My Zunivers

30 April 2006


Yesterday I went to a wedding, and it was a really good time. Two of my friends from when I was teenager married each other. I was sitting there before the service (I managed to set a personal Whitehall to Myerstown record of 57 minutes so I had an hour to spare), alone in the big old church that I spent many years in, and that I mastered my ear skills in, thinking about exactly how common such weddings are. Every wedding I've attended of people near my age was a wedding where the two met in college or later, so this wedding was a first for me. I had previously met every person in the wedding party and I knew all but two or three of them rather well (I half count the one whose two older sisters I knew quite well) from when we were teenagers. Three of them were siblings and two others were siblings of the bride.

It was more than just being with a number of my old friends who I haven't seen for three years. There was something deeper to it all. My wife was at home and I was there with my sister, just like old times. We were in the same building and same rooms as years ago, with many of the same people. A number of other youth group kids, including the groom's sister who is now a special-ed teacher in Baltimore (crazy woman). Choir people who drove me crazy when I was a little audio technician. The youth Sunday school teacher who got me so ticked that I started going to adult Sunday school. The wife of the old youth group leader. The sage pastor and the goofy pastor. The friendly old guy who was the first to introduce himself when we first visited that church over 15 years ago. A guy who invited me to join a prayer group and was always caring about how I was doing even though I was only a weird teenager (he was also assigned as a mentor for me and the groom, and he drove me to college once). The guy who helped teach me my ear skills. The crazy guy who shares my first name and studied physics in college before moving on to other things. Parents of friends that were not there. Even some glimpses of relatives of the groom who, although I didn't bother asking who exactly they were, might have been the relatives that my dad had adventures with at a totally unrelated place when he was a kid. I could go on but I'll stop there.

It was amazing too that the personalities of the people are so much the same. The bride and groom are still laid-back people. The wedding had non-traditional elements that were charming and, I'm sorry to say to all of you readers whose weddings I've attended or will attend, you didn't and probably won't be able to beat.
At the very beginning of the reception the bride and groom played their guitars and sang for us. The wedding reception program consisted of a mad-libs type thing, which I thought was great considering that the bride's family first introduced me to the serious art of mad-libs. At the reception the best man and groomsmen were all their normal goofy selves and I got to chat with one who I haven't seen about that age old question "Why again did we think adults had it made?" The guys all got together to lead us in singing some music for us to close out the event.

Best of all, though, everything that everyone did and said was just so... them. And when that really hit me I was there for a few minutes almost in tears, memory after memory going through my mind, because of how much I miss those people. I spent years of my life with them but managed to bow out along the way to follow another path. One side of me really wishes that I could do something to go back and be with them all again. The other side of me says that it's good to go back for a time, but there are other things I need to do and other people I need to tend now. Yes, I am one of those peopel who thinks that friendships are like gardens. I'm getting sick of planting them and watching them half grow before I need to go plant another. But even though I got homesick, and still am, I'm also happy that I can have that feeling. It means that the world I've left hasn't fallen apart and it can continue on for those who remain to enjoy it. The gardens can bloom for someone.

Speaking of other paths, those of you who bother praying could throw up a word for the guy I with whom I was discussing the age old quesiton. He's consdiering taking up an opportunity that's open in Florida and having a rough time figuring it out.

The only other news that I can report is that my wife missed the first day in a decade that I remember being in Myerstown without smelling manure. Perhaps all the development in the area has knocked out the offending farms, or maybe we had favorable winds yesterday. But you know what? I miss that smell.

Different Brains

Here is a Chicago Tribune article on science of the brain.

The article's main point seems to be that there are biological differences between the brains of men and women and there is a hormonal basis for this development. Following this, what I see is that if brains are different then normal thought processes can be different. If normal thought processes are different, that could mean that there are some tasks where men are better suited than women and where women are better suited than men. If that's true, I think that some people owe a former Harvard president, among other people, an apology.

I'm not saying that the playing field is currently level for everyone to do what they do best no matter what their gender. There indeed may be cultural elements, or downright predjudices, in places like working environments that will prevent one gender or another from being able to maintain a position. What I am saying is that even when the playing field is level we won't see the demographics exactly proportional. In a utopic gender-equal end there might, for example, be more female nurses and more male doctors by a wide margin. Likewise, if both biology and culture are involved in the demographic splits we see then nobody can use the demographics alone to determine how far along we are culturally with making things equal for the genders, at least not without independently quantifying one of the variables.

29 April 2006

Toy Freak

I've got to get to bed to head for a wedding tomorrow (the concert went well enough, by the way), but I couldn't save this until tomorrow. Political Action figures can be found here. Among the offerings are Comrade Putin in fatigues, Tony Blair wearing the Union Flag, and Vice President Cheney wearing a "You Don't Know Dick" t-shirt. There's even a two faced Uday Hussein, one side depicting him alive and the other side dead (molded to match newspaper photos of his corpse)!

28 April 2006

Cars and Concerts, Part II

The car is fixed, I think. Maybe. She's still ticking, but the sender, which was leaking like tomorrow would be a bad day to hold oil, has been replaced. Opening her up probably let oil out of the lifters again, so I'll give her some time to get readjusted. She was almost completely quiet today when I took her to the garage. Overall I think that four hours in the waiting room reading journal articles and copying translations into my music, soap operas weaving their boring web in the background, beats a morning at the biology pseudoconference.

In other news, concert one is tonight. You know you want to go, although in dress rehearsal we had some issues with one of the movememnts. The result is that we still have not performed the piece from beginning to end without stopping. I guess there's a first time for everything, be it stringing up the trombonists for good (they started playing in the wrong key, confusing everyone to bits) or actually making it through. I pity the poor orchestra, actually, as it is basically a gig orchestra composed of area musicians who have been bribed various ways to show up last Wednesday night and start learning their parts.

See history made!

Vote for Pedro!


27 April 2006

Concerts Are Bad For Our Car

Let's see... last fall it was something. Christmas it was the transmission. Now my oil light is coming on and it's full, although I do think that when we had the oil changed last week they put in four quarts instead of five, since my additions havn't overfilled the crankcase and I've had no blue clouds or puddles of oil under the car.

The rather sketchy symptons are now fiully tabulated-- when the car is warm the oil light comes on at idle and goes off immediately when the engine speed increases even a tiny bit. The lifter ticking gets quieter (absolutely, not just relative to other noise) when the car is not idling because there is one lightly ticking lifter instead of two or three clattering away loudly.

Diagnosis-- At idle the oil isn't flowing right.

Solution-- Unless the oil light comes on at speed, which will make me stop the car ASAP, I'll get to a more specific diagnosis and a solution next week rather than sooner. Heck, I can put the car in neutral and lean slightly on the gas when I'm stopped, if it comes to that. And I have too much else to do this weekend, although I'm three quarters certain that my concerts are just cursed and it will all go away Sunday. The worst that it means is that the whole engine needs to be rebuilt. Welcome to my form of optimism.

Oh, and I need to get up early tomorrow to go to the pseudo biology conference.

Where's my grumpy smiley?

25 April 2006


Just in case you have not caught on, we have concerts this weekend, Friday and Saturday. If you are in the area and have any kind of liking for classical music of any sort then this concert is a must-see. Why? It has nothing to do with me. If I were not singing I still would have bought my tickets long ago.

Beethoven's Missa Solemnis is rarely performed anywhere. I think, based on word of mouth, that the last time it was performed in Eastern Pennsylvania was over 30 years ago. It is a work of trickery for singers, the product of the wild imagination of a deaf man who never heard the piece. The mood changes a lot. High notes abound. Lots of high notes. Constantly. Heck, come to the show just to see our directer get so furious at the sopranos for singing too loudly that he throws a violin at them. I can imagine it happening, with a bassoon and one of the soloists to follow, if the maidens don't get the hint. Even without such fun, it will still be spectacle of not-so-easily matched proportions.

Religion of What?

GetReligion points out something that I was going to say one of these days. How can Islam be both a "religion of peace" and a religion made up of all sorts of factions, some peaceful and others not?

Street Sweepers

This is Street Sweeping week in our part of town, and Monday was our day. Unfortunately I was not awake to witness the event. My wife tried to wake me up, but I was apprently too asleep. And I'm honestly miffed that I missed the sweeper.

The regenerative air street sweeper is the greatest invention in modern sanitation, easily beating all standard garbage trucks (I have a prefernce for rear loaders, but front and side loaders have their good points) and garbage boats used in harbor areas. Street sweepers beat firetrucks, police cars, transit busses (even bendy busses), subway trains, and moving walkways as well as airplanes, race cars, backhoes, and bulldozers. Helicopters and cranes may be on par with street sweepers. I haven't looked too hard for a good website with street sweeper pictures and information, but surely somebody must have one somewhere. You'd think anyway. TYMCO has nice pictures of their models on their website (and a form to order brochures), but otherwise I know of nothing.

I don't know if most people can understand the joy I get form street sweepers. It's like seeing a reverse zamboni for solids. Friday and Monday, while I was awake, I heard them in the area near my apartment. The sound is unmistakeable. Every time I nearly went in search of the sweeper, that's how much I like watching them. There's nothing quite like seeing the brushes spin and watching that clean strip appear behind the truck. Tonight on my walk I got to follow the clean lines around the neighborhood and know without looking for signs which streets were being done tomorrow.

The first time they swept our street after we moved here my wife was greatly confused by my reaction. It was very early in the morning and I heard the noise. I jumped out of bed and bounded from window to window to get the best view. I distinctly remember seeing that the brushes were not spinning and saying such to my wife in a concerned tone. If you don't know a four year old then you won't know what I'm talking about, that sort of cross between questioning why and a pleading for a change. Then I noticed that the sweeper was wetting the road and when it came by for a second pass the brushes were going full tilt, which made me very happy as I again bounded from window to window watching, grinning form ear to ear and happily chattering away about what it was doing and how it works. I was sad when it left.

The only thing that really annoys me about street sweeping here is that they don't tow the vehicles people leave in the way. Look, everyone, they're trying to clean the streets, okay? Get your car out of the way. It's one or two days a year. There's plenty of space to park nearby. The street looks ugly when the clean strip makes a large shift. And I can't see the spinning brushes when your stinking car is between me and the sweeper. So move it, okay? For all of us. Thanks.

I think that deep down inside I'm a helpless romantic. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis sometimes makes me cry even though I've heard it hundreds of times, and street sweepers bring me industrial strength joy like no other municipal machine. That makes me wonder, am I easy to please because the pleasure I get comes from things so simple, or am I difficult to please because the simple things are plain bizarre?

Who knows. I just wish I could go for a ride on a street sweeper.

24 April 2006

Why Spring Sucks

I don't feel like complaining about my paper tonight. For those of you who have been wondering why my blog has gone from having the occasional bit of serious stuff to being nothing but a personal diary, I do apologize. I've been slowly working on a few posts and they'll be up when I'm finished with them.

Just to give you a taste, I'll have more venom to share about science journalism sometime soon. I have a wonderful quote from Philip Kitcher to go along with it. I'm also planning a recap of my "sociology haters are sissys" post in which I asked "What exactly is your problem with sociology?" and, dispite hearing nothing, I know you haven't changed your minds. So one of these days I'll plan to try again to taunt you out of your shells. And I have other ideas running around too. None of them have anything to do with intelligent design.

For now I am depressed a bit, and that makes the writing slow. It's not writer's block, not knowing what to write or how to write it, as much as writer's apathy, not caring much about sharing.

There is a reason why I get more depressed than usual at this time of year. It's actually quite similar to a reason why many people get depressed over the winter holidays (which I shamelessly call winter hoilidays because there are three or four of them and they occur in winter). This time of year is depressing because everyone else seems happy.

I think that the biggest problem is the weather. I can't stand the weather at this time of year. From now to October the weather just sucks. But most people don't think so. Most people get to enjoy the weather at this time of year. They enjoy warm sunshine and moist air. I find it utterly repulsive. I sweat enough during the winter and sunlight on days over 40 degrees or any day with average or higher humidity plain bothers me.

I think the main cause for my depression, though, is that I feel left out. Other people walk around and can say to anyone "Isn't this weather wonderful?" and get a positive reply. Likewise, they can complain about rain and cold and get empathy from people. I don't get any of that, and when I share my lack of empathy in a reply to a statement about the weather I usually just get funny looks, comments, and taunting. Even when I do find people who like cold, dark, rain, snow, wind, hail, and such over sun and warmth, we can't even talk about it with each other because everyone within earshot jumps in to tell us we're freaks.

This time of year I think a lot about playing in snow. I read sections of Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams, scaerd that with climate changing the way it is I'll never get to see the places he describes. I want to be swishing through the woods on my skis, falling over every once in a while and otherwise having a good time. I want to slide around on ice, sled down hills, feel the snow no matter what its form, and gaze out happily on fields of white.

It will be at least six months before I even get the chance, though. And worse, basically nobody will want to join me. I've played alone in the winter countless times since starting college. Being alone in the snow is better than spring and summer for me, but it's nothing close to the togetherness that everyone else gets from the simple pleasure of griping inside around the warm fire while talking about me like I'm a fruit loop for wandering around a winter wonderland. And this time of year, when everyone else still gets to be normal and I'm still the freak, I get to spend seven or eight months without even a hope for the things I enjoy from nature. Happy people everywhere, happily chatting about weather that utterly sucks.

So now I'm going to go do work.


23 April 2006

Game Birds

Reaserch stinks when you double the amount of steps the simulations are taking and it's still not enough. Grrrr... I'm going to need to do a billion steps next just to see if that actually works. A billion steps will take an annoying 80 to 90 hours. 300 million is taking me long enough. I've got to get running on the beowulf cluster.

I have little else to say except that tomorrow I need to get the figures done for the content-free paper that I'm still working on. Grrrrr... I finally got the figures to go in. You can't use .eps image files in a direct latex to pdf compilation. You need to do latex to ps to pdf. This paper is annoying me, and while on one hand it's only continuing to annoy me because I'm not done because I'm not working on it, I'm not working on it because it annoys me.

I lay the egg form which I came, the one I laid as a chicken. I prefer being thought a turkey. And I wonder why my jokes are always so fowl.

22 April 2006

Famous Days

While my wife shares a birthday with William F. Buckley Jr. and Baruch Spinoza, about the only famous person I can find with my birthday is Lawrence Welk.

Small World

The internet connects people. I know that we all say this. Information mongers and other mavens are in rapture over it. I don't personally get to experience it much, but there are moments. My generation isn't as deeply entrenched on the internet as the current generation of college undergradutes, for example. Compare Xanga, Myspace, and similar sites for different age groups and you'll see that. I can tell you for a fact that Myspace has few times more people who graudated from my college the year after I did than from my year, and few times more from the year after that, and so on.

(And now half a dozen readers here who graduated with me are going to go join Myspace and screw up the pattern. That's the problem with sociological research. Measurements disturb the system. It's just like quantum mechanics, actually.)

Anyway, it is a small world, and today that happily became clear for me again. I managed to find a young woman who was in my kindergarten and first grade class (yes, I went to school for two years; please note that I started being homeschooled because I already was freak). Above that, she remembers me! The infamous first crush thing. Was she my first or second? I was a bit of a lady's man back then, which is why I don't hold anything against my seven year old kid brother when he pulls stunts like the kiss-the-Chilis-hostess-on-the-hand trick, or his recent dilemma about which girl he should marry. I don't like bragging, but it's too bad more of you didn't know me back when I was his age. I was a charming kid. My mom told me so. And I still am quite charming.


But ogres, they say, are like onions.

I figured I'd post this here as a permanent happy reminder that the connections we can find between each other are multiple. I wasn't looking for the person I found, I just happened to find someone else who went to her school. Thinking about it, there was another possible path that I could have used to accidently find the same person. And I probably could have typed in a number of different names from my past and found other paths to the same or even other people. It's no wonder, then, that kids who post online about their underage drinking or school shooting plans get caught.

So here's to connections and this glorious time in which we live! May the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse wait a while so I can bask in the joy of the Web of People that Life so Fruitfully Weaves! And thank God that people are more interesting than spider silk!

20 April 2006

Only some people...

find this joke funny.

A German Shepherd went to a Western Union office to send a telegram.

"What is your message?", asked the man.

The dog replied, "Woof... woof... woof... woof... woof... woof... woof... woof."

The man then told the dog, "You know, you can add one more for the same price."

"But," replied the dog, "that would be silly."

Anyone else? (Thanks to my dad for sending it to me. I don't remember hearing it before, but it sounds suspisciously like something Woody Allen would write.)

19 April 2006

The Bad Day

I got up early this morning all excited about having a fine day. There was no milk yesterday for my boatloads of cereal. Yesterday I noticed that I had lost a bunch of data. My pre-Easter backup had gone the wrong way. In twelve and a half years of computer use I've never done that. So grump. And yesterday I also had the Computer Problem come up. (I've been assured, by the way, that [censored] is actually a nice person whose personality is missing the "good first impressions" package.) So today was going to be a computer guttin' day, and a good ol' computer guttin' really makes me happy. I had also heard rumors of free pizza if I showed up a few minutes earlier than planned.

Sadly, though, I woke up very tired. There was still no milk. If only that had been the end of it. We went to the car and nothing happened. Sounds relaxing until you remember that when people go to their cars they expect them to start so they can use them. I wasn't going out there for a picnic. A few quick observations-- no headlights, no clock, no horn-- revealed an electrical problem. So we came in and I was going to e-mail my adviser to tell him that dispite my e-mail ten minutes earlier I wasn't going to be coming in after all. But of course my e-mail didn't work. So I simply lost it, banged a few things around (an uncharacteristically strong display of frustration) and told my wife to get the car towed I was going to bed. And I did.

I didn't really sleep in there and I heard my wife leave, then I heard her come back and tell me that the car wasn't working because one of the battery lines was loose, the nice tow-truck guy had reconnected it, but it was still kind of messed up and a new battery was in order. She had already called up the garage and told them a patient was coming, so having missed her class she drove up there to get the oil changed. Consolation prize for them, I guess.

I got up eventually and my e-mail finally worked so I e-mailed my adviser. He commeneted that this seemed to be a week of problems for me, which it has been, and that I could see him tomorrow.

One of the reasons why I got up was because I was dozing and I awoke rather sure that I was in Vietnam. There were lots of sirens for along time, artificial gunfire that was really banging sounds from the maintainence clones (the guys who take care of our apartments) doing landscaping work, and helicopters and airplanes. Yes! Helicopters and airplanes! We get airplanes here a lot, being in line with a runway, but helicopters are something new. Especially when they are really loud and, when they fly over, you can't see them when standing inside because of the patio roof but you can look down on the lawn to see a helicopter shaped shadow bigger than a car. There was also a helicopter, probably the same one, that pulled the "Holy Cow there's a DC-9 over there and I'm flying right at it!" maneuver. In aircraft terms "flying right at it" means possibly getting within some large number of feet, so the approach wasn't as exciting as the evasion.

My wife came home with groceries, including milk, and then I finally went back to bed. After a long nap I got up and did nothing. There's been a simulation running for just over 24 hours now and it's almost done now. I eventually got to check out the battery in the car and it is indeed mechanically on its last legs. The terminal is all loose and frumpy. So I bought a new battery, now sitting here on the floor waiting for daylight so I can put it in. At the auto parts store I also finally found the breather filter Sylvia has needed for over a year. (You know, that little foamy thing in the air filter housing that about 99% of you look at me funny when I mention there's something in there besides the air filter itself? I now feel vindicated. And vindication at $1.69 for the high end model is good vindication!) The new battery is big and manly, as powerful as the current tiny battery but the size and shape of the OEM.

My advisor also e-mailed a paper tonight and I'm intrigued by it. That might be a positive sign, as not much in science gets my attention anymore. I was also intrigued by another paper that he pointed out to me. I might be able to use methods in the first to analyze models based on the second. I'll probably be bored with it in a month, but at least I'm interested now.

Before you get all happy about how maybe my life is getting better, I'll have you note that I scraped up the back of my mouth with a tortilla chip yesterday and it's starting to get really irritated. I hit my tonsil stub, so my tonsil feels all swollen. As most of you know I don't actually have the tonsil anymore, but that never stops if from feeling swollen. And any irritation back there annoys my ears, which I needed to carefully clean today because I washed a huge chunk of wax up into my eardrum. That out, my ear is still feeling quite itchy. And swallowing hurts a little.

And I still have this stupid paper hanging over my head. I need to reinstall my latex stuff to make sure my editor and packages can talk to each other properly. Yes, reinstall. That's my computer paradigm. Grump.

18 April 2006

(0|\/|pµ73® |°30p£3 $µ(|{

A [censored] from our school's Council of Computing Elders came by our office today "investigating," which basically meant looking for us in our old office, because our school is too dumb to do simple things like realize we moved months ago even though we told The Powers, finding us where we really are, telling us that some data of some sort that someone complained about had something to do with our IP addresses, no he won't share more about it, yes we indeed have three computers there with those IP addresses, here's his name and e-mail if we have questions about whatever he didn't tell us, bye. Not goodbye, just bye. Actually not even that much.

Well, gee, wasn't that informative? Oooh, he thought, maybe these people are £33t h4(k3r$ and even though I really want to get a raise busting £33t h4(k3r$ I need to follow Council of Computing Elders standard "family treatment" and give them the ol' intimidating visit to see if they'll uppen shuttumselves down before things get ugly. That'll scare them. They won't notice our mad-cool spying skillz because I won't tell them anything I know. I'll just shake them down; go in and let 'em know "Hey, I know something 'bout you." Not like they don't already know that and are still dumb enough try anything, right? Everyone's a suspect here. And maybe I'll even start reading the bearded one's blog to see if I can find anything juicy about him.

Seriously, [censored] is just doing his job, although he could improve his bedside manner a notch. And if one, or both, of my linux computers are acting up then I will need to call in the big dogs to help me figure it out and fix it. You know who you are, Jeff. I might even buy you a beer. But until someone bothers telling us what is going on, we, or at least I, plan to do very little, except temporarily shut down Joe (he gets little use) and completely reinstall the OS on Heidi. I tend to do that between boots anyway and it's been well over a month this time... I think. I lose track it lasts that long! And I was nice enough to unplug them both for the night.

14 April 2006

got alt.?

An article on the U2 Eucharist.

I won't say much else.

13 April 2006

Friends Calling

Tomorrow me and my long-time good bud are going to spend some a few hours together. We've known each other for 19 years now, and except that he's extroverted and I'm introverted we're pretty much peas in a pod. We both found sociology in college, for example, and we're both large, loyal softies with big hearts, bigger minds, and even bigger heads about it. I wish I could see more of him, really. No, not that kind of more.

The most embarassing thing about our relationship (yes, I call it that; I've told you all that I get along better with girls!) is that every time I think to call him he calls me within a few days. Every time. And that's not because we talk once a week or anything. We talk a few times a year. I think that in the past 15 years we've averaged two in-person visits per year, mpre recently because I live has as far as I used to. That distance will probably go back up this summer, but we're grown ups now with cars and such. We have, as Howard Pyle put it, [oh crap; I now need to go read Men of Iron until I again find how he put it!].

So the reason for tomorrow's excursion, which includes a drive to beautiful Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is that he's getting married in a month or two and I'm best-manning for him. Among other things, I think I need to ask him a few details...

Where will the wedding be?

When will the wedding be?

What about the rehearsal?

Will I need to walk around strapped to an ugly chick? A mean one? Her mother?

Have you looked up information on getting a marriage license?

Who else is in the wedding party?

Where will the reception be?

What is your fiance's middle name? Surname?

Packing for the event? (I don't mean suitcases.) If yes, for what neurotic reason now? And given that I have nothing to pack or permit to pack it, W!T!F! CALM! DOWN!

Ahem. So how many kids do you want?

Where are you going to live after the wedding?

What size underwear do you two wear?

Does anyone else you know from the area know how to make the boob cake, or will I need to do it?

I'd be content just to show up and not know any of those things except the where and the when (the others are nice but not necessary, at least now) but I already have a wife and if I can't answer all these quesitons and then some by the time I get home tomorrow, I'll get laughed at like a Marx Brother's film. Heck, that will probably happen if he doesn't show me her dress, for pity's sake! So I'm going to get laughed at no matter what!

He's picking me up at 10:30. Wish us luck.

12 April 2006


So Iran has enriched uranium (story). But what I like to hear is

"At this historic moment, with the blessings of God almighty and the efforts made by our scientists, I declare here that the laboratory- scale nuclear fuel cycle has been completed and young scientists produced enriched uranium needed to the degree for nuclear power plants Sunday," Ahmadinejad said.

We've had enriched uranium for decades, so our God is better than theirs. (And before you smartymouths say it's the same God, our God, or at least the one your country's founders tended to believe in, is part Jesus. Theirs isn't. So it can't be the same God.)

Summer Vacation

Well, it seems that I'm not going to be able to go to camp, at least not the week that I want to go. I will try to possibly go the following week, and maybe I can work out a deal to stay over the night that my wife and sister are leaving. That way I could hang out there the afternoon and evening of the last day of the camp program week I'm now not going for, to catch up with friends, and then my wife could have the car and head home while I stay over for staff training the following day. I'll need to see who's directing the program that week. If you-know-who is going to be the involved then I'll do it. If any of several other you-know-whos are involved but the original you-know-who isn't, then I won't. Thinking about it, none of you know who anyway, so I'm wasting your time talking about it and need to just get in touch with the camp.

I end post 400 with this view of where I will be going instead of my favorite week at camp. Yes, that still makes me sad, actually. I'd prefer camp. But this conference is the only mid-sized conference before I graduate that is devoted to research close to mine, so I need to go. Sucks, really. Most of you probably don't understand why, but I forgive you.

10 April 2006

Scamper, Then The Ranting

I saw Scamper tonight for the first time in months. I was beginning to think the little kitty was dead or something. He was, I think, just looking for warmth, so I petted him and chatted for a moment. He was a bit cold. If I weren't so allergic to cats I would have picked him up and carried him around in my jacket until I got back, since I walk by his house twice and he always lets me pick him up when I go by. Perhaps he's confused about the clock change thing and he accidently stayed out too late. Now I'm regretting petting him, however, because I forgot to give my hands a really good washing and I rubbed my eye. The protein in cat skin that causes the allergies is a very sticky substance. If I pat a cat owner on the back and then rub my eyes, burning and itching commences. Very annoying. I can't find generic clemastine fumarate anymore and brand-name stuff is expensive, so I don't have anything to take to alleviate the symptoms.

I other news I finished my poster... again. Tickedoffedness abounds. There is a pseudo-conference being held at school and even though we missed the poster deadline a special writ of dispensation was issued [insert mocking of a prissy, high pitched voice] just for yours truly. I was first ticked off at having to move the Powerpoint slides for the original poster to a template. More tickedoffedness ensued when I was told by my adviser to put a few more things on it, which I didn't do bceause they didn't fit, and when I read that the posters were supposed to be 36 by 48 inches but the template is 48 by 56 (not a 3:4 ratio). The instructions for using the template were pooer than a Billygoat Mountain hillbilly. The dominant reason for the tickedoffedness, though, was that I don't see the need to spend my weekend, or to see anyone spend the weekend, making up a cutesy poster just so that the university can put it up at a hob-nobbing money-grab court-the-donors session under the guise of a science "conference." They'd use more decent ways to beg for money if people didn't actually fall for this sort of thing. So I'm ticked.

On the subject of my being an insubordinate dope, I'm also throwing fits about being told to go to a conference in Colorado in June. Certainly, I'm all up for an interesting conference. Did you catch that last word-- interesting? This one is a chemistry conference. Let me back up. The thing that's making me so annoyed at research right now is the nit-pickiness involved. I'm a huge fan of toy models. In our group's research area the toy models have been basically exhausted, my poster being something like a pinnacle of their lack of achievement, and now it's all about more realistic models. It's nothing but chemistry, really, and I'm trying to get away from that, not get more of it. Normally I'd just mutter under my breath about how boring a chemistry conerence would be and then go, since at least I'd finally beat my little sister in the "Who's Been To More States?" game in which we're currently tied (she does have Deleware within easy reach; neither of us has been there). She's been to Canada, The Netherlands, Jordan, Oman, and Germany while I've never been out of the country, so beating her at this is important to me. Not really, but it's a point to brag about. And Boulder isn't that bad a city, is it?

But this particular boring conference happens to be the week this summer when I'm supposed to be working at camp, along with my sister, something I'd much rather do than listen to chemists babble for five days whilst I sit around dazed from thin air and sucking my inhaler like a cheap whore [censored]. And how in Sam Hill am I supposed to skip out to go skiing if there's no snow? Or oxygen, for that matter? What a poorly designed waste of a human being I am! I wish like nothing else that I'd be normal. Stupid and normal. Stupid and normal would have vacation time already approved for camp. Stupid and normal doesn't have to go to high altitude conclaves where chemists drone on like mottled, lifeless prigs about things that only their narrow brains care to hear. Stupid and normal wouldn't have to make poster after poster after paper on the same crap instead of doing something interesting. Stupid and normal would sell insurance.

I need a new career.

08 April 2006

New Horizons

Wheaton hits the 21st century with their first website redesign since... wasn't it the year I graduated? And it seemed like only the past year or so that the department pages finally finished getting all trimmed and conforming to the look of the main pages. Then those fell apart again. And now this.

I've never before seen such an ugly website. Better layout, but ugly.

Three clues that your website was redesigned during the period when accepted students were making decisions about whether or not to attend?

1) Prominent link for Accepted Students
2) Prominent link for Accepted Students
3) Prominent link for Accepted Students

My guess is that they're still paying their nearly competent computing people half the industry standard. But what else can you expect from the college that, during one dorm renovation that involved new wire routing to the telephone switchboard, refused extra chases for network wiring? And then was pleased to find years later that the contractor had put them in anyway for free, with strings through them and everything? I wonder if the computer labs have PIIIs yet?

Oh, and time for another five-year run through the department pages to make them look like the homepage.

Gospel of Judas

I'll defer tonight's thoughts to Peter's post on the Gospel of Judas (7 April 2006), which expresses thoughts much like mine but is written more poetically and makes a more subtle remark about journalism-- Nietzsche to within a tense. You can find Peter's blog as a link on my sidebar.

This reminds me... Ship of Fools is currently running a topic board about The DaVinci Code on their forums. There's a link to the forums on my sidebar.

07 April 2006

04 April 2006

Daniel Dennett

Dr. Dennett was on Charlie Rose tonight (hosted by Bill Moyers today, as Charlie is in Paris recovering from surgury). I expected a philosopical toure de force, something to really make me question my Christian faith and provoke me to become an atheist. What I got was about on par with the worst sermons I've ever heard in my life. Talking head on a stick, 1; content, 0.

One particularly troubling point was thus. Dennett said that it is the responsibility of Christians, or those of any religion, to show to everyone else why they were right and everyone else was wrong. He was then asked what he thought about the possibility of this dialogue taking place in a world where atheists don't listen to Christians and Christians don't listen to atheists. His response was brilliant. Christians need to show everyone why what they think is right and why everyone else is wrong. No points scored here in the "philospher can answer clear, simple questions" category. I do give him points in the category of atheists who think that the rules applicable to a religious worldview don't apply to an atheistic one, since he repeated this "Christians need to prove themselves" theme a few times but never said the same of the non-religious.

Of course, I don't need to believe a word Dennett says. Ever. He's not reliable as an information source. He said at one point in the interview that the founders of our country avoided absolutes. I'd like to know, then, what he thinks of this statement--

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That, for those who do not recognize it, is from the Declaration of Independence. I don't see any fluffies in there. They aren't talking about what might be, they are talking about what is-- absolutes. And I'm not talking about the Creator part being what maks the statement one of absolutes, I'm talking about the words like "self-evident," "all," "are," and "unalienable." The founders of this country could have used those words to talk about Zeus, Peter the Great, acne, or lint. They still would be talking about absolutes. So Dennett, who says that they didn't deal in absolutes, is unreliable and anyone who believes a thing he says is irrational. (This is to make fun of everyone I know who says they can't believe the Bible because it contains errors. I'm playing clown here.)

I'd go on and on making fun of things he said but there's no point. I will say that any two sentences he said sound nice. Put together, though, it was the intellectual equivalent of a big fart. Perhaps his writing is better. His speaking is bad enough that next time he should stay home.

03 April 2006

Prayer and Healing

I'm not upset at all with the results of the most recent study, and I say that because most of you will assume that is why I'm writing this. But really it isn't. What I'm writing about is that I'm been annoyed by how people are interpreting the study.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you can read this. This article is about the best I could find on the subject.

What is annoying to me is that this is so-called "science." I know a lot of scientists who constantly flame anything resembling intelligent design because it is religion, not science. Why is taht a problem? Basically what they say is that it comes down to the non-falisfiability. This recent study on prayer is, under the guise of science trying to work on what is at its strongest an unfalsifiable problem. What are the conclusions if a correlation is seen? Not causation, because it could be an accident and we can't see the mechanism so that we can sort it out. What are the conclusions if no correlation is seen? Not lack of causation, because it could be an accident and we can't see the mechanism so that we can sort it out.

That's not science. That's not even sociology. More proof, in my mind, that studies of health are neither. So whatever you do, don't look at a study like this and say, like many talking heads I've heard in the past few days, that science is showing there is no God or even that science is showing that prayer doesn't help people. If you do that you're not thinking scientifically because science can't analyze those things. Correlation can be found here, but not causation.

To the Templeton Foundation's credit they do not call the study science. They do call it something along the lines of "the application of scientific methods to spirituality." And according to their official statement on the results of this study, which I would link to if they had it on some fixed location of their website instead of the front page, the study contains methodological weaknesses. My favorite, at which the CNN article hints, is that there was no control group of any sort. Sure, a few hundred people volunteered to pray for some people and got some names. That tells us bum-diddly about how much any of the people were prayed for because we don't know who else prayed for them.

Anyone who wants to spread verbal venom on other atrocities of the study's design can do so at this time.