personalities?

I don't have an answer.

I dont' expect one. The SJ combination, left uncontrolled in people of average brain, often snogs tradition without end, saying "because it is that way" and making babies who say the same. There's nothing more frustrating to me than people who insist on something, are given both facts and structures that demonstrate their pet fact to be totally wrong, and yet go back to their fact, now wrecked and burning, as if it's still all shiny and nice and proves their point. It's people like that, and believe me they do dominate the world, who make me want to pee something.

Anyway, all told, I think that the asignment of personalities to genders in Christian culture only works because people are duped.

It would be much nicer if, instead of this gender-based personality babble, Christians had a minimal set of personality independent rules for men and women of any personality to follow. Doing this we could embrace truth while allowing for flexability in culture, letting it be a natural outflow of personality. Then my cuddly guy friend could and his wife, or the husband eater and her uneaten husband, could make better choices than the ones they think they must make to be like American Chritianity's model men and women (who don't really exist, but let's not let any average-minded SJ types find out, okay?).

Fat chance, but it would still be nice.

[edited for content 5/23]

Where's a penderwydd when you need one?

Something surreal happened today. I was reading Stephen Lawhead's The Paradise War when I heard a knock at the door, and a bard entered my apartment, bearing an oaken staff and speaking in a tongue.... Oh, wait, it wasn't that.

There was a knock at the door, and I was quite pleased and amused to find, upon opening the door, one of my old roomates and his wife grinning back at me. (These are the people whose wedding I attended back when I scored three points on the PA Turnpike.) It was pleasant surprise, and we chatted for only a few minutes, all of us being rather nerdy masters of social graces and whatsits, but it was nice to see them.

My wife came home and was Bitterly Disappointed that she had missed them, so she went on a Wild Goose Chase for a cell phone number. That obtained, she called them, and much to the ruin of my surreal day, they came back again before leaving town.

Now, back to Lawhead for a moment, I must thank Peter for reminding me that I didn't finish the Song of Albion trilogy twelve years ago when I should have done so. (See his blog post, 8 May 2005, I'm too lazy to link.) I bought The Silver Hand the day it was released in paperback, circa 1993. My hopes for a surprise in The Endless Knot, which I still have not purchased, have been slightly diluted thanks to Peter's mentioning the bulldozers and such, but I look forward to it anyway.

21 May 2005

Computers and Star Wars

{Boring Computer Stuff}

I found a computer last night. With the help of my spare keyboard and trackball, and a few wiggles on its innards, I have a functioning computer. After getting it to run and finding nothign fun on the hard drive, I repartitioned the drive and installed Fedora Core 3. I know, that's a weighty OS for a 4GB hard drive. I still have a gig free. I need another hard drive, and I think I know where to get one. I also need a real keyboard, real mouse, a real network card, and some real power cables.

My hope is to get the thing to my desk at school and use it as a workstation terminal to check my e-mail and debug code, so I don't need boatloads of resources. For those interested, it is a 333MHz Celeron system (circa 1998, from CTX, remember them?), 384MB RAM, and a 15 inch CRT that happened to be with it.

I got all of this for free. Remember how Thursday is trash night? I found it by the road-- a curbside special. And it is actually a her, and her name is Heidi. But she's no cutie. Oh, no. She's going to help me tame the most viscious of CS beasts, the Condor of Blaze, Beowulf Cluster. All I need to do is master the Methods of Root... or call the computing center and say "Hey, get this thing working as a workstation for me, will ya? Thanks awfully."

The part that should worry you is that I coudl get a decent computer from Dell for about $500, and that computer would be so much better. I'm cheap, though, and I'm enough of a geek that I will enjoy the constant "Where'd you get the computer?" "Oh, I found her in someone's trash. And her name's Heidi."

{/Boring Computer Stuff}

I saw the final installment of Star Wars, and I was very happy with it as a movie. We all know what happens, so piss on yourself if you think I'm spoiling anything. I was upset by a few minor things, the greatest of which is Natalie Portman acting the part of the pregnant woman. I've seen a lot of pregnant women, and I can tell you this-- none of them move as if they had nothing but a large fluff of Poly-Fill on their tummies. I'm all in favor of making actresses who play pregnant women wear a 25 pound mass of material strapped to themselves just to keep them from prancing around like virgin fawns with massless potbellies. There is nothing wrong with the way that real pregnant women move about, and in fact there is something naturally beautiful about it. We should celebrate it, not mock it or ignore it. And besides, it's hard work.

I would like to point out that a theme not commonly discussed in the Star Wars criticism is that of democracy. We hear all about good and evil, but not about democracy. I hope this movie brings us a better discussion of the ways that a democracy can fall. Or is that discussion already beginning? See David Germain's AP article here. I've seen a few things in the past twenty years that have made me say "This is how liberty dies." I've actually used those words. Rather than fret over it, I simply plan to eventually leave the country. I'm resigned to the fact that an America, once mighty, will fall. I have no regrets about being here, and when the time comes I will have no regrets about leaving. The world cycles, and a once mighty nation is now in decline, so I'll just go find one that's rising and be done with it.

20 May 2005

A veto?

Hey, look at this.

It's about frickin' time, George!

19 May 2005

Second Thoughts

This has nothing to do with my anniversary. I'm happy to be married to my wife.

This brief discussion centers on nonsense found here.

Note the following statement:

"Normally, a small earthquake might last less than a second; a moderate sized earthquake might last a few seconds. This earthquake lasted between 500 and 600 seconds (at least 10 minutes)," said Charles Ammon, associate professor of geosciences at Penn State University.

I'm thinking of writing to Dr. Ammon to see if the conclusion that "between 500 and 600 seconds" equals a time of "at least ten minutes" belongs to him or the AP.

Obviously, 600 seconds is ten minutes, so "at least ten minutes" would be "600 or more seconds," not "between 500 and 600 seconds."

See, people? You don't want to try being me....

Nothing in Particular

Okay, so yesterday (Tuesday) was primary election day in Pennsylvania, and I was among the twenty odd percent of registered voters who voted.

I voted in favor of the huge bond issues to pay for environmental cleanup, and I voted for one or two offices that were not cross-listed candidates who numbered fewer than the number of open slots (school-boards, township supervisors, etc. all fall into this category, where everyone who is running wins the primary and most of them get into office). One was county executive, with two republicans running. I think there was another... maybe.

The most important local election here is actually Allentown mayor, but I don't live in Allentown, so I can't vote. Heydt will hopefully be able to pull off a victory.

(By the way, if you're wondering whether I voted for Santorum, check the constitution. We've been over this already.)

My wife and I had a hopefully productive conversation about our relationship. I'm reminded right now of what happens when I take IQ and EQ (emotional inteligence) tests. The reults are basically "If Mensa hears about this, they'll be begging for you. But sadly you have the emotional sensitivity of a piece of rebar bent into the shape of a deranged ducky." So, honey, I'm sorry for always quacking things up.

I'm weird. We went to lunch with some friends on Sunday, and in the middle of Perkins I broke a french fry in half and stuck the two halves into my ears. My special thanks to my friends for liking me anyway.

I didn't go to see Star Wars because Thursday is our anniversary.

The Newsboys did disco. It's really disco, but it doesn't beat Mullins doing country.

Beethoven's Mass in C doesn't get enough credit. The Missa Solemnis gets all of the credit instead. They're both great, but the Mass is the underdog, and I cheer for any beautiful underdog.

Heidi Reeder was nice enough to send me her paper. In fact, she was bubbly nice, and she hoped that I stayed curious about sociology. It was the nicest response I've ever gotten from a social scientist when I've asked for a paper. And you know what? I wouldn't mind working at Boise State....

I had a nice walk tonight.

I sometimes feel like I don't have friends. Sure, I have friends, but they aren't my friends as much as friends of both me and my wife. I guess that's what happens to shy introverts. Our society champions extroversion, so we introverts have to get our jollies in subtle ways.

18 May 2005


I don't have time to post. My wife stayed up late and I got a round of "you're not like me, so you should go to counseling to improve our relationship." Or something like that. So my thinking time is gone.

17 May 2005

Booze it up!

I just wanted to point out that today marks the first ever election day in Pennsylvania with open state liquor stores. (If it's stronger than beer, the only way you can buy it and take it home in Pennsylvania is to go to a state liquor store.) Previously, liquor stores were always closed on election days.

Roughy on Stomachs and Socionazis

Sorry I didn't post last night. I had a tummy ailment over the weekend.

My apologies to anyone I know who gets sick. You see, I didn't tell you before I spent time with you because, quite frankly, people are too paranoid about getting sick. Passing diseases is a normal part of life, but sick people get treated like scum because they can make other people sick. That's pretty selfish. Of course, nobody who reads this ever spends time with me (at least not that I know; let me know if you're out there), except my wife who already knew I was sick.

My point is that I didn't post because I was zonked, so I fell asleep on the couch before midnight and didn't wake up until after 6:00.

Everyone has been talking about Star Wars Episode III, which will appear in theatres on Thursday. I won't.

I have been thinking recently about cross-sex friendships, but I don't have anything new to say about the subject. Its'a frustrating cultural cycle, and I can't break it.

Actually, there is one thing that I can say about the subject. I've sent an e-mail to Heidi Reeder to ask her for a copy of her 2000 paper on cross-sex friendships. My school library doesn't have the journal, so asking the author is worth a try. I've heard tell that this paper actually works toward generating a cross-sex friendship vocabulary by defining different kinds of attraction. I've also heard that this paper contains some interesting results on sexual attraction declining as cross-sex friendships progress. In other words, this article has stuff that I just have to get my hands on.

So maybe I'll get a copy and maybe I won't. You never know how these social science types will feel about sharing articles. Physicists never hesitate to share with random beggars, but social science types usually tell you to go buy your own copy and leave me alone, thank you.

On the subject of social sciences, I'm curious to know exactly what people's problems are with sociology. I had serious issues with sociology myself, until I took a class in the subject. That was so long ago that I have forgotten my objections. Sadly, I can't get anyone to remind me.

A little while back I did a survey among my physics friends and found that

1) all of them thought sociology was stupid, deplorable, detestable, worthless, and other nasty things

2) none of them could define sociology

3) none of them had ever taken a sociology course of any kind

My only conclusion was that this is a NAOMP matter ("No Anchovies On My Pizza").

You see, the only other time I've found this sort of arrogant unawareness is in the subject of anchovies on pizza. I like asking people two questions about anchovies in random order-- "Do you like anchovies on your pizza?" and "Have you ever had anchovies on your pizza?" If you ask the questions in the given order you usually are told "No" and "No." Strangely, if you ask the same people the same questions in the opposite order, the answers become "No" and "Gee, I don't know. I've never had them." If you ask them in the order given and follow up with "How do you know if you like them if you've never had them?" you usually get the embarassed stammering of someone who is unhappy to have been had. In other words, if people are freely allowed to pass judgment on anchovies they jump to disliking whether or not they have a basis for deciding, but if reminded that they have no basis for making a decision they will then refuse to make it.

I see the same fishy bahavior when it comes to disliking sociology. In fact, I suspect that I was behaving the same fishy way, which is why nobody can tell me what I thought was wrong with sociology. I remember dislking sociology because I thought it was dumb. I don't remember any reasons why I thought it was dumb.

So while waiting for my latest ramblings on cross-sex friendship, you, reader, have a task. Send me your reasons for disliking sociology (and for Pete's sake, if you don't want to piss me off make sure your reasons are consistent with what you accept as proper academic subjects). Eitehr that or admit that I've caught you with your pants half down, facing towards me, under a big spotlight.

I won't make any "time to wash, you smell like fish" jokes. Oh, carp... I did it anyway.

15 May 2005


I'm sure most of you have never bothered with Thomas, the Library of Congress web server for bills and such in both houses of the US Congress. The server is down right now for maintainence, but I can still use GovTrack, which is never where I go first but it will have to do for now. I recommend that you opena new tab/window for Thomas, and then search for S786. We'll discuss that later.

Some of you have probably noticed that Bob Casey's picture is here in my blog. A few of you, who didn't read the captions on his picture, are now sayign "Oh, is that who that is?" The less politically aware among you are saying "So what?"

Let's talk politics for a minute. Currently Pennsylvania's two senators are Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum. Rick Santorum is up for re-election next year (not next election, next year; senate elections are in even numbered years, you Constitution ignoring ignoramuses! See Article 1 Section 3, and note Amendment 17). Many of us have mixed feelings about Rick Santorum. Santorum is the most conservative talker in the US senate. He headed the campaign for the partial birth abortion ban, for example.

I like his moral values and what-not. At the same time, he's done some idiotic things that bug me. He voted against the Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill. He voted against the Unintended Pregnancies Amendment to, I think, the 2004 budget. He voted against the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals Act. He voted to allow oil drilling in Alaska and to support a "Hydrogen Economy." He does not support making college costs deductable for low and middle incomes, but he does support lowering capital gains taxes and he voted in favor of eliminating federal estate taxes.

What really, really pushed me over the line was this year, when he submitted bill S.786. In a nutshell, the whole purpose of the bill is that the NOAA/NWS should make its climate and weather data available only to corporations who cna profit form the resale of that information. I'm not kidding. I read the whoel bill, and it includes such things as not allowing NOAA/NWS scientists to discuss weather with reporters. I personally find this to be an absolutely sick affront to the american people. Our tax money goes to pay meteorologists and their data collection, adn then that information and then that data is available only to places who can profit from sellgin it back to the taxpayers? That's absurd, and he's crossed my line.

You see, when I look at political cadidates, I care about more than gay marriage and abortion. Gay marriage is gogin to happen, if not in name htan in fact, no matter what the constitution says. Abortion is another matter entirely, and while I am against most abortion I do think that many Christians are completely irresponsible when they vote based on abortion alone. Is that all our government is? A machine to decide whether aborton is legal? Sadly, many Christians think exactly that. Reduce taxes, cut welfare, get the government out of our lives... except to tell us that abortion and gay marriage are wrong.

I care deeply about government interference with intellectual freedom. I care about science research and the environment. I'm ticked off that the government is shifting more of the science research budgets away from fundamental science and into engineering. I can't stand talk of hydrogen economics for the sake of eliminating dependence on foreign oil with no talk of the possible expense of gas emissions whose impact is not well understood. I also care quite a bit about the government minding its own business and making other people mind their own business. Consider implanted ID devices and the dangers of personal information being consolidated in one place, ready for bad people to use it for bad things.

Bill S786 is simply over the line. Without a lot of hard pushing in the right directions, I can't vote for someone who supports that kind of nonsense. If he doesn't withdraw that bill, his campaign had better be darn full of reasons why I should vote for him. I'm not talking "If that bill passes then I will be mad." I'm mad that the bill was written, and I'm demanding nothing less than a complete withdrawl. And before you abortion-nuts pseudo-citizens call me stupid, think about how dumb your are to only vote based on one subject. Go learn about how your choices for for the next election actually vote and deal and write bills, like I have, and then we'll talk about who is being more narrow when deciding who to vote for.

Bob Casey, son of one of Pennsylvania's most beloved governors, is going to be an option in 2006, and right now my favored one. Although I have no concerns about Casey's potential to be a great senator, I do have some concerns about his being in office. If those concerns grow big enough, I'll have big trouble deciding who to vote for.

I'll write about that sometime later, though.

14 May 2005

Wasting Time

So I took a nap today, and that's made me evne more hyper than usual for the middle of the night. Because of the hyperness, I haven't gotten around to my blog until 3:00, so I don't have time to write a whole lot.

I took an online brain systems screening, and the results were astounding. It said tha tI very likely have Inattentive ADD, and hyperactivity of Limbic system, basil ganglia, and temporal lobes (I no longer wonder why I occasionally hear our telephone ringing when I'm not at home). The funny thing about this is that the hyperactivity and ADD are treated in opposite ways. In other words, if you have both and treat only one then the treatment almost always makes the other problem worse. It's a dopamine vs. serotonin thing. If you want to make me less depressed then you'll never be able to get me to concentrate, and vice-versa.

The logical conclusion is, of course, that I'm totally nuts and there's no way to stop it! Perhaps my brain just needs an injection of lead percholrate and good concussion.

I took another test involving shapes. If you would like to try, here it is. They dot' ask for your e-mail address or anything, so you can answer the quesitons and, if you want, submit anonymous comments. There's no way for them to track you, so it's worth doing for the sake of psychobaulblers. I got a perfect score (99th percentile, blah-blah), and I had nearly 11 minutes left on the clock when I finished. Go ahead and see if you can tie me-- you certainly can't beat me. Well, you can beat me if you finish faster than I did and get the same score, I guess, of you insist on making it a competition.

I normally don't waste time on such tests (I took a few others of various sorts), but I'm not feeling particularly well. I think I need a day or two off to let my brain settle, which makes me worried that I'm not getting things done, which makes me wander off and do mindless things like take shape skills tests so that I can get depressed about how, unlike normal people, I get perfect scores. It's a common problem-- botht the wandering off to do useless things and feeling abnormal.

Someday when I'm feeling crazy and wanting to take absurd tests I'll put some serious time into Titan or something. I don't know of any other IQ tests that are still accepted to go past 4 standard deviations.

13 May 2005

What the Cluck?

For the benefit of those that my wife hasn't told, I did finally get a driver's license.

Some of you might wonder exactly what I thought about my first solitary driving experience. If I did not have a better grasp on cause and effect, I would say "Driving alone makes weird things happen."

You see, I dropped off my friend who took me to the driver's license center for my test, and then I had to go pick up some stuff at school before heading to Dairy Queen (which for me means Quakertown) and then back to pick up my wife at work. Anyway, my friend lives in south Bethlehem, quite the urban ghetto, and I had not gone far from his place when I saw the most peculiar thing, for an urban ghetto.

There was a chicken walking around in the street.

I am not kidding. On Atlantic St., between 7th and 8th, Bethlehem, PA, there was a chicken walking around in the street. A living, clucking, flapping chicken.

It ran between two parked cars to get out of my way. Chickens deserve more credit.

When I got to school I found out that I got a partial fellowship for next school year, which for all practical purposes means that nothing in life will change (since my pay won't go up and my plans aren't changing because of it). I get to write on my resume that I had a fellowship, and that's about all.

I'm personally more interested in the cluckin' chicken.

12 May 2005

A New Link

I've added a link to some guy I know. His name is Nick, and I met him a year and a half ago when I taught astronomy labs. Nick was the lecture instructor and I got to meet him because we interacted over proctoring, grading and other what-not.

We've had a few conversations since then, and the only two things that I can really tell you are that he has an impressive mind and a kind spirit. Although Nick is much more theologically liberal and a bit more politically liberal than I am, my interactions with him have always been positive.

Nick is the only rector I know of who has a PDA with an ephemeris program. I don't know if he his blog lays out his personal journey, but he has quite a story to tell. Actually, most people would find it boring, but I found it an encouragement.

I read his blog regularly, but I still haven't talked to him this year. I should send him an e-mail sometime.

11 May 2005

The Short Version

You know, I don't have anything to say.

I do have a rant sitting around somewhere, and I'd so much like to post it except that I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings... too much, anyway.

The rant is about young earth creationism and my issues with how much young earth literature tells stories instead of interpreting the Bible.

The heart of my problem is that water canopies, no animals dying before The Fall, no entropy or decay before The Fall, and other such-like things are not found in the Bible. Rather, they are stories of what might have happened that are passed off as what did happen, with stretched interpretations of scripture to make things seem legitimate. The scripture is interpreted to fit the explanation (a common theme for any Bible study that claims to be "in line" with scripture, or some other fancy buzzword for "not found there but not in opposition to what is there"), not the other way around.

If you want specifics you'll have to talk to me sometime. I don't feel like committing such great heresy to writing, lest I be taken to the stake for it, or worse, I get myself prayed for.

So, for the sake of not being venomous, especially to the kind readers out there who are nice enough to leave me alone about the subject of origins (thanks, by the way), I'll just let you all go decide for yourselves rather than spitting fire on those who decide differently.

Honestly, if you believe in canopies and what-not, I do encourage you to look into those things again sometime.
Re-read those books and other materials that you've read before and ask how on earth those theories about the way things were come form the words of scripture and how many are just stories that are in line with scripture. In fact, look at creationist websites for the "latest" information (latest is a relative term only). You may find that some young earth creationist organizations have dismissed canopy theory, among other things.

If you can point to scripture and tell me that it means one all those fairy tale things, doing proper exegesis rather than telling me a story and pointing to scripture to "support" it, please let me know. There are a number of subjects where I haven't seen such exegesis, and I know the reason why. You'll have to discover that reason for yourself.

Remember that what really gets me wound up on this subject is much less the facts believed than it is the methods of supporting beliefs. Some scientists say things that don't follow from a proper exegesis of nature ("from doing science"), and they wind me up just as much as any young earth creationazi. Believe what you want, just don't claim that it can be supported when or where it cannot be supported.

And that is the summary of my rant.

10 May 2005

Rubbish on the News Front

Perhaps this gives you an example of why the AAAS wants to avoid the media circus caused by the Kansas "evolution trial."

Today's CNN story (via AP) about the trial gives us the following uninsightful bit of rubbish:

"The theory of evolution says that changes in species can lead to new species, and that different species, including man and apes, have common ancestors. Intelligent design advocates contend the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power."

The statement says that evolution is one thing and that intelligent design is something else, so it must be explaining the difference between evolution and intelligent design, right?

Well, no, it isn't.

The problem is that this statement only appears to contrast evolution and intelligent design. While the statement is correct in what it says about the two points, it fails to explain the interaction between them.

Many, many, many of the prominent supporters of intelligent design are what would be, in common speak, "theistic evolutionists." (This isn't a good term for those people, but it's likely to be used in the normal way-- to describe anything not an atheist but not a young earth creationist.) They, and their intelligent design, would agree that "changes in species lead to new species, and that different species, including man and apes, have common ancestors." They simply say that a higher power, rather than physical processes alone, made the changes over time. Likewise, there are theistic evolutionists (those people properly called such) who believe that "the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power." They believe that God was hands-off after a point, at least as far as creation.

If you're still confused, look at the CNN statement again and answer this question-- are evolution and intelligent design both discussed at the same points in historical time? The answer is no, they are not. Evolution is discussed as what has happenend since the some beginning (changes), while intelligent design is discussed as what happened at the very beginning (a creation point). You can't compare and contrast the two ideas, using the definitions given, because you don't know what either idea says about the time period of the things that the other idea is said to address. In other words, you can't compare apples and oranges.

CNN has failed us. But of course, conservative evangelicals already know that much. They prefer to get their rubbish from Fox News. But what did Fox News give us today? I'll give you a hint:

"The theory of evolution says that changes in species can lead to new species, and that different species, including man and apes, have common ancestors. Intelligent design advocates contend the universe is so complex it must have been created by a higher power."

So who's right in this case, the liberal media or the conservative media?

I think you're all smart enough to decide.

09 May 2005


Okay, so I fell asleep at like 10:00 last night and got up at like 10:00 this morning. Hence, no blog post. Sorry, fans.

The April 2005 archive has mostly been spell checked and corrected.

In the men's section of Wal-Mart last night, I saw briefs that had bottons to close the front. What is this world coming to?

08 May 2005

Mullins Tonight

I am currently listening to Rich Mullins (the self-titled solo debut album from Rich Mullins) in my headphones, at a very loud volume. This particular pair of earbuds (Sennheiser not-quite cheapies even for Sennheiser) is clear enough that I can tell that I only recorded the song onto the computer as a 96kbs .wma file. I can hear hiss. It's tempting to think that the treble hiss is just form the fact that this album it's an analog recording, or perhaps the, um, acoustical nature of the surroundings of some of the track recordings. I know I'm hearing some original hiss, but I knwo that I'm also hearing a bit more hiss from teh computer format. I'm eventually going to get things switched over to a variable bit rate .wma format, and that will kill some of the hiss.

After Elijah, I'm going to switch albums, though. I can only take so much of this one. The only thing it really has going for it is that the recording of Elijah is better than the one on Songs. Otherwise, it sounds like a Steve Taylor wannabe album. Anyone rememebr the Steve Taylor album Meltdown? Good stuf, sort of. There are reasons why I listen to Rich Mullins and not to Steve Taylor. I do remember that my dad went to a Steve Taylor concert, circa 1987, to see Taylor's hot opening act. You all know him as Michael W. Smith. I saw him live, too, in the 1998-1999 school year, I think it was, or whenever he was at Wheaton. A friend of mine was his campus escort, and the guy (Smith, not my friend) is weird. I won't say more in public.

On the self-titled album, Rich is joined by fellow CCM tenor Amy Grant, who proves my notion that all Christian musicains are tenors. Okay, that's lie. Sandi Patti was not a tenor. But she slept around. So at least we knwo that all CCM artists are tenors or people who sleep around.

I'm kidding, of course.

It's annoying being a pure baritone, though. You can't sing along with most Christian music. For example, Rich Mullins hits his highest note, I think, in "Sometimes by Step" (The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 2). That note is somewhere in the G4 range. I can usually make an E4, but without a good warmup and a place where I can sing loudly, I can't get that note well. Of course G4 is unusually high for Rich, but he struggles in my voice range. Take the demo of "Nothing is Beyond You" (The Jesus Record, disc 1). Poor guy sounds like he's gonna start coughing from singing that low, but those notes are in my comfortable range. In fact, I shouldn't make fun of Amy Grant, because she does a wonderful job singing that song on the second disc. Her voice is low enough that she's one of the few female singers I can stand hearing for more than a few minutes.

One reason why I don't like the praise and worship fanaticism sweeping our evangelical culture is that I can't stand singing that high. In normal situations we would just transpose the music down. Praise and worship music does not transpose down very well, though, because of the insturments being used. You can bump a guitar up a few semitones using a capo. You can't make the strings longer. Only really good players can transpose the chords on the fly to fit the group. So I'm stuck with my voice cracking even in gems like "God of Wonders" because it's just one tone too high, and I don't get to use the lowest three to five notes of my register.

It's too bad that very few Rich Mullins songs were released as studio tracks of any kind. Some of the songs are really great, and I would have the studio tracks in my collection if they were available. My list would include "A Few Good Men," 'Elijah," half of Pictures in the Sky, "With the Wonder," "Somewhere," "The Color Green," "Creed," "Peace," "I'll Carry On," "The Howling," "Calling out Your Name," "The Maker of Noses," "Growing Young," half of Brother's Keeper, "We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are," and the non-canonical "Surely God is With Us," "Nothing Is Beyond You," "All the Way to Kingdom Come," and "Man of No Reputation." These are the classics.

Sadly, "Sometimes by Step" and "Awesome God" are the only studio tracks I've ever found (I also found "Hold Me Jesus" but it was never in stock, so I don't count it). Oddly enough, these are the two most popular Mullins songs. Our local Christain station plays those two quite frequently, considering their age. I've never heard "The Maker of Noses" on the radio. I dont' mind "Sometimes by Step" being popular, as it sounds very Rich Mullins. "Awesome God" is not like the rest of his music, and it's way, way overdone. I've never really liked that song. It's got a snappy rhythm with dark chords and spooky strings. Musically creative? Maybe. An experiment worth repeating? No. So stop singing it in church all the time. Your local church piano player doing that song at half speed only makes it worse.

I was going to clean up the archives tonight, but I ended up writing this post and only drafting my original idea. So I'm out of time. Oh, well. Next week, maybe.

By the way, I switched to The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume 2 a little while ago. Very nice.

07 May 2005

So what....

I don't have much to say, except the following:

I may be able to learn how to parallel park.

Isn't life wonderful?

I only wish that I could practice by myself without the intrusion of the required passanger with a drivers license.

06 May 2005


On my walk tonight, I lost the cap to my flash drive.

When I walk I usually hold my keys. Putting them in my pants pocket will make my pants fall. My fleece pockets aren't big enough to be stable. I wasn't wearing my jacket, which has a big pocket that can hold my keys.

Somehow, the cap came off, and I can't find it.

As I walked along, I remembered something that happened when I was younger involving an object that got lost. Back in teh teim from 1987 to 1990, there was a family that went to our church and was a part of our homescholl group. In fact, the man of the house has a website here. (There is apicture of the house at the bottom of the page. The wing of the house closest to the picture was not there when our story takes place.) The front "yard" of this house is the site of the story.

That house actually holds some memories for me. Dan built the entire thing himself, for one, so it was a very practical sort of place. My sister and I spent a few days there at least twice when our parents were busy. On the far side of the house you can see a tall, tall tree. The ground slopes up as you go back along the house. The house is, in fact, built on the side of a mountain named Spitzenberg, one of the 20 or so places in Berks County, PA, that exceeds 1,000 feet (see here, scroll down for "Top Spots").

Anyway, that slope combined with that treee made for one heck of a tree swing. Off the picture to the left was a "treehouse" of sorts, built over the wood pile and consequently infested with earwigs. More to the left the hill goes down, and that area was meadow-like. There is a polaroid on the fridge at home of my me and my sister standing somewhere on the far side of that house. Back behind the house was uphill, and there was a wicked grapevine swing over cliff up there. On a homeschool group hike I got scared by a long, stick-like insect that we found at the top of that mountain. That was my only trip up the mountain that I've seen so many times from Route 143 on the way to and from church, and from the Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock across the valley.

I'm not sure exactly when we lost the negatives from the envelope of pictures. My family had taken a trip to Washington, DC, and there were pictures of all of us in museums and looking at monuments. I have a memory of a homeschool group campout night, and it may have been then. It may also have been another one of our numerous trips to the house. But at any rate, my dad was really, really mad that his negatives were missing. It wasn't all of the negatives, you see. It was one strip of the negatives, the one with the pictures of the dinosaur skeletons. Dad was going to make enlargements of those, I think (he's quite the camera junkie), and he couldn't do that without the negatives. We looked all over for thsoe negatives, inside and outside the house. No luck.

I remember over a year later we were at the house again, and Adrienne, Annie, Laura, and I were playing outside. We trampled down the meadow grass to make trails and then had fun running around chaisng each other throgh those trails. On the way back to the house, I saw something on the ground that looked like litter, so I picked it up.

It wasn't litter, though. It was the weather-beaten remanants of the lost negatives. The negatives were intact, and while too worn to be useful for making more prints, and too faded, you could tell that it was indeed dinosaur skeleton pictures form Washington DC.
We had searched twice then given up all hope, only to find htem over a year later when we weren't even expecting to see them again.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that maybe, one day, I will be walking outside and I will find the cap to my flash drive, sittign by the sidewalk and wondering where the heck I had been for over a year.

I have a few brief things to say before I go.

First, I saw a documentary tonight about a guy named Sugihara who issued Japanese visas to Jews in Lithuania in 1940. Apperently he managed to save over 2300 of them. It was an interesting story.

Second, I saw Scamper again last night. He followed me for a block and a half and then stopped, as he's done before.

Third, last night I saw Altair for the first time this year. Summer is now here. Saturn, by the way, is now gone by teh tiem I take my walk. I can't find Castor and Pollux (in Gemini), and Saturn is closer ot the horizon than those. Jupiter and Spica are making their move across the spring sky, and Arcturus and Regulus are up there but I dont' haev the time to look for them. Sure, they're bright, but they are basically straight overhead.

Fourth, I didn't find anything good in the trash tonight.

Fifth, I'm thinking about carving a pipe. Hi, honey, I'm going to spend money on another hobby that never leads to a finished product! I should be able to get a stem and a chunk of briar for under $30, and another few for stain (needs to be alcohol based) and wax. And in the worst case I can sell the product for the price of the materials.

05 May 2005


Labour wins, taking Corby.


As Francis Cabrel would likely say

C'est une histoire d'enfant
Une histoire ordinaire
On est tout simplement, simplement
Un jeudi soir sur la terre

Could someone with cable tape the Opening of Parliament for me on May 17? I enjoy Her Majesty's speeches, and Tony Blair is a hunk.


The UK Election

I'm watching the UK results come in. In fact, I have the live scorecard up right now, and I will wathc in earnest until eitehr soemone wins or I get too sleepy to stand it.

Seems as though the Tories aren't doing terribly well, but then again, who would have expected them to? As of right now, Labour has lost 22 seats, but has not lost many to the Liberal Democrats. When it's 278-85-32 I don't think there's too much for Labour to worry about. Ergo, I predict that Tony Blair will likely be the next PM, as if that's not a no brainer.

Oh, bugger, my numbers are already wrong. 280-86-32. Sigh.


I'll never learn how to parallel park a car. On one side I have a curb, on another an open road, obstacles on two other sides, a road below, and a sky above. On the seventh side I have a person who thinks that bumpers are really don'ttouchanythingwithers.

Curious, really, how that's what most people think. They deny that the word bumper starts with bump for a reason.

A car bumper has two properties that most people don't understand. First, a properly designed bumper is designed for bumping. Second, bumpers will not crumple or dent or crack below their rating. Our bumper is rated five miles per hour. That's a lot faster than a car carefully seating iteslf within a parking space.

Judging by most cars today, I'd say that someone at auto engineering school forgot to mention these two facts. Sure, on may new cars bumpers can run into things at up to ten miles per hour before crumpling. In the old days, though-- I'm talking late 1970s Impala sedan here, one of those armored boats that makes you realize once upon a time there really was such a thing as sex in the back seat nd you really didn't have to wrry about getting shot in your car by her daddy unless it was through a window-- a bumper was a piece of metal coated metal. I've seen bumpers from that era mounted to the frame via shock absorbing springs. And does anyone else remember the big rubber pads embedded in the metal of some bumpers? Those old bumpers could get a dent and still be perfectly useful as shock absorbers, with or without the spring mounting.

My point, though, is that back then bumpers were made for bumping. Today the automobile bumper is part of the body. It is often a painted piece of fiberglass or flimsy metal. It will absorb shock, but it will not be able to do that trick again once it is bent past its limit. To keep with sexual terms (everyone understands sex), old car bumpers are like female orgasmic response while new car bumpers are like male orgasmic response.

Worse, on modern cars the bumper is not metal on metal, it's paint on crap. Unless the impact is very evenly distributed, the paint scrapes off very eaily compared to the crumping strength of the bumper. I'd like to see how such curvy forms can take an impact evenly, though. Unless you back two cars straight into each other, making the only straight bumpers hit each other, you can easily lose paint from your bumper. This isn't good, because bumpers should be made for bumping. If you can't bump without generating $700 of body work and dropping the value of your vehicle by 10%, your bumper sucks. And if you have all this damage form a 1mph impact, your car maker who said it was a 10mph bumper should be picking up the tab.

(The problem here is that we can't get away from shoddy workmanship in vehicles. It's like everythign else in our culture. You can't get nice clothing if nobody is selling it, you can't vote for the best candidate when they're both losers, and you can't get a bumper that's made to bump when nobody makes a bumper for bumping. I really hate life.)

Even worse is the position of bumpers. Henry Petroski, in his book Paperboy, talks about how there are a lot more trucks than when he was a child. When he was a kid in Queens, he recalls, nobody owned their own truck. Trucks were, by law, strictly commercial vehicles. This includes pickup trucks and vans. Our modern SUVs and minivans had no comparison back then. Today, on the other hand, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, a "car," is classified as a light truck. They get a way with this because the rear seat is removable wihtout scpeial tools, or something like that, and they do it because the design can't meet car emissions standards, which a remuch more strict than non-cars. But I digress.

Today there are more big vehicles than ever. But there's a problem. SUV and minivan bumpers are not made to bump. You can tell this by taking your Saturn, Honda or Dodge car and pulling up to a business end of an SUV without stopping. Notice how your bumper goes underneath the SUV bumper, letting the SUV bumper smash in your grill, crumple your hood, and ruin your radiator. That's a bad bumper. It's not designed for bumping. Oh, sure, if you were going slowly enough you car can still run because your radiator is okay. If you happened to hit the back of the SUV, or if it was parked, your insurance company will also be paying an oversized $1,500 because you took some paint off of the SUVs oversized, overtall, and otherwise unharmed bumper.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're being screwed by the system. Our auto choices are controlled by big business, and big business only makes bumpers that can't bump without costing us lots of money. This has meant that people are now bumper-phobic, forgetting about the bumping part becasue they, or others, value painted fiberglass more than the dynamical necessities of vehicular activity. I ask you to call or write your legislators and advise them that you would like all new automobile legislation to replace the word "bumper" with "don'ttouchany- thingwither." It's the least Uncle Sam could do to show the cultural sensitivity of the leaders of our great republic.

Tomorrow I am going to go practice bumping things gently with the back bumper. I think it's the first step in learning how to get a close as possible without bumping at all. Tap and look, tap and look, that's the way. Unless, of course, it's an auto designer. Those are objects you're supposed to hit adn hit hard.

And of course, my friendly don'ttouchanythingwither person will be along for the ride in order to train her in the ways of the good old days when bumpers were made for bumping. You know, back before the destruction of the family by Evolutionists and before sin entered our Chosen Culture....

(PS. One of these days I really will go through and correct/revise all my posts. I really do mean it, I jsut don't know when I'll do it.)

04 May 2005

Some explanation

I've had a request for some explanation of my last post, so I'm going to give it.

First, the summaries. I'm going to go change the color of the "lazy man's" summaries so that people can know my points without getting lost in everything else. This (the written words, not conversations about them that you have with me later) is one time that it's my job to explain.

Second, the logical operators need to be explained.

Xor (caled exclusixe-or) is a logical operator related to or (called inclusive-or). The difference between xor and or is that or allows for two things to both be true. Here is a cute set of truth tables that includes or and xor. Zero is false and one is true.

In day-to-day life when we say "or" we usually mean "xor." I know this because one of my favorite games to play with people is, when they ask me if I want one thing or another, to answer "I want both." The response is usually "You can't have both" and if I'm in the right sort of mood I will argue about how yes, I can have both, because I was told "or." (Just a note, I don't think this is funny when people do this to me, so I don't do it to my friends because I don't want them doing it to me. So don't, please. Thank you.)

A third point that needs to be explained is why I am apparently using bad logic.

A or not A is always true. So B or not B is also always true. A common mistake by those who don't do a lot of logic would be to say that my conclusions must be wrong because they are based on tautological premises. If I really did make an argument that depended on deductions from A or not A being true then I admit that I would be illogical because there is no way to show that A or not A is wrong.

Life is not merely a deductive game, however. Logic is more than deductions from premises to conclusions. My statement about car doors does not conclude that any one conclusion is truly deduced from the premises. Instead, I argue that a conclusion should not be made because no conclusion can come from the premises. My conclusion, that a decision should not be made, isn't based on bad use of tautological premises, it is based on the lack of proper premises to actually make a conclusion. This is perfectly logical.

Okay, I hope that clears things up.

What About a Hatchback?

The other title option was "Know Me By My Car (And Lack of Caring)"...

My wife doesn't seem to understand what I think about cars. Specifically, we're having some great confusion over the proper number of doors. My wife wants four doors and thinks I want two doors. We can do this one symbolically and find the mistake.

Let A be two doors and B be four doors.

My wife thinks "A xor B, not A, therefore B." This is perfectly valid (and sound if you agree to not A with A defined as above).

I think "A or not A, A xor B." I therefore don't come to a conclusion about A or B. I can't.

My wife's mistake is easy to make. She hears me saying that B should not be the only option and turns this into not B. Next she quite validly deduces that, since we agree on the soundness of A xor B (we're only getting one car), my not B must mean A. But I don't mean A, I mean A or not A. My wife is then confused about me when I say that I don't think A, but rahter A or not A, because she doesn't understand why I say not B and not A. After all, nobody can get that out of A xor B.

The problem started because I never meant not B, I meant B or not B. With that premise added (remember I already had A or not A) there is indeed no way to get a choice from A xor B. In fact, because of this combination of premises, I cannot conclude any one of A, not A, B, or not B. Since there is more to a car than the number of doors, I must then move on to considering other things in order to make a choice.

Translated out of symbols and into the real world, by the way, my premises (A or not A, B or not B, A xor B) lead to the conclusion "I don't give a lizard's poop-hole whether it's two doors or four doors, but I also don't care to a priori choose one or the other or even imply my acceptance of your making such a choice."

You see, I complain about the conclusion of B not because I don't accept B but beacuse I'm not making a choice between A or B. I also complain because I disagree with the not A that led to B. I will pick a car based on what is available, what condition it's in, and what the price is. I will neither explicitly reject any car solely for the number of doors that it has nor implicitly reject one number of doors or another or another by only looking for the other type. There is a beautiful symmetry to this, really. That same symmetry is urging me to learn how to drive a manual transmission and allows me to consider cars with other numebers of doors.

I'm not sharing this to pick on my wife. I'm just giving it to you as an exmaple of how people fail to understand me.
My wife's msitake was not one of logic. She's not stupid and her logic was perfectly fine given the premises she was using. Her mistake was in not knowing all the premises. Granted, until she reads this she probably doesn't understand the premises. I've never laid them out for her in this clear of a manner. My wife took what she thought were the premises, put them through her logic, and came to a conclusion that isn't mine but that is labeled as mine because it was my premises that got there. She'll only get my conclusion if she puts my thought through my logic. My logic contains premises that hers does not, so the conclusions could be radically different.

Anyway, I face this problem a lot in life. It's not just in cars. People ask me what I think about things and then they run my thoughts through their own logical structures to deduce that I think things that I don't actually think. Their failure is not some kind of stupidity or cruelty. Their failure is to see that they must put my thoughts through my thought processes in order to understand what I think.

Sometimes this is probably my fault because I don't explain everything. I'm sure that all of you have heard me say something very decisive and wondered "How the heck did you get that?" If you ask in the wrong way or woth the wrong tone of voice, you're not likely to get an answer.

Sometimes, though, it's not my fault because you are not willing to listen. So instead of focusing on the speck in my eye (not explaining) please pluck the log from your own (not willing to listen).

I appreciate honest curiousity. I can't stand probing quesitons that are being asked solely to put my answers through some uncalibrated excuse for mental meatgrinder. If you really want to know what I think, ask quesitons... preferably ones that don't involve puting my thoughts through some unintended logic that leads to different conclusions. If you treat my ideas with disrespect, the simple solution is that you'll no longer ever get them, ever.

Here we come to the crux of my complaints about young earth creationists. News flash people-- I don't disrespect young earth creationists for what they believe! If you're a YEC you can still be my friend as long as you don't do the young earth creationist thing that bothers me. You know how a few days back I said that there were a small number of people who never, ever bother me? All but one of those people are definitely YECs. They're just YECs that don't do what bothers me about YECs. What bothers me is when YECs think that they can take my thoughts, run them through their logic, show me the conclusions that I must make, and then act like they've proven something.

An example is the idea that theistic evolution must be wrong because evolution and Christianity are mutually exculsive. By using the xor (mutually exclusive) operator one concludes that an idea is false by showing the other idea is true. Since we believe Christianity to be true, so YECs say, then it's perfectly fine to say that evolution must be false. This logic is valid, but I think it is unsound.

I don't think the relationship between evolution and Christianity is xor, I think it's or. Using an or, we can only come to a conclusion by negating either evolution or Christianity (making the other true by disjunctive syllogism). So we cannot, using or, conclude that evolution is wrong because Christianity is true. Using or we could prove Christianity by showing evolution is wrong and we could prove evolution by showing Christianity is wrong. The hot buttton I hit with YECs, though, is that by using or instead of xor we could also prove that they are both correct.

If you take this result and compare it to xor, you will see no logic (because you can't get evolution and Christianity from xor) and conclude that anyone who believes both can be true is being illogical. In other words, if you take my conclusion and run it through YEC logic, I am illogical. But as I pointed out before, it's not me who is being illogical. We both have valid arguments. The issue here is soundness of premises.* You don't destroy my argument by saying that my conclusion doesn't follow from your premises. You destroy my argument by showing that your premises are correct and mine are incorrect. (I actually can't do this for myself in this case, but I also don't claim to be proving anything.)

My annoyance with YECs is that they will do the former but not the latter. Once again, I don't disrespect these people for what they believe, I disrespect them for their haphazard logic that considers only one set of premises by which we should measure all conclusions and then goes around talking about how they can prove this or that. I could prove a lot of things if I never thought outside my sorry little box either.


The moral of the story is that if you don't understand Nate, ask. If you do understand Nate, ask anyway. And don't you dare ask solely for the purpose of misusing what I say.

I'm going to bed.

I always wanted a racecar bed.

*(Interesting note for those of you who don't know much formal logic, valid arguments can be unsound. For example "Jesus was born during the year 4 BC, and 4 BC was 2008 years ago, therefore Jesus is 2008 years old" is valid but unsound. Atheists say he's dead, so he can't be 2008, and Christians say he's God, so he's been around for all eternity past. The arguement is perfectly valid, though. Validity deals with the argument structure, soundness deals with whether or not the words we put into the structure make sense.)

03 May 2005

Certified Prayer Target

I've already done two of my three exam problems, and the remaining problem does not involve any coding. I would tell you all about how long it took and what I did and how I did it, but I'm not supposed to share those things until after the exam. After all, I never know who might be reading this crap.

So on my walk tonight, I had an imaginary dialogue with my pastor. You see, we're coming up on the chapter in Grudem's Bible Doctrines that explains to us, in great detail, such things as why theistic evolution cannot be correct. The bad part, though, is that the explanation on this matter doesn't explain anything. There is no logic there that cannot be reamed into a gaping hole.

In my imaginary conversation, I was completely frustrated because I could not get my points to be taken seriously. They were all dismissed (yes, the Pastor was talking back in this dialogue) with reasons that were worse than Grudem's, as if that helps. "Well, randomness and purpose still seem incomptabale, even if we do consider Quantum Mechanics, because QM is just a mathematical theory that gives randomness in numbers but not in some more deep level that must be true in evolution because no matter how you try to put it, randomness and purpose seem incompatable because in seminary we learned that Good Christian People are supposed to think that. And there must be some truth to this thing called 'information' because no matter how badly you think it's defined there are lots of Good Christian People who seem to know it's real. They don't need a better definition because they're willing to trust God that it's there because, for one thing, it seems to be there and because, for another thing, without it you can only believe things that seem incompatable with God's word."

I'd like Dr. O'Connor to take that one to his Intro to Logic classroom. Yes, Dr O'Connor, the Ahhhnold look-alike (sort of) Wheaton philosophy professor who once told us that there was a reason why logic classes no longer met after chapel, and that it had to do with professors focusing on applied knowledge. Anyway, we could start with why it's stupid to say how things seem instead of how they are, and how intellectually wussy that is when you're dealing with such brutally ontological matters. Quite frankly, Grudem doesn't just seem wrong, he is wrong (on this point, at least). And I have the guts to say that.

Honestly, I think that responses on the level I mentioned are exactly what will happen... but that's only the beginning. Hopefully I will get excommunicated from church actvities or anythying resembling a ministering or leadership role. Even better, I'll probably reach my ultimate goal-- having people pray for me to turn back to Jesus. That's only on the top of my list because I haven't gone away! I love it when people waste their prayer time praying for nonexistant problems to go away because I know God will give them a whoopin' for it someday, and that whoopin' will be better than any whoopin' I can hope to give.

One thing I've learned as I've grown up is that it's going to be much more satsfying to see God to take out vengance on mine enemies than it would be for me to take out vengence on them myself.

On another, related note, I was led to say the "s" word out loud, preceeded by holy, translated into German (both words) and written, not spoken, when I found out today that Michael Ruse and I share a common opinion. This is something akin to losing one's academic virginity, and makes me a Certified Liberal Academic, even if I do think Ruse is a skunk.

You can read the inspiring article here.

I don't know how long the article will be available at this URL. I only mention it because it is related to what I posted last Tuesday or so. The link was generously provided by a friend and regular reader who knows I'm into this sort of thing. Thanks, dude! I can only sleep with the big ideas once I've been around the block a few times.

02 May 2005

In My Head

What exactly happens in my head?

Well, I tend to think about things to the point that other people would call it being obsessed. I focus on whatever, and I often find that sometimes, like on my hour-long evening walk, I come home thinking about the same subject I was thinking about when I left. This is why I know that I don't have ADD. I can concentrate, I just can't concentrate on any old thing.

My head is full of words. Not many people know what happened to the pictures, but it's an amazing story. Too bad I won't tell you even if you ask. Nope, this one's secret, and I only tell it to people who need to hear it (1 so far) or to people who I really, really, really trust (2 so far). Hmmm... I'm thinking now of a couple of people who I should share with sometime.

Anyway, the words in my head are not written. That would be a picture. They are spoken. I speak to myself a bit faster than I speak to the rest of the world, and I don't censor the content if it's purely internal. I often have, in my mind, a scenario where I am talking to someone that I know. The other parties usually don't talk back, so it's rather boring in that respect. At the same time, it's very useful for coming up with the right words to tell my wife or someone else.

I don't have any imaginary friends.

I think about books that I've read, but this often goes into the dialogue to random listeners. I sometimes have random thoughts that I'd like to remember when I'm done churning over the current information. I tell myself to remember those thoughts, and I repeat them to myself over and over until I have them memorized. But I don't repeat the conclusion, jsut the thigns that lead to it. I can always reconstruct the conclusion later. The supporting material and the conclusion form a basis set. I can recreate the final element from knowing the other elements and remembering a few properties of the conclusion.

My brain seems to be very process oriented. I have trouble memorizing things, but I don't have trouble crashing thoughts into each other in teh style little boys smashings their toy trucks together. I'm very patient for solutions in most situations. I'm more than willing to drop a problem, think about somethign else that captures my fancy for awhile, and then come back to see if I've managed to churn up the right combination of creativeity and facts to make a solution. Like an artist looking for inspiration, I will often immerse myself similar subjects in order to grasp the one I need to get. So if I'm having a Fortran problem, I will often go read unrelated segments of the textbook.

I spend lots of time reminding myself that I need to do something with my thoughts. I have a tendancy to think about something, come to a conclusion, and forget about it. Seriously, if you thought it up once, you can do it again, right? True, but you don't get any credit in life for thinking alone. A product is always required. This is the nature of our culture, and possibly every culture. Even acadmeic types, who you may think are great thinkers, get no credit for what they say and what they write. They get no credit for thinking and never sharing.

I think a lot.

My current project is learning about pipes. There is so much to know, and I'm not talking about plumbing. There are names for all the parts of a pipe, names for the different shapes, and all kinds of other amusing things. Who know, I may eventually be a collector. Think of me walking around with a Stanwell churchwarden hanging out of my mouth, not to smoke but to make a fashion statement.

I like to confuse people. What's your favorite kind of pipe?

Fatigue is grabbing at my heels, and nature is calling my lower GI. My head is saying "Hey, go to bed man!" while my pelvic cavity is saying "Nooo!!!! You''ll mess yourself!" One thing that I think about is my body parts talking. There is sick thrill to be found in anthropomorphizing only part of the human being. It's like extrapolating the future US population in high order polynomials-- you get some results that might be right, and some others that are completely absurd.

I think I'll go silence my head and pelvis.

I promise, gentle readers, a post revision is coming soon.

01 May 2005


Well, the play is over. It turned out to be a good show. The lines went rather well for everyone. I didn't watch most of the play, because I was so bored from hearing it a few dozen times. As the only cast member that was off set for the majority of the play, I just kind of went where any sane person would go-- to the food.

I'm more comfortable backstage than out front. For example, my favorite big-time concert that I worked for at Wheaton was the Supertones opening for Audio Adrenaline. I don't like either group's music, but I got to do all kinds of neat stuff. I got to help wind the most massive snake that I've ever seen. I got to help move a 1000 pound mixing console. I got to put guitars in cases, pack up microphones and stands, fetch water for Mark Stuart, almost get clobbered by a huge light bar being lowered, play gaffer (I wrapped at least two dozen cables) etc, etc, etc. About the only bad thing that evening was that I statrted to get a fever, so I had to leave early. It was a major production, and if it wouldn't be so hard of a profession to enter, I would be in it full time. I love that stuff.

Anyway, back to tonight's off-stage fun, I really like our main kitchen lady who takes care of all the cooking for these big events. She's really interested in feeding me and chatting with me about food. At dress rehersal this morning she fed me a huge cup of boston creem pie filling, about as much as went into one whole pie. This evening at dinner, when I got my food, she decided that I didn't have enough noodles for my stroganoff, so she tripled my plate. She didn't let me get away with less when I had seconds, either. And she and her husband managed to convince me to eat three pieces of dessert. So it was one of those happy times full of jolly food and jolly people.

While on stage, I managed to crack a few jokes and generally contribute to the goofiness of the whole event. I got to pull my spoon prank, which didn't get much of a laugh. I managed to spontaniously change some of the narraration lines that seemed too stiff to go with the mood, and those changes were met with chuckles all around. On the water front, I managed to sweat the output of a small desalinization plant... although my sweat was salty instead of unsalty, so I guess it was some kind of reverse osmosis?

Considering the lack of line memorization at dresss rehersal, one slightly ill cast member, and a few sets of nervous wrecks walking around before the play, filled with more tension than a crossbow string, I think it went really, really well. The only bad thing was that nobody floated to the ceiling, which was my one wish for the evening (regular readers will remember when I talked about that).

Before I go, I want to mention that I really, really, really need to talk to some people about some things. It's been weighing on my mind a lot recently. (Dear Wifey, It's not you. Love, Nate.) Your prayers or good wishes, or whatever you want to give, will be incredibly appreciated.

I'd especially like money, since I have a few books I'd like to buy :)