My Zunivers

30 September 2005

I Whine...

[work stuff]

I got the programs up and running. It took me a little while to get thigns working using the G++ compiler. The wrror messages are, as usual, odd. For example, I got two error messages because of the way a variable was declared in a for loop, one error message for that loop and another for the loop before it. Making a change in the second loop cleared up both error messages. Visual C++ didn't give any error messages. I've had this sort of thing happen counteless times in multiple languages on many platforms, and it's not at all unusual. I point it out to amuse the uninitiated We all hurt.

[/work stuff]

I have a lot to say right now, but none of it is public because, quite frankly, all of it is rude or angry or personally offensive to various people who I know (who read this blog and who don't). So I won't say it. As I've said before, the number of people who never bother me is small enough for me to count on one hand. Although some would say I have an axe to grind, the truth is that I rented a barn for the filming of Twister.

And with that I will return to my miserable existence.

29 September 2005

Groundhog Hole

I haven't been around for two reasons. Reason 1, I'm getting some work done. Reason 2, I'm kind of depressed. Please, nobody try to help. I will resist.

27 September 2005

A Lecture

I get to teach tomorrow. Yipee! Math Physics, here I come. We'll be doing series solutions of differential equations, including the classic simple harmonic oscillator example. All are invited.

Could somebody tell me which classroom I'm supposed to go to? Thanks awfully.

25 September 2005

In Which My Belt Loop Is Bitten

Okay, read this.

The ratio of science and technology to the arts is appalling. Oh, and of science, we're not supposed to be people who understand, we're just supposed to be people who marvel. In fact, marveling seems to be what we should do with just about everything, but to notice that you would have to read beyond the italicized bits that are barely half related to the non-italicized parts.

Eat my shorts, "Dr." Slater. Marvel at their flavor. Look at Point 3 and compare to your italicized versus non-italicized bits. Then bite me.

24 September 2005

How Does That Fit In?

Some people's brains appear to be disconnected from everything.

That's all I have to say about that.

And you read the title and thought I was going to talk all dirty.

23 September 2005

Horrible Horrors

Horrors. Fear Mongering. Here.

The quote I am interested in is the following:

"Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute, which sponsors research on intelligent design, said the case displayed the ACLU's 'Orwellian' effort to stifle scientific discourse and objected to the issue being decided in court.

"'It's a disturbing prospect that the outcome of this lawsuit could be that the court will try to tell scientists what is legitimate scientific inquiry and what is not,' West said. 'That is a flagrant assault on free speech.'"

While I heartily agree that courts should not be deciding what is science and what is not, I'm afraid that I need to beat up West on two points.

First, the scientific community overall, with no courts involved, has decided that ID is not science. This has not violated free speech any more than, for example, the development of a general scientific consensus that the earth goes around the sun. A difffence with ID is that ID may be correct even if the lack of experimental verifiability keeps it form being called science. Geocentrism has elements of both science, the testable parts, and non-science, teh philosophical parts. West is focusing on the "what is science" part, and to that end the comparison with geocentrism is valid.

Second, there would not even be a lawsuit in the courts if it had not been for people like West and company. The disturbing prospect that West is lamenting is that he and his kind will not be able to claim in schools that ID is science. The disturbing prospect that I lament is that scientific consensus could be declared a violation of people's rights, undermining science as a search for reality through methodological naturalism, all for the sake of lauding as science any opinons that onyone claims to be science, no matter how nutty.

The ACLU is in court to support the idea that scientists, not everyone and their grandmother, be she into YEC, ID or Pastafarianism, define science. That is free speech that needs to be protected-- the kind that will disappear if it is forced to accept input from other discourses that could be spoken perfectly freely as long as they stay where they belong.

Of course, I don't want to be accused of saying that there's no such thing as theistic or atheistic science, or naturalist philosophy. They do exist in valid ways, but I don't feel like getting into that. Read Plantinga. He explains it better than I can.

On Penguins

I bought a tuxedo today. Sort of. I actually bought it next month. You figure it out.

22 September 2005

The Last Two Weeks

The last two weeks with my adviser:

He: "Do this and this and this."

Me: "Okay, but the temperature dependence will cancel out. We don't want that."

He: "Do it anyway."

Me: "Well, here it is."

He: "That's odd. The temperature dependence canceled out. We don't want that."

It's one of those situations where if he had added "Why didn't you tell me that would happen?" I would have simply got up quietly and left, and not returned for a few days. As it is, he's still a nice man. I believe that he's just quite stressed now. That'll get better in a few weeks, after the grant red-tape is over.

21 September 2005

Crunchy Briar

I fixed my program and got good numbers. Too bad it was just a baby program, not one of the big Monte Carlo mothers. Oh, well. Accomplishment is accomplishment. My advisor gave me a paper, though, and said, basically, read this and see how much of it we can do. Um, okay. I'll try. We're meeting crunch time for the NSF grant renewal, so we've got to figure out what we're doing... obviously so that we can do something else and, meanwhile, spend the grant money on nice dinners when we travel to conferences.

Standard practice-- propose X, do Y instead. It's not like Y costs less than X. Rather, it's because nobody ever does exactly what they propose. The money is unrelated to X and Y. But what to do with the money? I mean, it's not like we're short on computers, and we don't need to buy our own paper or anything. I've met some experimental scientists who are horrified when I tell them where our money goes (books, conferences, computers) until they relaize that, doing theoretical research, we only get like 10% of the money that experimental researchers get. And food is good.

I digress. Although, can one digress form nothing in particular? Hmmm.

I'm still interested in carving a pipe. I think I'll go look into that a bit more, and then put it on the end of my "things to do when I have more money" list.

20 September 2005

Bible Contradictions: Class 3

A new type of Bible contradiiction for you all to enjoy.

3) It's Not My Fault My Vocabulary Teacher Sucked

How long were the Israelites enslaved in Egypt, according to the Bible? Apparently Genesis 15 and Exodus 12 are in contradiction, with one saying 400 years and the other saying 430 years. So, let's read. Exodus 12:40 "The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years." Sounds straightforward enough. Let's go look at the 400 year verse. Genesis 15:13 "Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.'"

Living, I gather, must be the same thing as spending time being an afflicted servent. Horror and shock! I am alive, so who am I serving? Who is afflicting me? It must be someone!

For this particular example, as may not be the case for other contradicitons in Class 3, there is even a biblical explanaiton for the diffference in the numbers besides just saying that the verses aren't putting things into the same bin.

Later in Genesis Abram (renamed Abraham) has a great-grandson Joseph who is sold as a slave, moved to Egypt, brought out of slavery as a ranking a official in the "Pharaoh's" court ("Pharaoh" in quotes because it may have been a Hyksos king, not an Egyptian one), and then to have his brothers and dad move there to be with him. So, there's time in the bank, offspring of Abram living in Egypt without being enslaved and afflicted.

Funny how the amount of time Exodus gives for living in Egypt is higher than the amount of time Genesis gives for being enslaved and afflicted, no? If it had been the other way around, I would say yes, there's a contradiction. As I see it now, none. And we didn't even have to talk about things like how numbers like 400, in the Ancient Near East, may have been symbolic.

Of course, the whole Old Testament is unbelievable as history because it's riddled with contradictions and also obviously just a made up story because that's the only way things like this could fit together so well....

Go Away!

I have nothing much to say tonight. Go read Peter's blog post "concerning whales" from 18 September.

Nice guy, Peter. One of the only humanities types who I know who really enjoys science. I credit him with being more influential than anyone else in my transition from anti-non-science to pro-anything-knowledge. Quite frankly, I know a lot of science types who need to spend more time with guys like him and a lot of humanities types that need to be more like him.

18 September 2005

What's Your Favorite Kind of Bible Contradiction?

I found an interesting list of contradictions and such in the Bible. I won't bother linking to it, because you can find dozens of such websites on your own, if you put your mind to it.

There's an interesting thing that I noticed about the "contradictions" found in the list. I've checked out about a dozen of them, and they all fall into the following two categories, for each of which I will provide an example:

1) Someone's Complaing about the Bible Without Having Read It

Does Satan ever tell the truth? Okay, let's see... You claim that Genesis 3:4-7 contradicts John 8:44. Let's get to it then, shall we? John 8:44 clearly makes Satan out to be a liar. Unfortunately, I don't see anything there saying that Satan always lies. Let's ignore that and look at Genesis, shall we? Satan said to Eve, I paraphrase, "Hey, Chicky! You won't die if you eat the apple. God just told you not to eat it because if you eat it you'll be like him." Refer to Genesis chapter 2, where God told Adam and Eve about the fruit. God never said that eating the fruit would make anyone like him. Satan lied, even in Genesis 3. No, you can't appeal to the inside track, where Satan knew more than we know he knew, because if you allow yourself that option of faith then you need to allow Christians to believe the Bible on faith.. Find me a better example, please, and then maybe we'll deal with the fact that Luke 8 doesn't exclude truth telling.

(Bonus points to anyone who reads the Genesis passage and realizes that Eve made a mistake first! And it's got nothing to do with her not yet having been made when Adam gets the tree speech from God in chapter 2.)

2) John F. Kennedy Didn't Die-- He Didn't Even Exist!

Jesus went to Capernaum and met a centurion. Or dd he first meet the centurion's lackeys? Let's have a look. Luke 7 tells us it's lackeys, and Matthew 8 tells us it's the centurion who comes to Jesus.

Oh, horror of horrors! I must now dismiss my Christianity, because the book upon which it is based is flawed!

And I'll also dismiss American history!

You see, I've heard it said that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy. I've also heard it said that Lee Harvey Oswald was simply a lackey for some guy on a hill who killed John F. Kennedy. The various reports contradict. The only logical conclusion, then, is that American history in error, including the possiblility that there never really was a President John F. Kennedy, and so cannot be trusted at any point. No number of appeals to popularity of one scenario over another will erase the contradictions. They exist. History is in jeopardy. If we could only get this alleged president's alleged assasination story for sure, down to the very tone of voice used collectively by all of the witnesses, this alleged leader of the free world would suddenly transform from myth to reality. As it is, some witnesses dead and all, there's no way that I can believe that John F. Kennedy ever existed.

Clearly, with all these horrible contradictions that fall into these categories, Christianity doesn't have a foot to stand on.

Neither does the concept of reality.

See what you got us into? Your very being is a conspiracy. Mine is too.

All your base are belong to us.

Someone set up us the bomb.

Six Strange Things on the Internet

Here are six wacky things that I'm sure you'll all enjoy.

1) My Blog Traffic

My statistics log for my blog has turned up all kinds of fascinating things. Obviously I can't tell you any individuals who are reading, but I can tell you the locations of the hits. Many are from Eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey. Three IP addresses at my school, besides my wife and I, are regulars. Strangely, every few days my sister is even coming by for a visit. New York and Ontario are also quite popular, as well as Tennessee, Virgina, and even once in a while Chicago. I get random hits from search engine searches, including, recently a search from a computer in Iceland lookign for a mis-spelled Icelandic word! I also get a lot of random hits from people just loking at random blogs, and a goodly number of spam bots loking for comment slots to bother, as well as the occasional bit of search engine lurking.

So, to all, welcome. I can confirm from my cyber stalking that I know many of you, and to the rest of you, thanks for coming. You make me feel all warm and fuzzy, even if I don't make you feel the same way.

And update your friggin' Firefox browsers, people! (Like I can talk, I'm running 1.0.4 right now. Duh. Got to go get the 1.5 beta.)

2) Strange Templates

These two blogs have the same templates. Here and here. Strange, yes? Okay, I admit, most of you won't know why this is Important, and in fact I don't, but I do have a chance here to feel stupid. Ever have a "I should have carped diem" moments? Yeah, that's this moment. I was going to do this post last night, so that the people to whom it would Matter would have been wowed by it. But I posted about something else last night and then the people to whom it would Matter found it on their own between then and now. So grump.

But it's the same template either way.... Actually, it isn't! One of them, I now notice, has played with her template a bit the wrong way and made it look a bit weird in Firefox, and that's probably related to it looking even more weird in IE.

You learn something every day, people. And this little factoid is part of the 80% that's worth forgetting by lunchtime.

3) Flying Spaghetti Monster

If you haven't heard of it, well, then you have now. The one and only Flying Spaghetti Monster is, accordging to Pastafarians, the creator of the universe, and therefore should recieve equal time in school with Evolution and Intelligent Design. Have you been Touched By His Noodley Appendage?

As funny as it is, I do have one concern about it. Idiot scientists, and scientist wanna-be's (journalists, graduate students in humanities, graduate students in science, etc.), are confusing the debate over the metaphysics of Intelligent Design with the debate on whether or not Intelligent Design is science. You can rant and rave all you want about how ID is not science, and I'll be inclined to agree with you. But if you'd like to say that it is wrong, I'd like to see your proof, please.

And you can't just argue "It's wrong because it's not scientific." There are, as far as we all treat life on a day-to-day basis, many non-scientific things. (To say otherwise you would need to prove strong determinism. I'll see you when you give up!) Something is not real or unreal, or true or false, solely on the baisis of whether or not it is science.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster isn't science, but I hope that none of you are confusing it's obvious absurdity with a paralleling "obvious" absurdity in Intelligent Design. Keep it out of science classes, yes, but out of mind, no. (And remember, these words of wisdom are coming from someone who has major issues with ID.)

4) Talk Like a Pirate Day

It's coming Monday! Yes, it is! Go here to find out more.

I think this oddity explains itself.

5) Flying Sheep

The original is being rewritten! I used to visit this website every so often, and I hadn't been there for a long time. It turns out that they are reworking the place. It was getting a bit nutty last time I was there, really. I remember, though, being entertained endlessly not only by the user submitted content (I had a couple of the items on the Unofficial State Motto list, among lots of other random things) but also by the randomly posted quizzes on teh front page and by the randomly displayed Flying Sheep thoughts on every page. (Found tonight: HELP! MY TYPEWRITER IS BROKEN! -- E. E. CUMMINGS). The adventure game was always fun. I also liked the responses form Flying Sheep and Friends in the IAQ section, now up and running on the new message boards.

Hopefully everyone's favorite wooly mathematician will get things up and running again sonetime in the near future. Word up, Sheep!

6) BookCrossing

Is this really a good thing to do with books? I have to admit, even I have a few books that I'd like to get out there in the open. Set them free! But my concern is that they'll simply be set free into the garbage, and I love books too much to let that happen, even to the ones I'm not terribly fond of. Anwyway, if you woudl like to be a BookCrosser (one who makes books mad by abandoning them?), you can click on my link to the right, read about it, sign up if you'd like, and let your books fly!

17 September 2005

Just some stuff...

I wasn't doing much today. I got out of bed and read some music (while listening to it, but it's the spring concert piece, not any of the fall concerts, and I really need to learn some of the choir music, because right now I'm at the point that I can sing all of it when I hear the piano and the other parts, but I can't just look at it and sing it, so grump grump).

Not much happened, and then there was a knock at the door. My wife looked out the door and then sneaked back over to inform me "THe peep hole is blocked!" Moderately confused (me, not her) she went back to try again. I was about to say "Open it, it's [name of friend]" but she was already in the process of opening the door. And it was [name of friend], who was in the area and decided to stop by. Apparently he had been trying to call, but my wife was surfing so he couldn't get through.

Anyway, this friend of mine is a friend from way back. He's my best friend from childhood and teenagerhood, and even though we haven't always kept in touch we've never had a whole year go by when we haven't at least talked on the phone. Most of you knwo how much I hate talking on the phone, so you realize that I made a special dispensation for my friend. In fact, he's about the only person outside my family with whom I don't mind conversing by telephone. And livign cloeser to him now than I did when I was growing up, and no longer depending on parents to take us an hour long drive for our two-to-three times a year visits (thanks, parents!) I see him more often.

So tonight we had some fun with him. First we went out to the Chinese buffet, and he paid (thanks, dude!).

Actually, let me go back, because there's a moral to be had. The first thing that we did was notice his regular ritual of removing his piece and putting it on the cofffee table before he sat down. (If you're thinking "His piece is detachable?" then you're sick, sick, sick!).
My wife wanted to touch it, for some reason, and my friend, having Good Gun Habits, was kind enough to remove the magazine and check the chamber (because you always check!) before handing it to her (especailly before, as I'm not sure she has Good Gun Habits). It was promptly pointed over my head (so, there are not Good Gun Habits), albeit in a non threatening way (which doesn't matter), and needless to say if our (me and my friend) bond of friendship had been any less I would have been on the floor in a jiffy (alive, so as not to risk ending up there dead).

Trust is a good thing, though, and that's why I bring this up. We all trust people all the time. Even the people I know who are full of talk about how people shouldn't be trusted still, in fact, place a lot of trust in me, and other people, from day to day. If you come to talk to me about your political opinions, for example, you all usually seem to have a quite a bit of faith that I'm not going to, say, spontaneously jump up and beat your brains out with my Ring Stand of Doom. You don't know, in the scientific, rational sense, that I won't do that. There may be evidence that I won't, and if you think things through you'll decide that I'm probably safe for some approximation to conversation, but you don't know that I won't smack you around. You talk to me anyway. You trust me when I say that I am not going to hurt you. And I won't.

The point I'm trying to make, though, is that I don't trust most of you to check the chamber. And I don't trust any of you with a gun pointing at me, although I'll cut some slack for my wife (and remind myself to teach her Good Gun Habits sometime soon) if the chamber was checked by someone who I do trust with the task.

Now that I've slighted all of you (I don't trust any of my readers to check the chamber) and made a point more about guns than trust, I'll continue. I did have some other point, probably something about how knowing in the scientific, rational sense isn't the only kind of knowing that we demonstrate form day to day, and therefore can't be the only kind of knowing that we appeal to with matters like religion, but I've lost it. By "it" I mean the "point," but do with "it" as you wish. So I'll go back to the Chinese food now, which is safe... I gather, anyway, because I've not yet thrown up.

We went out for some Chinese food, the three of us, and it was a delightful time. We got to encourage our friend aboout some issues that he's been having recently on the woman front, including the fact that his isues are really normal for someone in his situation. I got some squid and several rats on sticks, and we all had some of those little chinese doughnuts-- the kind that drip oil when squished in your molars.

Next stop-- Best Buy, where my friend wanted to pick up some anime and my wife and I wanted to check out the prices for telephones, since my old 900MHz cordless from college is going bonkers. (I do trust my wife about this. I haven't had any problems but I haven't talked to anyone on the phone for months, either.) I also made a round through the wireless keyboards, and, much to my satisfaction, I didn't find any that felt as comfortable as Heidi's dollar store model. I didn't bother oogling flat panels.

The final stop was Borders (a spontaneous choice, as locals would know, because it's between the Chinese place and Best Buy on the other side of our Main Corridor, designed by, I like to assume, an unemployed New Jersey traffic engineer who just didn't get that memo about how we allow left turns in this state). One of my school friends was there to pick up a magazine. The physics pickings were sparse, which makes me think that there's some book moving going on again to get ready for the Christmas season. I got to look at, but not buy, the extermely expensive Linux manuals.

Then we came home, my wife and friend had coffee, and we watched a couple of episodes of the anime. Anime isn't a hobby of mine, but it's not something that I mind, either, so it was a fun time.

Thanks for coming by, dude! You're always welcome here. I forgot to give you some of the dried shitake mushrooms, so remind me next time. And let us buy you dinner sometime, okay?

I've now accidently written along post about my day when what I meant to do was write about a few things I foudn on the internet. Oh, well. Life's like that. I'll go write some music or something until I'm tired. Yes, I do write music, althogh I lack creativity in a bad way. My most recent endeavor turned out, once I listened to it a few times over, to be an accidental copy of part of Beethoven's seventh symphony! I fail to impress myself.

15 September 2005

It's All YOUR Fault

But the thing that you are responsile for is not what you may first think.

Tonight I was checking out badscience and I read this article about science journalism. I couldn't have said it better, so I won't try. I will add, though, that the science wars are alive and well. And that got me thinking....

One thing that I often wonder is what happens if tables are turned. I have met many, many people humanities people who go on and on and on about how scientists are responsible to communicate their ideas to a lay audience. Scientists can't be technical, because people don't understand technical. And the job of providing a lay understanding is neither the job of the media nor the job of the lay themselves. It is the job of the scientists. And the same people whine about what is science good for and why do we spend money on it and so on and so on.

Okay, I tell you, that's fine. Since this kind of babbling has been going on for a century, let's put it on the shelf and ask other questions. Let me play your game.

What do people in the humanities do with their time?

Why do they deserve to get paid?

What good comes of it? Remember, what you do is only good for something if there are tangible results, and those must come now, now, now. At least that's how everyone treats my line of work.

And don't pull out the education excuse, either. What you do has to serve more purpose than to simply pass knowledge to people. At least that's how everyone treats my line of work.

Now, explain all of that to me, in a way that I can understand.

Explain to me your research. Explain it to everyone. Explain it to laypeople. Educate us. Don't be technical, bceause that's not fair. And explain to our satisfaction, not yours. Remember that it's your fault, not ours, if we don't understand. At least that's how everyone treats my line of work.

Do you like this? Do you enjoy this? Is it fun?

No, I didn't ask if you are laughing. That action might, in fact, be a sign that you're not getting the point.

Perhaps it's not the scientist's fault. Perhaps there are a lot of demands made of scientists that are not made of the humanists. The general public often doesn't ask the humanists and the humanists themselves can't face the self-criticism. Well, they can face it, but every time I force one to face his or her humble pie (and I've done this quite a few times in my life), I get either an insistent "we hate scientists because they act like you," pie in my face, or this pansy emotional bit about how it's not nice to make people feel insecure, crying because the pie is nasty flavor.

Nasty pie, eh? You feed me the pie. Once again, turn the tables. If you like what you see (or taste, to maintain continuity), you're an idiot, because the scientists see what you're looking at all the time when they look your way. Sure, we can choose not to look at it, but you don't have to keep pointing it out again and again, asking "What is ... good for" or telling us that it's our fault that you don't understand something. In fact, since we in science often get quite emotional and don't know how to handle it (the same way you don't know how to handle thoughts sometimes) you can even become a victim if we're just mad at CNN for screwing up on the Health page again or something. You don't need to do it yourself. At the same time, you often demand that scientists defend themselves as some kind of homogeneous group. Look, it turned around again.

Don't get me wrong, like I'm trying to beat on you humanities people for no good reason. Quite frankly, you humanities types who I know are all nice fun people... as long as science doesn't come up. You can fix that.

When you talk endlessly about Shakespeare plays that I didn't know were written, and talk as if I'm supposed to like them, understand them, be familiar with them, or at least accept their presence in conversation, I usually suck it up and deal. You're being you, using yoru language to talk about things that you like and understand. The only improvement I would liek to see is for you to likewise suck it up and deal when science types talk sciency things. It's only natural, you know. You're not going around talking Bard just to bug me. I'm not walking around talking atoms just to bug you.

You also don't realize that we all have a deeper appreciation for what is familiar to us, making it easier for us to understand than it is for others to understand. You don't seem to realize that we all have our own technical jargon to match that understanding. People in science don't speak "math" and "science" in opposition to the "English" and "French" in the humanities. "Bioluminescence" is no less a part of the English language than "antagonist" or "constructivism."

Really, what's your fault is very simple, and it's scinetists' fault also. I've had a theme of taking your questions and opinions and turning them around. You humanities people might not have to turn them around, though, because there really are a lot of scientists who are just as intellectually bigoted as I've made you out to be (I love the word you, as it's singular and plural). We can all have issues with not understanding foreign concepts and feeling inadequate, so there's no reason for anyone to get defensive, really. And you're guilty by association with your "side," just like I am with mine. Guilt by association is not guilt found fairly, no matter which way it goes. But, even so, if you don't like eating it, don't dish it out, as my mom always says.

I'm dishing here not beacuse I like eating, but because I like harmony and I hope that I'm promoting it.

Why can't we all just love each other?

Oh, wait, it must be that thing about how people are inheirently good, with the most advanced arguments I've heard in its favor being "It's true because it is."

[Nate dons tie-dye shirt and sits back to ponder.]

Oh, I'll add that I liked the statement in the Guardian article about what scientists do. "Oh," you say, "the article. I read that and I'm wondering what it has to do with this blog post." Well, I actually answered that above, when I said "And that got me thinking...." You see, that's Nate code for "It sparked something barely related in my brain, so here's the barely related thing." You can call that illogical if you'd like. I've never thought of intuition as logical because logic involves starting with premises, not conclusions or the steps that lead to them. Anyway, so that you feel like your time wasn't wasted in reading the article, I give you what scientists do:

"Scientists know how to read a paper. That's what they do for a living: read papers, pick them apart, pull out what's good and bad."

I agree completely. That's my life.

14 September 2005

Why I Need A Piano

It's very hard to practice singing music without a piano.

I can't use my harmonica, because I need to sing, and I can't use my accordian, because I need at least one free hand to hold my music. Yes, there are music stands, but that won't do much for me. I've never gotten to the point of rapid page turning while doing anyhting except singing. And when I play bass clef on a piano I tend to use my left hand. A shadow of some atrophied potential for talent, probably, leaving my turning hand free.

So, I will need to commandeer one of my old keyboards from home. My apologies to anyone who needs them, but for once I need one of them. If I had money I would just buy Noteworthy Composer, or some other decent music writing software for my computer. If you know any equivalent software that can be had for cheap, do tell me. And don't bother pointing out the trial version of Composer, because I know about that. Only an idiot, or someone who has never heard of the program, wouldn't know about it. Oh, and I have Finale Notepad, somewhere, but I'd really like to be able to change time and key signatures within the songs, so those ar enot good either.

Thanks for listening.

13 September 2005


Sadly it doesn't come from the factory in butt-ugly orange, but the new Dodge Charger seems quite thrilling. I'd like one, although I'd like the R/T Daytona trim. Yes, I'm expensive.

12 September 2005


No, I'm not moving my blog.

Tomorrow I will, if all is still as planned, be moving offices. One of my officemates is coming along, and we'll have a smaller room to ourselves.

And it had better be to ourselves. It's about a third the size of the one we're in now, so they'd darn well better have six people in our current office, and all the others its size, before putting a third person into ours. We have a number of junky old computers to set up, between the two of us, so we'll have the extra desk all nice and full of geek stuff. And maybe we won't have to turn on the radiator to heat the room.

Now we just need to decide on which posters are appropriate for above our desks. I won't ponder that here, you'll just have to come by, Oh, wait, I don't have any posters. I should do something about that, yes?

Of ourse, we'll never be there anyway, because there's another office that is being declared the official hang-out office, the job of my current office for a few years because it had the only sofa. There's a less suspiscious sofa in the hang-out office, but I'll miss the ugly vynil thing that makes everyone talk horny (i.e. "How many frat guys do you think ... on there before it got in here?").

11 September 2005

It's Coming Soon

Just think, Christmas is coming soon!

There are already Christmas cards available in some stores. 24 hour Christmas music is, in some markets, less than eight weeks away. Prices have not yet gone up form hurricane Katrina.

Folks, if you don't knwo what to get me, all I have to say is "Buy early; buy often; think big!"

Yes, you see, that's the normal spirit. The Christmas spirit doesn't come into play until Christmas.

10 September 2005


It seems that the Canadian Journal of Physics has, in the past decade, been the best place to find information on the physics of curling stones. And I do mean information! There are over a dozen papers since 1993, based on my search for the term "curling rock" at Web of Science and Knowledge. Notably, there seem to be no fewer than two groups who have worked on the matter. Slightly less notably, there seem to be no more than two groups who appear to have worked on the matter. The guru is Mark Shegelski or UNBC.

It's worth pointing out that the American Journal of Physics and Australian Journal of Physics have a paper each. People "in the know" will notice that the subject is covered by second tier journals (CJP, AJP, AuJP), not the top journals. (It amazes me that people new to physics literature from inside the US think that AJP, containing the word "American" must be 'da bomb above all bombs while people from outside the US have prejudices that put it in its proper place). I think that has more to do with audience and less to do with scientific value.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, I have now provided a link (on your right, in the space that your advertising saturated brain usually ignores) to our very own USA Curling website. Yes, we have a national curling association, and we'll be sending a team to Turin. No, not for this. For this.

I can do this safely because nobody ever confuses people interested in curling with people who actually curl. It is different with, say, rugby, golf or skydiving, where interest usually means particpation, or at least the desire to participate. Curling stands out as an oddity for oddities. And it's not just for Canadians, although some of you are probably ethnocentric enough to say "Of course it's not just for Canadians! It's for everyone who's rocks are off kilter!"

Shame on you. Your pun is bad. And you should care about our Neighbor to the North.

Before I go, I'd like to point out that Christmas is coming fast and USA Curling merchandise makes a great gift. Hint.

Call Me a Canuckistani

I am Prince Edward Island. Rock on!

09 September 2005

Chairs and Bugs

I found a chair tonight on my walk. It was nice, fake leather, big, and it appeared quite comfy. Sadly, I couldn't pick it up because I have no vehicle that can hold such an object. It would be a lovely addition to my office, so I'm sad.

I'm really curious about something. Why is it that the internet gives my wife nothing, while never giving me cookies, but also gives my wife no viruses, while giving me viruses? It's always viruses that are targeted at IE, so I'm never bothered by them. I probably ditch a dozen cookies a month forom her folders and a virus a season from mine.

I'll be editing the registry tonight so I can ditch the most recent piece of internet idiocy....

08 September 2005

Another Note

You know, it's really not too hard to find all kinds of interesting things on the internet.

One Way To Find a Zunivers

Here's one MSN search that will give you my blog. Notice that the "butt sex" page is higher than mine. What sad times, when such things come up on page 2 of a search for a school paper... and when people like me notice such things!

No, I didn't visit it.

And no, I didn't do that search myself. I found it when I was snooping around my blog's list of recent visitors and spambots.

Oh, and most of you using Firefox need to update your browsers... and yes, I know who you are, and I know that most, if not all, of you are using your personal machines....

07 September 2005

My Night

I spent the evening with seven virgins. What did you do with your night?

05 September 2005

Me Being Upitty

Alvin Plantiga wrote this gem, and it's a worthwhile read.

In thinking about this, I find it amazing that many people I know do not spend any time with self criticism. One of my favorites is hunting straw-men. If someone opposes something very close to, but not exactly like, what you think, you cry foul and throw fits that the person isn't arguing against what you, or indeed anyone else, thinks exactly but is rather engaged in erecting easy targets and knocking them down in a feeble granny style that would never work against what you really think. At the same time, when you oppose what someone else thinks, it's quite acceptable to simplify, summarize, gloss over details, and then claim that you've covered everything, or why you don't need to do so, before going on the pretend that you're destroying it.

I see, for example, atheists and theists who do this. Their characterization of themselves is far more robust than their characterization of others, which make ssense, but they do not allow the other side this luxury. "It's not that simple" is a common objection, given with little consideration about whether or not it's fair to make the same criticism the other way around. We know much about ourselves, we expect everyone else to know it, and we expect that the only way they are even being considerate of our opinions is to come to agreement with us. And it's unfair for the other side to think the same way.

My point is that many people don't make the same critiques of ourselves that they make of others. Such self criticism is probably a good thing.

It avoids issues like people I know who, I am not kidding, will complain to me that Christianity isn't believable because it can't explain X, and then, upon my explaning X in a Christian way, will complain that Christianity isn't believable because its answers to X are so sensible for such a complicated capital letter. And vice-versa for arguments against Christianity.

It consternates folks like scientists and religious nuts who avoid philosophy and give a great deal of lip service about how philosophy doesn't belong in any discussion of religion or science. In my humble opinion philosophy is actually quite relavent but most of you simply don't want to face it for fear that you might have to get uncomfortable with whatever you already believe.

I bring this up because I have offered arguments along the lines of what Plantiga wrote in his article. I've even offered up the article, while in iscussions of whether or not it's rational to believe in God. The responses I usally get upon refering to the article is "That's philosophy so I'm not reading it" and in referring to the arguments is "That is wrong because it just is."

The latter, it so happens, the same response that I get to people who want to claim moral relativism. It seems nice to have everything relative to the individual, until you have to explain why that concept of no absolutes is in itself must be absolute to all individuals. You can always try the equally fruitless path of splitting hairs and dictating that some things are absolute and others are not, but that avoids the quesiton of what your critera are for making the distinction and whether or not others must use the same criteria.

Foul, people cry, you're just not getting it. Frankly, that's not the problem. Rather, you are getting it and refusing to admit it.

I'd love to list the reasons people give me for why they ignore philosophy, but quite frankly I find them worthless becuase they all amount to "Philosophy doesn't belong here because it doesn't." Christians say it, scientists say it journalists say it. Amazing, though, how even though you won't read philosophy you're always willing to do it when it suits you, yes? Ask the big quesitons, but only when you choose, and only if they aren't called philosophy, yes? Philisophy is foul until you need it, yes?

This idiotry knows better no side of any debate. It's everywhere.

To be fair, let me give a critique of this post. This post is quite patronizing and comes across with much less arrogance than I'd like it to. I'd like to be so filled with venom that I enrage you into actions that transcend being angry with me and go on to trying to prove me wrong. But I'm probably not doing it, you'll never read the Plantiga article, and you'll just continue on your merry way as if philosophy has nothing to do with you, you don't need to criticise yourself the same way you criticize others, and how you think from day to day is just fine, thanks awfully. Also, I point out that I have given no basis for believing that rationality is to be highly esteemed, something that is fundamental to my trying to make you angry for being unlike it.

But still, go cluck yourself. And kudos to whoever finds the Plantiga pun in the first sentence.

03 September 2005

What I Think...

Many of you probably wonder what I think about Intelligent Design. Here, from my favorite message boards, are three posts (the one that is at the top of your screen when the whole page is loaded, then the following two). None of them are mine, but they sum up three important comments that I have on the matter.

First, ID is not science and should not be taught as science.

Secondly, materialism is not science and should not be taught as science (a point that many ID critcs ignore).

Third, I do science for studying how the world is, not to look for deeper meaning in it, and that is how science is supposed to be done. People who get deeper meaning from "science" are actually getting deeper meaning from philosophical views imposed on the science. Methodological naturalism does not, in itself, shed light on any questions of "Why?"

I would tell you what CSI is except for the fact that I think you will all learn more by looking it up. It has nothing to do with crime scenes.

A Special News Bulliten

Allentown, PA-- Gas taxes have reached a low for the year at just under 10% of the price per gallon, according to numbers that anyone can look up. In parts of Pennsylvania the average price of gas has exceeded $3.10 per gallon, decreasing the fixed rate per-gallon tax's percentage.

The tax, which stands at 31 cent per gallon, funds the state's coffers with money that it needs to maintain its status as most bureaucratically choked state in the union. With gas prices rising as high as $3.399 for regular unleaded gasoline in some places, the new percentage for the gas tax has plumetted to as little as 9.2%.

The percaentge is under ten percent for any gas price over 3.10 per gallon. Freelance mathematician Leonhard Euler explains. "Es ist einfache Mathematik. Das Prozent ist ein Verhältnis der Steuer, zu bewerten. Es kann von Zunahmen in Preis oder Abnahmen in Steuer fallen lassen."

Although sensible, Euler cautions us that "Leute werden sich mit der Abnahme in Verhältnis, aber freuen es sei denn Einkommen vermehren, den neuen Benzinenpreisenzunahmen anzupassen, Leute können anstatt bevorzugt zu sehen, dass der Verhältnistropfen infolge des Steuersatzes abnehmend."

The rate of 31 cents per-gallon is tied with Rhode Island for the highest per-gallon rate in the nation, although recent surges in gas prices in that state have caused their percentage to drop even lower than Pennsylvania's, to as little as 8.5% in some places. Althogh many Pennsylvanians would like to see such low tax levels heres, they are not planning to moves.

"Why," replied one woman, "would I want to live in a place where people talk like they have jello in their sinuses?"

Although not beating out those rich New England wankers, who are obviously beating off themselves, many people were happy to hear about the decrease in the tax percentage.

"This is Tremendous News," said a statistical physicis graduate student. "It just goes to show why Numbers are like Hookers. If we Massage them the right way, they'll do Anything We Want!"

The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, was quite handsome.

White people everywhere are astounded that this percentage decrease is also being issued to people of other colors, especially blacks. In a small town in the central mountains of the state we found one man wearing a bedsheet who had this to say. "Hey, you pussies are already stifling our plans to leave the poor black people rotting in the streets of New Orleans and everywhere else in this ... country. Now in my home state you're giving them economic benefits of a lower ... percentage of their gas price paid as tax, too?"

Euler's response-- "Ach, scheißt! Ich habe meinen Kaffee verschüttet!" and a few moments later "Dies ist ziemlich schmerzhaft. Ich wünsche, dass ich noch es 'dunkler Braten' rufen könnte."

Although we have recieved tens of thousands of unconfirmed reports of white people with more racially sensitive opinions, we are not inclined to confirm them because we're too busy bringing you the news that matters most to us.

Well known, racially charged, egotistical, and plain annoying pseudo-politician civil-rights activism leaders were not contacted for comments on the rising racial tensions. Although they could not be located, we suspect that they are in their bunkers trying to figure out how to Massage the Numbers so as to make the Honkys see how evil they are because they could not conjure up the Voodoo Spirits required to provide humanitarian assistance in the Gulf Coast regions during the inevitable lag time before National Guard assistance could arrive. Shortages of black candles and chicken feet were probably not called into question.

The decreasing Pennsylvania gas tax percentage has not changed the per gallon tax's ration to the price of a single letter first class postage stamp, which still stands at 0.837 repeating.

A Little Birdie contributed to this story.

02 September 2005

Walking Distance & Related Comedy

High gas prices don't really bother me because I live within walking distance of everything I regularly do. Church is close enough to walk. So is school. So are the groceries, Wal-Mart, pet stores, video stores, a mall, numerous parks, freinds' houses, bus stations, a rather tall building, and mountains nearly 1000 feet tall.

Of course, that doesn't mean anything because my wife is a very normal person and for her, as for all normal people, the radius we call " within walking distance" is far less than 10 miles. So we still need to buy gas for the car. We can't go carless for a week.

Call me a freak, but I find a couple of ten mile walks a day on hilly terrain, with a light pack, to be fun, but there are reasons why I don't do it more than once or twice a year.

It's so darned time consuming, for one thing. With traffic to avoid and forced stopping at many intersections, 10 miles takes me about 4 hours.

Another thing is that Concrete sucks for walking for anyone. It's worse for me, though. Shoes are made for people of normal weights and so I go from having shoes that are uncomfortable on hard surfaces while being broken in to shoes that are uncomfortable because they are literally broken in. Combine that with my need for 13 EEEE, which cannot be found cheap, and I pay a lot of money for quality shoes that I ruin quickly because they aren't suited for my body. I'm also an underpronater, which is rare.

Anyway, the point I want to make is that to get where I need to go I have to walk mostly on concrete, and some blacktop which is better but not by much, and that simply hurts my feet after 20 miles at a fast pace. It's actually more than moderately annoying at a slow pace.

Anyway, next week may be a foot week for me, at least one way. (This is serious. The comedy follows.)

All of you who I see at school will be able to laugh at me when I show up and say "Hi, I just walked here." Then, if we have any temporary gas shortages, I can make fun of you, and everyone I don't know, who live closer. You all will be part of the problem and less deserving of a right to complain, and then I won't complain and you'll feel guilty for doing it yourself! And of course I'll be able to laugh all the way to the bank, and get an edge on my dissertation, when I don't need to spend $30 and four hours for my five gallons. Oh, I love it!

And, even if there aren't any gas shortages, my leg muscles and core torso muscles will be in better shape than most of yours... as if they aren't already. I'm talking the shape of the muscles, not the flab hanging on them. I keep the flab for, um, "human interest." For poor excuse about my exercsie habits (poor because of misapplication, not lack of truth) see earlier arguments about my shoes.

I do love you people, really. It's all intended as good humor, of course :) You won't see me for a few days at least, so you have plenty of time to develop equally farcical comebacks and/or set up a system that pastes me to my office chair when I sweat on it. Being a burly man who carries my own small pond with me everywhere I go, I'm quite vulnerable to anything involving deposited films that get sticky with added water.

Oh, before I go, I should mention that our friend (singular, although by convention I should include the "s" on "friend" to indicate that she is married and her husband is also a friend) had a baby last night. It's the best kind, too-- a cute one.

(That last bit about there being a baby and it being cute is serious, not comedy, just in case you couldn't tell.)