My Zunivers

28 February 2006

Why I Can't Pick a Career

The choir that I sing with (the main choir, not the one in which I am making myself useful and hoping to never sing with again) has a director that I've hear called more than a few names that even I dare not print here. A few of the people have had experiences that make me inclined to be sympathetic. When a person bothers another, the bothered often resorts to less than flattering labels.

I think that the rest of the people, though, have much less skin than I do for guys like him. The most important thing is that he comes across as real. Being fake is the thing that bothers me most in people. Being stupid comes next on the list. Faking intelligence is a double whamy that makes a person lower than a tapeworm. Of course, the reality is often rather strange, and here with the choir director it is too. Today one of his, shall I say, "academic coworkers" referred to him as "a prissy prima donna." I can't argue because that actually about sums it up.

And unlike most people I really have no problems with that. A friend of mine from school once said that I probably have a career in diplomacy. Normal people are unbearbly troublesome for my psyche but oddballs of any kind just amuse me. I find prissy prima donnas to be much more approachable than grocery store employees, customer service representatives, or almost anyone who works in what they call "business."

But this has made me wonder... Why really have over 99.9% of the people that I've met in life been such a bother to me? Nearly all of my best of friends have annoyed me to some extent at one time or another. Overall I have very peaceful relationships with my college and grad school friends, for example. I can usually deal with insufferably dumb people in my interactions outside of academia (which for me is mostly church, although the dumbness doesn't seem to stop there and rather seems to be a general property of the population). But I still get bugged by almost everyone I know, save a handful, at least every once in a while. Usually I brood for a few hours and shrug it off. I forget about it fast and never look back.

I'd say the feeling is mutual except for the fact that I don't know if it is. My roommate of two years and best man at my wedding said, as part of his toast at the wedding, "Nate has been one of my best friends over the last several years, and he's also made me angrier than almost anyone else I know." We were good friends and had lots of spats. And then there are three or four people I can think of who I know well and have had about no conflict with them. All of that makes me confused even more. There doesn't seem to be any simple rule to follow. The best of friends can make you angry to any extent, and people you hardly know can do the same. There is no correlation between how bothered a person makes you and how much of a friend that person is. "Hurting most the ones you love" is probably not true in any specific sense.

So I don't think I can answer my question.

And that means I need to forget about it and go get work done. The poster is almost finished except for teh graphs, which are the main point, and the talk is almost done, except for the results, which are whizzing around in my computer resources and occasionally spitting out numbers as I sit here. For real. And that means I won't need to contact the people at State Farm who sent me a nice note oiutline all the reasons why I really should consider a job as a insurance agent.

26 February 2006

If I Were A Dead Russian Composer

I would be Dmitri Shostakovich!



I am a shy, nervous, unassuming, fidgety, and stuttery little person who began composing the same year I started music lessons of any sort. I wrote the first of my fifteen symphonies at age 18, and my second opera, "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District," when I was only 26. Unfortunately, Stalin hated the opera, and put me on the Enemy Of The People List for life. I nevertheless kept composing the works I wanted to write in private; some of my vocal cycles and 15 string quartets mock the Soviet System in notes. And I somehow was NOT killed in the process! And Harry Potter© stole my glasses and broke them!

Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

Unfortunately, I actually did start composing when I started my first music lessons. That's a side of me that few know about. Heck, I don't even know about it because I've lost most of it. I took a break from the tinkering for a few years, but I'm now back at it.

I'll stop here because I don't flaunt my artistic side. I'm scared of it, actually.

My Drive Home

Driving home on Friday I was not far from campus when an idiot circling the local school in a van did not even bother to look my way or stop at the stop sign on his street (no stop sign for me) before turning, slowly, right onto the street directly in front of me. This idiot proceeded to drive at ten miles per hour past the school to the next intersection and then do this.

Yes, that's right, the dolt stopped in the intersection to pick up the kiddies from the crosswalk, blocking a lane that I happened to want to turn onto. After picking up the children the van turned right onto the same street, where I noted that there was then a whole block of unobstructed curbside that would have been perfectly suitable for picking up the wee ones.

While blocking a lane of traffic like this bugs me, doing it to pick up kids is absolutely stupid. So was waving for me to go around, which would have planted the my car into another car that was coming in from the right that I couldn't see (which is why I didn't go; you never can trust as flagman someone dumb enough to pick up kids in a crosswalk).

At the next traffic light (for confused locals, at the intersection where we used to hang out on Wednesdays before the food there started to suck) a car turned left in front of me without bothering to note that a LANTA bus was blocking the street onto which it was turning. This made the zealous left turner stop in the intersection right in front of me, forcing me to take a risky bit of evasive action so tight that only the "look where you want to drive and hope it works" method was on option. It worked.

It will be a long time before I ever drive between 4:00 and 6:30 on a Friday. Unless life and limb depend on it, I'm staying wherever I am. A hard week at work does not excuse one from driving in a sane manner, but since people seem to think otherwise I will stay out of their way.

And yes, I am nerdy enough to draw diagrams of traffic farces.

23 February 2006

Bits on Origins

Having time while I sit here tinkering during runs of my Monte Carlo simulations (time I shodul be using for my poster, probably), I just read a recent article by Sjoerd L. Bonting on some of his thouhgts on intelligent design. Slog through it. It's fun.

Also, I was recently challenged on a claim that I have made about the "information" (usually called "complex specified information") that intelligent design junkies, as well as young earth creationists, say cannot be increased by the combination of mutation and natural selection. I've said that there is a subjective component to this "information" that makes it different from what information theorists call information. My suggestion is to read the section "Defining Biological Form and Information" in this article by Stephen C. Meyer.

What I basically see there is that given two systems with the same classical information (something we can calculate) the one that we look at and declare to be woking actually has higher information than the one that doesn't work. My objection isn't that this is wrong; it may be completely correct. My objection is that nobody has proposed how this "functioning" can be defined a priori. And, unlike classical information, I have never even seen mathematical expressions for it.

So my real problem with arguments about information, compared to arguments about irreducible complexity, is not that they are demonstrably wrong but that they fall short of being demonstrably correct. So when a creationist says "But where did the information come from?" he should not smirk witih glee at having triumphed over evil. At best the argument has reached what is for now an impasse. And this is on top of the fact that the best the proving the statement does is to say that ideas about evolution are incomplete.

Oh, and after all that I forgot to mention that in his Book No Free Lunch William Dembski, originator (I think) of the idea of complex specified information demonstrating the existence of an intelligent designer, says that his "complex specified information" is subjective.

(And before you get too excited about Meyer's intelligent design paper that got published in a peer reviewed journal, I'll point out that it was sneaked in through the back door and the editor responsible was forced to resign. His misconduct was the sneaking, not the fact that the paper fails to subscribe to an atheistic worldview.)

Theology on Tap

From the Washington Post, and article about religion seminars in bars.

The event is "Theology on Tap," a program launched in Northern Virginia six years ago to reach out to young Catholics, especially those who might not attend Mass regularly.

Church leaders say the "six-pack seminars" -- each seminar consists of six weekly sessions -- are not intended to replace worship services. Instead, they are a way of integrating religion into parishioners' daily lives, while building and sustaining church membership.


My straw-man Baptist response (I'm not Baptist) is as follows:

Christins shouldn't go to bars. The Bible forbids consuming alcohol and, by extension, patronizing the dens of sin that serve it. Sure, Jesus made water into wine, but wine in the Bible had so little alcohol that it doesn't count as alcoholic.

We have an explanation for why the Bible an still talk about being drunk, though. The people in Bible times obviously didn't know what being drunk means. Those passages of the Bible tha tmention being drunk must be talking about the sin of being drunk on the Holy Spirit, something that only those so-called churches that speak in tongues talk about. An exception is Belshazzar who was not drunk but really full of food, to the point of hallucinations, beause he was a gluttonous pagan. How the Bible's authors knew to call it "drunk" is of course irrelevant because God wrote the Bible. Through Him the people in Bible times would understand what He meant no matter what words were used. It's amazing how clear the Bible's teachings are when you just take every word literally.

And Catholics aren't Christians anyway.

Come to think of it, I don't think its really a straw man. I've actually had Baptists tell me all of this.

That out of my system, here's my more mainline opinion. I think overall it's a fantastic idea that goes straight to the heart of what Jesus himself was doing hanging out with whores and tax collectors.

22 February 2006

Life, Actually

I've been really busy lately. There's lots of work to be done on the research front, and although those of you who see me almost every day would never know it, seeing as how I'm an attention starved social butterfly who likes to help others procrastinate, I've been getting work done. I've also had to get up early (relative to my body deciding to fall asleep) a few days a a week, so I've been tired. If I would get everything that I do done twice as fast, which is probably completely possible, my advisor would praise me as one prases a fine hunting dog. Being tired gets in the way, though, and I do occasionally worry about what happens to lame hounds.

Another thing that's been keeping me busy online is putting together a group political blog. I was hoping to find at least three poor saps besides myself and so far I've only found two. And those two share my opinions on many things political, so that's no fun. The biggest problem is finding reliable contributers who actually believe in something and are willing to express it, so grump. If you're interested and willing to contribute regularly then let me know and I'll think about hooking you up. And if I say no you can at least visit the blog and whine a lot and cause all sorts of havoc. I'll get a link to that blog in my sidebar here sometime soon.

I've also been hungry lately. My wife and I are making a concerted effort to turn over our food suppy, so the first thing that we need to do is eat without shopping for as long as possible. This is an evasive way of saying that both of us want to go to the store and get Real Food™ but started out too busy (really for me it's because I'm enochlophobic, making me want to shop at night, and a tightwad, making me feel guilty if I buy staple items somewhere besides Aldi, which is not open at night) but are now having one of those Contests of Wills about who has more work to do. I tell her it's just homework and she tells me that she's not my mom. I, or my shrinking waistline, will keep you updated on this rather comical situation. (My wife is really fantasticiferous, by the way.)

Church choir practice tomorrow evening. Oh, fun....

20 February 2006

But This Is Not An Update

Trolling the papers, as I do every day, I've found a headline like this:

UPDATE: Record Powerball jackpot winner is still a mystery

How about saving it and telling us when something does happen?

18 February 2006

Big Brother

It seems that the Houston police chief wants to install cameras everywhere, including in the homes of people who call the police often. And what else does he say that I find most disturbing?

"I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

This is exactly the kind of crap attitude that's going to kill freedom in our country and in the western world.

The accuracy of this statement relies on the assumption that the authorities are good and will not do anything harmful with the information that we are to let them have. Right now that might be true, but what about in fifty years? If we set up a network that, say, tracks people's locations, activities, and words to look for terrorists now then even though we have nothing to fear right now if we're not doing anything wrong, like being terrorists, we still have put a system in place that could be seized and used for ill purposes at any later time. The last time I read the US Constitution one of its purposes was to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." If the government wants to make us free, it had darned well do it in a way that will not obviously provide means for losing freedom in the future.

In the face of such stupidity as what we just heard form the Houston police chief, and from millions of Americans every day, possibly even the large majority, I think Ben Franklin would be saying they deserve neither liberty or security and Patrick Henry would probably just outright kill himself.

17 February 2006

Blankley: The Shooting Party

Tony Blankley's column this week is about Cheney's little shotgun problem. He opens

In the absence of any pressing news these days — other than Iran's nuclear weapons development crisis, the election of Hamas terrorists in Palestine, on-going worldwide Muslim riots and killing in reaction to a cartoon, Al Gore's near sedition while speaking in Saudi Arabia, the turning over of our East Coast ports to be managed by a United Arab Emirates firm, the criminal leaking of vital NSA secrets to the New York Times, Mexican military incursions across our southern border, the Iraqi crisis, Congress's refusal to deal with the developing financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare, inter alia — the White House press corps has exploded in righteous fury over the question of the vice president's little shooting party last weekend.

I recommend reading it.

16 February 2006

My Problem With Figure Skating

I'm concerned about the way that sports like figure skating and gymnastiscs are scored. So are a lot of people that I know. Unfortunately, most of the people I know seem to really miss my point, and they tread some dangerous philosophical ground in the process. The main objection I hear to the scoring is "It's all subjective." That's well and cool, but there's a problem with such a line of reasoning besides simply missing a real problem.

Measurement in a lab is always to some extent subjective, too. Teach an intorductory physics lab where students measure a string with a meterstick and you'll see this. Those students don't have scatter in their data only because they're lazy careless bastards-- the best students have scatter. And the scatter isn't only from thermal fluctuations in length of their metersticks or some other physical phenomenon that we can call non-subjective. There is scatter in their data because every person makes every measurement with a ruler just a little bit differently.

Most of the time in science the precision of the measurements is really good, so even if the results are scattered they all fall around a mean that we scientists consider a trustworthy description of reality. But what about comparing trials rather than comparing to reality? If two sets of measurements, let's call each set a result form a single trial, have means that fall within each other's error bars then we say that the two values are likely equal. How likely? We build that probability into the error bars. Loosely speaking, if the error bars represent N% of the measurements in the trial then if the means of each trial fall within each other's error bars then we say we are N% (f(N)%?) certain that the trials are gving equal values.

Now, what does this have to do with figure skating scores? Well, I don't buy that subjectivity is a problem. I have a deeper problem that goes back to the way that we interpret statistics. Consider that each skater is a trial and that their set of scores for that trial are the numebrs we want to interpret. If we did a science experiment and our trials gave these results we would need to evaluate whether the average scores for the trials are the same or different. We would do this with the error bars. If the mean values for each trial result (skater's mean score) were within the errorbars for the other trials' means (skaters' scores) then we would say that the result of the trials' means (skaters' scores) are quite likely equal.

This is the way that the scores end up looking in skating. If we interpreted them as points in a scinetific experiment we would, for example, know that the person in tenth place is 99.9% likely to really be a lower score than the first place score but at the same time we might know to more than 50% accuracy whether the second place score is really higher than the fourth place score. I know this is true based on the recently publicized work of a Yale professor who said that the orders of figure skaters can be determined simply by which of the scores are randomly eliminated. If removing a few of a set of measurements changes the orders mean for the trial means then many of the means are statistically equal to some high probability to the other mans that are close in rank.

So my problem isn't that the skater's scores are subjective. Rather, my problem is that the scatter in the different judge's scores for each skater is larger than the separation between the mean score for each skater.

Finding some objective scoring system might not necessarily get rid of this. I don't know what such a system would even look like. We could put up cameras all over that would run a digital algorithm analyze the skaters and assign scores. Whose algorithm do we use, though? What if they all give slightly different scores? Isn't the darned assignment of a certain number of points to a certain element a subjective process? (Actually it's worse, it's design by committee.)

So what I'd like to see in figure skating is not a change in the scoring system that gets rid of any of the subjectivity. What I'd prefer to see is a scoring system that gives scores that are clearly unequal. This can happen two ways. First would be to increase the precision of the scores, perhaps by making a huge panel of judges (say, 1000 scores instead of 12-5=7 scores for each skater). Second, because the first idea might not be possible to execute in any way that's helpful enough, would be to make scores that actually scatter the data in a more favorable way. A strong rubric would help this. Mandatory deductions (remember those?) should be mandatory, for example.

Thinking about it, I do have other problems with figure skating. Sheer boredom is one. The fact that there could be other things on my TV sometimes is another. (I don't have cable and I don't get any NBC stations, so this one isn't bothering me right now.) Tonya Harding is another. And Dave Coulier is yet another.

So I guess I'll go do something else now, like wish I was watching curling or cross country skiing. Cross country skiing has a history that involves numbers, too, by the way. Maybe I'll post about that soemtime.

Have fun watching the figure skating, folks.

Show Off Your Car Knowledge Here

My car is stalling sometimes when I come to a stop and the steering wheel is turned. Yes, I've finally pinned it down to when the steering wheel is turned. She dones't have any problems if I leave the wheel alone.

I was about to blame the torque converter lock-up clutch, since it only happens after driving for a while, but I noticed that the problem isn't stopping alone, it's stopping with the steering wheel turned or turning the steering wheel when stopped. Being front wheel drive and with an automatic transmission (in case the torque converter didn't give that away; in that case I hope you don't answer), could this be related to repairs made when the transmisison was rebuilt? Among other things the differential was completely replaced.

I ask because the transmission is under warranty. If it's the transmission then I'll take it back to the transmisison shop. If it's not then I will take it somewhere else.

And I know that it's really called a transaxle.

And no, I haven't checked the fluid. I often park on a hill her at home. I usually get home after dark and get out of bed just in time to go to my first task of the day I'm a freakin' theorist. So I keep forgetting.

15 February 2006

Sports Coverage Sucks

The Colts were supposed to win the superbowl. They did't even make it there but the sixth seed in the AFC did. USC was supposed to win the BCS. Texas beat them, and some records in the process. The Yankees were supposed to win the World Series. Some no-name team from Chicago did that.

And Howard Dean was the only democratic candidate for president that anyone heard about before the 2004 Iowa caucuses.

So it should be no surprise to you that Bode Miller, America's downhill skiing media circus main event, missed yet another slalom gate (his Nth in about N+2 inernational competitions this season) and was disqualified from whatever pretentious downhill specticle he was involved in. Ted Ligety, the other US skiier, won.

Piss, And Other Things, On A Rope

That about sums it up.

My research has gone beyond hitting the toilet and has been flushed. I found a fundamental problem in the model (it's not my model, it's someone else's) that's going to keep me from being able to do much more with it than I've already done, which is basically nothing. So grump.

I've also overdosed on sugar, so I feel extremely hungry right now. But I can't eat because that will just make things worse, ad infinitum or ad pass-out-in-a-coma, whichever comes first. My poor kidneys. This sort of thing makes me really grumpy.

On the subject of food, I was at Wegman's today. I live closer to a half dozen other stores so I usually don't get to Wegmans. It's always fun to be there, though. The candy I wanted was right near the door (thanks, John) and I also picked up one of my Wegman's secrets. In the Indian food section they have some bulk spices that are cheaper than in the regular spice section. Some herbs and spices aren't good this way. Basil, for instance, seems to provide the same amount of flavor per dollar no matter waht the price per weight. I've also had really bad luck with cheap ginger powder. Corriander, though, that stuff's alright, so I got a bag.

Now I'm hiting myself on the head for forgetting to get peppers to make chili for Friday night's chili cook-off at the church. I'm not going quite as atomic as last year, but it'll hopefully be a no-tomato solid-beef chili. No habaneros, as that seems to make everyone unhappy except one gourmet who shares my tastes. I'd like to go with a sweet bell pepper and poblano base again, because of the good color and flavor, and then add some serrano and possibly anaheim. I'd throw in some other things, too, of course. No chocolate.

On second thought, I might not even go. I get darned sick of people insisting that chili is ground beef, canned beans, tomatoes (canned, stewed, pasted, or whatever), and one of those packets labeled "Chili" from the grocery store. Variations include such marvelous breakthroughs as serving on rice, even when your spouse does not want it that way, or cooking it in a crock pot. (Rant for another day-- why are people always surprised when they find that something can be cooked in a crock pot? What can't?) Topping the chili with packaged cheddar, or our vile American supermarket take on the English original, is optional. And there's always some ol' bat who looks at her bowl full of meaty tomato stew and says "How can you call it chili if you don't serve it with onion?" Or similarly stupid statements like one guy I know who said "Chili needs to have beans or it isn't chili."

I wouldn't mind such nonsense, of course, if people would be stating their preferences rather than claiming knowledge of a Platonic ideal. Americans are, quite simply, the most arrogant and the fattest food ignoramuses in the world. I participate only out of necessity.

Oddly enough, and rapidly changing subjects, something better than piss can be found on the rope around my wife's neck. It's a silver rope with a silver curly thingy on it. I picked it up down at Cleo's, a store near school and very close to the regular Wednesday night dinner spot. It was a bit expensive, but my wife liked it, so I guess we'll keep it. I really would have liked to get her the rather suggestive free-form pendant that was nearby in the display case, but that was in gold and therefore way out of my price range.

This is the first piece of jewelry I've gotten for her since we got married. If I had a ton of money I would buy my wife a big bundle of nice contemporary jewelry with colored jemstones and weird metals. I have trouble buying jewelry because, unlike most areas of life, I have good taste. And I'm cheap. That doesn't help at all when you haev good taste, no matter what the item in question. I think I found a winner today, although it is silver instead of white gold or platinum and I wish I could have bargained them down about 30% on the price.

Now I need to figure out what to say at that darnfungled conference.

14 February 2006

MetroGnomes

Think of it-- garden gnomes, hoods down, with contemporary hairstyles and, peeking from under that silly little cloak thingy held on not by rope but a modern woven belt, hot new styles from the leading designers. The perfect addition to any urban garden.

13 February 2006

Pre-Tribulational Preparedness

Do you have a pet? Do you think the end is near? Do you care about what will happen to your pet if you're gone before the end? Then you need to check out JesusPets.

We are assembling a community of heathen pet-lovers to care for pets that are “left-behind.” We are coordinating with feed mills and kennels in preparation for your post-apocalyptic pet care needs.

The end is near. Have a nice day.

11 February 2006

A Strange Ending

It seems that the six-year-old acused of sexual harrasment has received an apology. How good of them. But I wonder, were't they trained to handle the situation?

Olympic Openings

A few notes on the ceremonies and the related NBC television coverage:

Bob Costas is back. He told us the temperture at the rehersal for the ceremony at least three times.

YMCA was played at least twice.

Sale and Pelletier is so last time around. So is Michelle Kwan. In fact, so is figure skating.

Cute (defined as nicely shaped but thicker than rails) Italian chicks make a nice beating heart when they try.

Has anyone else ever seen a choreographed ski jumper do a whole jump?

That Tomato-Headed skater dude from the US snowboarding team? So Napoleon Dynamite.

What was up with that guy dressed like a circulatory system? Did we really want to see his package? Or watch the striptease? Vile!

Venus' panties? Call it a wardrobe malfunction.

They transposed that song for ol' Luciano, didn't they? (And to WNBC-- it's not from the opera Terr-ON-dough.)

Saying Torino, Italy makes me want to scream. Let's use one language, people!

The torch, lit by pyrotechnics, is not really carrying the true olympic flame. I feel robbed. Blame the French.

10 February 2006

Olympic Season

Dispite hearing a few reports that Luciano Pavarotti will be singing tonight at the opening ceremonies in Turin, nobody really bothered to mention what song he will be singing, at least not that I saw. I found someone saying it would be an Italian aria, and after a little more work I have finally discovered that it will be "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's opera Turandot. This song is the "Miserlou" of opera. Scratch your heads and wonder.

My choices for tonights activities are two-fold. On one hand I have the option to go to my friend's house to watch the Opening ceremonies. On the other hand I have my church small group's attempt to join up with another church small group. While I really like the latter, they are going through a video series that I saw twice within the past three years. I have seen zero winter olympics ceremonies in the past three years, although I do have John Williams' "Call of the Champions" running through my head regularly. I especailly like his addition of the word Clarius when he needed the metrical change near the end, after all that fanfare and the bombastic choral chants of the olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius (complete with authentic ancient commas that those original olympians, the Greeks, put between all of their Latin words). Who in American didn't get tired of that song four years ago? Me. I have the CD. So, anyway, I think I know which activity I'd like to do tonight.

I don't know if I ever shared here my favorite Olympic memory, so I might as well do it now. Sometime in late 2001 the olympic flame arrived in the US. Sicne the 1996 summer games were held in Atlanta, Atlanta was the starting point for the flame's trip around the country. I remember the gut wrenching experience of deciding, while on the subway that morning heading to Georgia Tech, whether to go to my quantum mechanics class or to go to Centennial Olympic Park, one of the only places I liked in Atlanta besides the airport and I-85 north heading out of town, for the festivities. The festivites won (I was getting a C in the class anyway, my traditional grade for 8:00 classes) and rahter than bore myself with things unseen I had a jolly time that morning. They had chairs set up for us early arrivers to take a seat, and trumpets and music, and famous people of different sorts to keep us busy for an hour and change.

My inner romantic was so completely overcome that I had some sort of Experience not unlike what my organs had this past Tuesday, but in a more provocative and healthy way. And I wept. That might have been depression, actually, because I really hate Atlanta and most things to do with the South, except decent unsweetened cornbread. But it was a magnificent experience, something akin to being among royalty. Something mystic. Something illogical. Something very not like me that makes my skin crawl when I remember it. The sort of thing that could turn me into a poet. It's taken the first step of making me completely incoherent anyway.

That story got nowhere, which is where it was meant to go. Call me Bob Costas.

Let the games begin.

Don't Test Us!

Apparently the good folks from California have some issues. This week's issue-- having to pass a statewide standardized test might keep kids from graduating from school.

On Wednesday, 20 high school seniors and their parents sued the state Department of Education and school Superintendent Jack O'Connell, claiming the exam is illegal and discriminatory. They worry the test may prevent the students from graduating.

Um, isn't that the point? If the kids are not competent they do not deserve to graduate so now that there is a test they won't? Or is such a test supposed to be some self-concept promoting pat-on-the-back experience just to make students feel all fuzzy because they know enough English to read a newspaper and less math than one needs to balance a checkbook?




09 February 2006

Kids Should Be Grown-Ups... Not

Yet another six-year-old suspended for sexual harrasment. All I can say is "Huh?"

From the article:

Brockton school officials have not commented beyond a statement from Superintendent Basan Nembirkow that said sexual harassment charges are always investigated and officials are trained to deal with them.

Yeah, uh-huh, sure. People who are "experts" in child development can sort out the difference between innocent six-year-olds acting like kids and miniature pervs who will grow up to be misogynist freaks, so we obviously should trust their every whim. Funny how this line is exactly what managerial types always say when they know they've screwed the pooch and don't want to admit it. (Actually, they usually don't know they've messed up so much as have a vague feeling that someone More Important will unfairly jump in and decide that they did. The point, though, is that the more intelligent of society, from Arlen Specter to Judge Judy, hate these kind of people. I need not say more.)

So, folks, fess up here. How many of you need to report to your old schools that you were involved in violating, or were violated under, some sort of sexual harrasment policy?

I, for one, am livid that I was once chased around the playgroud by a young girl named Kathleen, who went unpunished, and I truly hope that the school suspends her academic records until she serves three days of in school suspension, that pervert.

08 February 2006

Hunks o' Love

For those who didn't already hear, Bill Nye, science guy, was married last Friday. His wife is Blair Tindall, oboist. Dr. Michael Hawley (MIT) and Yo-Yo Ma provided the music, and Rick Warren (aka Reverend Saddleback) officiated. This is not only the first time where I have know all of the names in a celebrity wedding report. It is proof that 50 year old nerds really can find wuv... twue wuv... will fowow you foweva.

The Puke Post

You've been warned-- things could get gross here. But you'll read on anyway, and then complain, and then to get back at your great uncle's army buddy during World War II I'll open a call for submission of cartoons that your third grade sweetheart won't even find offensive anyway. Seems like everyone's doing it these days, after all.

So, get to the puke already!

Right.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit hungry, and my wife was nice enough to make me oatmeal. Unfortunately, upon smelling the oatmeal my stomach turned and decided to toss it's mucous linings in two stages. Hooray, I thought, a virus! And since I hadn't eaten enything for Hours, it didn't taste bad at all to throw up. My intestines soon after made short work of dumping out their contents in a few mucousy loads.

So I stayed home, and my wife got back form her class and then went shopping for Food for me. She found a nice grape juice, all rather natural and tannin filled. She also got me a bag of gummy worms to make up for the lack of man-made crap in the grape juice. I drank some juice and water and ate some worms, and a few hours later tossed it all. What triggered that? Smelling the nice chicken and cous-cous that my wife made for me. The worst part about it was my teeth grabbing up bits of gummy worm in a baleen-like manner. The taste of grape and candy was most impressive, though, with no burning acid and no indication that the mucous linings had returned (hence the dump out).

So I had to miss one trip to my advisor's office and then a trip to group meeting, and then tonight I had to stay home for the Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert. Bummer. At least they offered to pray for me. Good guys. (Yeah, my wife did get to go, which was good, and she found a school friend to go with her.) The song "King of Kings" has been a favortite of mine ever since I first heard it. And I've managed to get some cous-cous down, as well as some juice, and as soon as I'm sure it's staying the yogurt patrol will be dolloping its wads into my freshly mopped GI tract.

I refuse to play the game, though.

What game, you ask? The virus/bacteria/protazoan where-from blame-game. It's the one that everyone plays. Who else do you know who is sick? Where did you have food together? Who that was sick did you both spend time with? Qutie frankly, unless someone's dead there's really no point. I know so many people who point ot a particular restaurant or whatever and say "That place made me sick, I'll never go there again" not realizing that even if they knew exactly what bug they had they would still be dealing with a variance from hours to days-- multiple meals and interpersonal contacts-- during the incubation period. And then there's always the fact that some people who were with you at a particular place would have killed off whatever it was before the symptoms, others might not have been exposed because different people made their food, you might have picked it up from the wife who was sick three days ago not the husband who was sick yesterday, and other people that you know who are sick might have gotten a bug form a completely different source anyway.

I, for one, am quite tired of having people act like they've got it figured out, naming restaurant X or taco stand Y for their problem. (People are a little easier to determine sometimes, but not always.) What ever happened to being grateful that these days the worst that it usually comes to is a day or two of discomfort and, if it's really bad, a trip to the hospital for some anti-nausea medication and a fluid drip? I was a bit dehydrated a few hours ago, and kind of cold from it, and I wasn't worried at all. If it got bad I would have gone to the doctor and that probably would have fixed me up. There's no reason to determine if it was the leftover pizza, superbowl party food, Wendy's, McDonalds, camp food, or whatever because I don't really give a rip. I'm alive and healthy in a sanitary world, historically speaking. Getting sick reminds me I'm merely human.

Of course, my GI tract of steel, with most of its nerves dead, might give me a different opinion on the suffering. These sorts of illnesses are barely painful and I get over them fast. Large amounts of fluids and gas in my intestines amuse me more than hurt me. I've even mapped out the curves of my intestines, espccialy my large one, as some of you who have heard me say things like "Whoa, did you hear what just happened in my sigmoid?" or "Something chunky just squirted in my descending colin!" can attest.

So now I need to figure out why this isotherm is so darned unstable. I've spent a week on it and have gotten one good point. Sucks. At least I've had a larger bowl of cous-cous in me for half an hour with no signs of nausea. Perhaps it will soon be yogurt time. And I still have major gassage.

Heh-ha-ha! You thought I was done being gross but I wasn't!

06 February 2006

From An E-mail Forwarded By My Dad

The Philadelphia Eagles will hereafter be referred to as the Philadelphia Tampons, since they are only good for one period and they have no second string.

Design and Engineers (reprise)

I found some firm(er) numbers about engineering types and science types and their beliefs on origins. See this. These numbers are about 15 years old, though. Unfortunately I think that they exclude physics and chemistry from the "relevant fields" of science. There's at least no indication that they do include those.

I recommend you you the Talk Origins list of creationist claims (here). The only downside is the rhetoric about "overwhelming evidence," a phrase used constantly and one that I find banal and arrogant. (Well, I find it banal and arrogant when young earth creationists use it, so I'm just trying to be consistent.)

I found this via a rather interesting alternative ID FAQ.

How Low Can You Go?

From the man who accidently eats chalk when teaching, spills messy food on his shirts regularly, bit his finger at lunch last week, and once stuck the same finger on his other hand into tar to see if it was warm, comes a misadventure of daring proportions. I'm sure you all assume that these great feats are my doing. You are correct.

I need not boast much, but I will say that a lesson was learned. When wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a fleece, and an uninsulated nylon shell (with the fleece on the outside for some stupid reason), one is not prepared, especalially when fatigued, to sit still for over an hour in an open field at night, temperature just under 40, in howling wind and pouring rain. Such a situation can lead to mild hypothermia, something that really, really, really sucks.

Ahem. Like I would know, of course. I was away at camp all weekend, after all.

Er, right.

Perhaps I should talk about the Superbowl? I won't dare talk about my reflections on sports fan in general or sports media in particular. I didn't watch the commercials, except that Whopperettes thing, which was seriously disturbing. I will never look at tomato slices the same way again. Never. Kyrie eleison. Et al.

Geesh, I'm tired. Where's my bed?

03 February 2006

Here We Go!

It's really funny that Tony Blankley's book The West's Last Chance starts out with an imaginary scenario where Europe faces a crisis over Islam and art. With this happeneing I'm sure he's getting ready to crap himself with joy over what he wrote, although he'll be tremendously annoyed that few people care. For that matter he'll be heartbroken that it's really happening. American apathy, European nationalism versus union, and religious and civil freedoms all getting wrapped up into one big bundle o' fun. Guns will be drawn and fired at an undetermiend time in the future.

It's time for me to make a prediction of my own-- the Veitnam fiasco will look like a cake-walk for America compared to the next twenty years. And it's time for me to make another prediction-- nobody's going to give a rip until it's too late. The worst part? Too late might not be as far away as apathy would have anyone think.

02 February 2006

Merry Candlemas

From me to you.
.
.
.
I should write greeting cards.

01 February 2006

New Things

My new glasses are in, so I will be going to pick them up tomorrow. Hopefully? Maybe?

I bit the bullet and joined up with the church choir for the Easter program. Oh. My. Gosh. It was, to put it nicely, an experience. At least the music is quite easy. As with much non-artsy choral music the tenor line is more kind on a baritone voice than, say, the absolutely astoundingly horrid Missa Solemnis bass part. There are basically only two or three tenors with me included, so they are glad for my help. Even twoish out of eighteenish with a five part harmony can get a little bit dicey, expecially in these pieces where the composer had the bright idea of using unison going to harmony as a mechanism of supposed emphasis.

What was that line from Gettysburg? "And we will charge valiantly, and be butchered valiantly. And afterwards men in tall hats and gold watch fobs will thump their chests and say what a brave charge it was." Yep. It's like that.

Shopping

I always want to buy things when I'm bored. I don't know why.

Yeah, this was another attempt at starting a long post. Not working.

The Non-Post

Everyone is going to write in their blogs about the president's speech. Or not. I'm not. I doubt that any of the blogs I link to will say much, if even anything at all, about it. For once I'm going to be normal.

Actually, I need to end on an abnormal note. Some think that G-sharp is like all the rest. I say it's more like A-flat.