My Zunivers

30 September 2006

Punctuation

It appears that I'm a semicolin.

Life could be worse.

I Know I Shouldn't Eat Before Bed

There was something of a kitchen war going on this week at our house, and the only meat I have around is pork which is a high-maintenance product, so I haven't done any real cooking for days. Yesterday I hit a real low-- chips and salsa for dinner. A dinner sized portion. It was too much.

I went to bed feeling like there was too much in my stomach, and as usual I threw up in my sleep. I swallowed most of it down before I woke up, as usual, and it didn't get into my nose (where it usually goes) or on the sheets or anything. It did get into my lungs and burn a lot in there (in reptrospect I should have gone straight to the shower for a steam treatment). But it did hapen twice which kept me form sleeping well. I didn't sleep well enough to be awake enough to get much of anything done today. My stomach (organ, not region of body) ached most of the day, which didn't help anything. It actually smelled and tasted like vomit this time, which it usually doesn't. And it was all enough to make Leonard jump out of bed and go sleep on the floor for a while.

Leonard, before you get the wrong idea, even though I know some of you already have, is a stuffed lion that my brother gave me. He happens to be a lion styled pillow and as such he's occasionally in the bed. My wife doesn't like him being there because he violates her personal space (he's a bit affectionate towards women, on top of being too nearsighted for normal American buffer zones), but sometimes he's there anyway. I know you people accuse my wife of being weird for naming things, but I'm the one responsible for assigning detailed personalities to our named things. I think that makes me the sick one.

Tonight I had McDonalds food for dinner so hopefully there won't be any repeats.

In other news....

Sam the Eagle is having a fun in California and has apparently turned into a complete drunkard.

Palmerton is still there on that side of the mountain where baaaaaaaa means no, or maybe yes.

Turkey Hill has a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake flavored ice cream out right now, and the only improvement I can suggest is more pineapple.

28 September 2006

Why I Don't Listen To Contemporary Christian Music

Yes, I don't, and I never really have, listened to CCM. My reason has little to do with any other reasons I 've heard, too, which makes me feel like a freak.

(Side story: Spirko said to me today "Have you ever heard anyone talk about graduate school affecting you mentally?" Granted, this was after I put a huge chalk handprint on my butt, and that kind of stung, making me make a funny face. He didn't know me before grad school when I behaved the same way. Poor guy missed out. But this all shows that I'm a freak, which means I probably don't do anything for normal reasons.)

I don't agree with people who say that Christian music's problem is that it sounds like secular music rather than being distinct, for the same reason that I don't agree with Alvin Plantiga that science as done by Christians should be somehow distinct from science done by others. As I'm fond of saying, the City of God is a City. (If you're confused go read some books by St. Augustine. The title you should look for will become obvious.) I also don't agree with the argument about unoriginality. Most musicians are not visionaries breaking new ground with their styles. That fact that Christian musicians aren't all super-people always on the forefront of new music is more about numbers than lack of talent. Most non-Christian musicians are also stylistic copy-cats.

The reason I don't listen to Christian music is because I simply don't like the music. There are a lot of musical styles that I can't stand, among them rap, hip-hop, hard rock, teeny-pop, and three chord atrocities of many sorts (better known as "Praise and Worship Music" or, by we detractors, "7-11 Songs"). If I listen to a Christian music radio station, I get a mix of all of that.

"But its about the message" I'm told. Whenever the subject comes up among Christians I hear that. I ask "What style of music is Christian" and I'm told "It's not about the style, it's about the message." That's nice, I always think. I'm glad that we sort our music by the lyrics. If we don't want any dirty stuff we go to CCM. But the other choices on the radio are not the lust station, the bootie station, the drug station, the blashphemy station, and so on. The other stations are all sorted by musical style except CCM, which is any style as long as it has the right sort of lyrics.

I suppose we could talk about how great it is that Christians are different this way. Christians aren't like non-Christians because Christians play music of any kind. But that's not true. The best way to kill our local CCM station would be to mix in some John Rutter and Bill Gaither Family with the Superchik and Pillar. Heck, you could mix in Whitecross or Stryper to the same effect. When I turn on the local station I don't hear anything distinctly country (the lines with rock are blurring), any bluegrass, blues, jazz, or anything orchestral or choral. If you listen to what you don't hear on a CCM station then you see that CCM isn't about having a mix of all styles with the message. It's about the message only as found in some narrow set of currently popular music styles.

When I was growing up I had CCM forced on me. Michael W. Smith, Jars of Clay, Audio Adreneline, the O.C. Supertones, and so on. I was told I was supposed to like this music because it is "Christian." But I didn't like it. In high school I liked Vivaldi, Mozart, and company. And I was told that was wrong because those muscians didn't provide the right message. Oh, there's that message thing again. The only reason I'm not telling you to shove the message up your rears is becuase I like the message. I object to it being given as the reason I should like CCM.

There are a few CCM folks who stand out to me. Rich Mullins kicked butt, bar none, as a lyricist and a musician. Michael W.. Smith has redeemed himself to me musically with the release of the almost all-original insturmental album Freedom (which is never played on the local CCM station). Thrive put the Newsboys back on my good list, partially due to producer Steve Taylor, whose 1980s CCM I've almost come to appreciate. But they, like Caedmon's Call, who I used to like, have been selling out to the Praise and Worship market. Chris Rice has a fun style but I think he's on sabbatical because he was tired of being famous. Paul Beloche and Lenny LeBanc get my nod for "Above All" but not for much else. Otherwise everything I hear on the local CCM station is an abortion of theology and geometry and generally nauseates me within minutes. I only listen to it when my wife turns it on instead of whatever else was playing, and then I usually complain until it goes back away.

I'm sure there's Christian music out there besides Third Day, Stellar Kart, Superchik, Casting Crowns, Ayiesha Woods, MercyMe, BarlowGirl, Skillet, Jeremy Camp, Kutlass, Sanctus Real, Bethany Dillon, Big Daddy Weave, Toby Mac, Krystal Myers, ZoeGirl, Avalon, and whoever else I can't stand listening to but can't remember to name. But I'm probably not going to find it. Unlike classical music where I can buy almost any CD in the section and enjoy the reults, I can't go to Hackman's or J.O.Y. (most of you have never heard of them) and trust that any old thing will let me even keep my lunch down.

It's not about the words. Except for Stellar Kart's underacheiving hit "Finish Last" I've had few complaints about lyrics. But it's hard to be encouraged by or enjoy the lyrics when the style makes me want to retch. That's my problem-- all the styles of music that I'm supposed to like beacuse this week Christian people listen to Christian words over those styles of music.

Who Needs Harvard?

I read this article when the NACC library's copy of the magazine was still pristine (their copies didn't wear out very fast), and I accidently found the elctronic version last night.

Who wants to go throw tomatoes at Harvard kids?

27 September 2006

Every Young Earth Creationist

should read this article.

It sounds like things I have on my bookshelf, although the exact subject matter is different.

Yeah, once upon a time I actually bought books from them. I was persoanlly insulted by the author of the last one I bought. I apparently went to a college that no True Christian™ should send their children to becuase even though the school's motto is "For Christ and His Kingdom"** they're really just in the evil bussiness of teaching evolution. That book, by the way, turned out to be a great source of laughs in Brown House. In contrast to how that book's author talked to me, I was not personally insulted by Ken Miller, so now I'm on his side. (Sweens, can you return my copy of his book? Even if I called you Sweens online? Thanks.)

It's things like the shape of the earth that make me upset about the insistence that the "first chapter of Genesis" (which is really Genesis 1:1-2:3) be read literally. If the same emphasis would be placed on things like the shape of the Earth, which is what the article I link to discusses, or even on more subtle things like parables (Jesus said there was a man, so we must believe there really was a man and defend that point with everything we can put behind it) then Christians would realize that the all or nothing idea of the Bible's literalness is sort of silly.

The only thing that does bother me about the article I linked to is that it miscapitalized "Bible" a few times. "Bible" is the proper name for a book. We capitalize proper names in this language, even if the name is a book and we disagree with the contents. By contrast, I've never had a professor let me get away with capitalizing "Biblical," which that article does a number of times, because that's an adjective. (Hey, blame Davis, not me.)


**If you aren't impressed by the fact that a school with a motto like that can appear like this or this then try this-- in the 2006 NBA finals both teams' general managers were Wheaton graduates. (I read about that at d3hoops.com a month or two back and there's a blurb in the alumni magazine this fall.) I bring this up because if they had played at the Kingdome then I could have made a really funny pun.

26 September 2006

More on Organic Milk

I need to rant about organic milk again.

I've had two organic milk drinkers talk to me about organic milk since my last rant on the subject and dispite me pointing to real studies (see my comment on that post for the corrected citation) that say there's nothing better about organic milk all I've gotten is crap like "well, logically it must be better" and "but what about the studies that show _____?" and the ever popular "but we reallly don't know for sure."

I don't accept "well, logically it must be better" for the same reason I don't accept "well, the man looks nice so it is okay to buy a car from him." You can't weigh the difference between two conclusions by assuming that one of them is correct from the outset. And besides that, you should note that you can't talk about how logical a conclusion is by simply stating the conclusion. Logic involves processes connecting statements, not a statement by itself. Also remember that the studies I discussed were only done because someone who knows a lot more on the subject than we do decided that logic alone wasn't enough. Logically, any object in motion will tend to come to a stop. People who know physics know better, and not by logic.

I don't accept "what about the studies that show _____?" because you won't produce the studies. I'm calling your bluff. Go find them. I found the ones I cited with less than an hour of research. And don't tell me "someone at MIT did them" because that gives me no help at all. I'm open. I might be completely wrong about organic milk. If that's the case then I want to know it. But I can't find what you're talking about. So if it really is there, get it for me and I'll look at it.*

As for "we don't really know for sure," this comes because medicine and health isn't really a science. There are a whole pile of health risks that you take by going to the doctor for any problem and there are health risks if you stay home instead. You decide whether or not to go by balancing risks. Few people definitely become sick from other patients in the waiting room, for example, while many do get better from seeing the doctor. The risk of getting sick form the other patients is outweighed by the benefit (a negative risk, if you will) of healing. We don't know for sure about anything in medicine, but that knowledge alone doesn't help us balance risk. It's what tells us that the best we can do is balance risk. Balance involves comparison. Comparison (call me Quayle) involves comparing. Comparing involves doing something besides siting on your rear feeling good about yoursself for drinking organic milk. All I can conclude about this line is that it's horse dookey from people who do what they do and don't want to be told that maybe there's no reason for it.

This comes up because I just read a horrible thing here. I'd say it's uninfomative but it isn't.

The dairy industry and the government keep insisting that artificial growth hormones in milk are safe, but consumer spending habits are sending a different message: keep it pure.

The hormones don't even get to the milk, as far as I know. Any citations for that?

[The article has been changed to remove the innaccuracy here, however it was done without mentioning what the article had previously said or why the change was made. This lack of acountability is professional journalism's way of saying "We made a mistake! Quick! Hide it!"]

Nope. We don't need citations. Consumer spending habits are worthy of consideration on the level of science journals in our search for truth, and consumer habits are telling us that the mass milk is unsafe. I'm sure that it's a wholesale sell-out, too. I'm sure that the numbers of consumer that are making this fuss are huge, like 20% of households. Not.

"If more dairies jump on board, it could be a tipping point in the long-running debate about the safety of using synthetic hormones to spur milk production," writes Bruce Mohl of the Boston Globe.

Right, because business decisions are no good at telling us about the safety of a product. That death trap walker that I had as a baby was on the market because it was safe, not because people would buy it and give the company money. Lawn darts too. And dynamite. These things and more are brought to you for safety, not to make money. I'm glad all those companies are doing us such a good service.

Actually, there is some truth to the quote. The debate could reach a tipping point. Deciding a debate is not the same thing as discovering the truth. Debates can be won and lost on rhetoric alone. Good rhetoric and debate teachers get that across to their students, although I do know people who recall their experiences with such teachers by whinging instead of seeing the lesson they were supposed to learn. Debates are about who is more convincing, not who is really right.

And if you buy organic to avoid industrial farming practices, consider milk from grass-fed cows. While not necessarily organic, studies have shown they’re less damaging to the environment than feedlot operations and produce milk that can have higher levels of important fats.

That's probably true, but I'll point out that I don't see a citation for the study so I don't know for sure. If you really want to avoid industrial farming that's fine. I know people who do that and I'm happy for them. But don't argue about how bad mass milk is if the best you can produce is a reason why organic milk might be better. Those aren't the same thing, but the same people I know who put so much weight in logic confuse those two things.

*Since I can't get you to actually do it, I'm going to assume that you're stupid until you do. Or you admit that regular milk won't hurt you.

25 September 2006

Totally random stuff.

I got a working two phase coexistence algorithm! Now I just need to tie it with my free energy generators. I've got functions and subroutines all over the place, and sadly they're all probably going to end up sloppily piled into in one module. I don't code for beauty, I code for processing efficiencncy. I did manage to generate an 800MB data file today. That took a while. Doing the same run without saving all the variables each time through took only a second or so. It was worth it to put out millions of lines of data just so that I could see that a single line had a true flag acoompanying it.

Peter and I are playing a game. Perhaps one of us will write about it soon.

I took a nap this afternoon and when I woke up Lawrence Welk was on TV. What an abortion of theology and geometry!

For those of you who don't get the reference, I've been thinking a lot lately about the book that contains it, A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. The main character, Ignatius Reily, spends a lot of time talking about Fortuna's wheel spinning him on a downward spiral, and Carmina Burana is just the place to go to hear about Fortuna's wheel, before and after the sex and drinking songs.

Carmina Burana also contains what may be my favorite word ever in terms of sound, chünegin. In Context,

Were diu werlt alle min
von deme mere unze an den Rin
des wolt ih mih darben,
daz diu chunegin von Engellant
lege an minen armen.


German speakers out there, all none one of you, should will note that the language used is the German equivalent of Chaucer's English. And it sounds even more beautiful. Translated, "Were all the world mine from the sea to the Rhine, I would starve myself of it so that the queen of England might lie in my arms." Kinky, and so not true, at least now.

Carmina Burana also has one of the most amusing songs I've ever seen, "Olim lacus colueram," or alternately (as in, this is a translation of the alternate title), "The Roast Swan." It's in the midst of the drinking songs. Soon after this is another rather amusing song that I'm memorizing, because it's a tongue twister, "In taberna quando summus," which is a celebration of gambling, drinking, and more drinking. For those of you who like Carmina Burana but have never bothered to read the translation (that's you, sister), here is a good translation.

Singing this piece has turned into a challenge mostly because I have a great difficulty practicing. There is a lot of tight harmony that I really have trouble following. Even websites like Cyberbass aren't much help because in our choir "baritone" means "I'll decide by the week of the performance when you guys are singing a bass line and when you're singing a tenor line." If I had access to a decent piano I'd be all set, but I don't. And by the way, that G on the bass line in the Ave formosissima should get Orff shot.

At church this morning our regular music leader, who I'll add is one of the smartest and nerdiest people I know even though most people who know him don't realize it (he's one of those people who talks a lot and comes across as a mere spouter of useless knowledge but is one of the few people I've met that actually has the knowledge and deserves to get away with sharing it), gave me his old dual tape deck. So my wife and I can finally play casettes at home, once I get it plugged in. He also culled his tape collection and gave me a dozen plus tapes of classical recordings he also has on CD, including a number of things I don't have in any form. He keeps egging me on that he'll turn me into a Bruckner fan yet, although the amount of Beethoven I brought home today (Piano concerto 5, some piano sonatas, a few symphonies, and some other stuff) will give the single piece by Bruckner some serious competition.

We went to visit some friends tonight and had a real hoot of a time. Thanks for letting us visit. If people could adopt extra siblings I'd have you guys in the family in a hurry. We ate some dinner and watched Friday Night Lights. Bringing up our visit, I can't help but think of Jeff Bates' song "Good People." I like trying to be good people, and in turn I like good people.

The weather is getting cooler. I know all you gawking hormone bags don't like it (yeah, that was harsh, but you can sack it because you know I'm joking), but I like it because at least I'll stop being sweaty all day and night.

23 September 2006

Dear Mass Media

You've offended me. All I'm trying to do is check the news, and you need to show me pictures of Barbra Streisand with her thin black whatever.

Sure, she wasn't wearing a bra, but I didn't want to know that. Or see her droopy nipples. It's bad enough that I need to see her fat, sagging nose dangling in front of her face. Now this. Why is this even news? Her first name should have explained this too you already. She's not Barbara, she's Barbra. Get it? Barbra? I'd make mu-mu jokes too but I'm too disgusted. Next thing I know you'll want to expose me to something more awful still, like (Dear Lord, NO!) her singing. I'm sorely disappointed.

Seriously, I expect the best from our mass media. But all I really ever get is a constant stream of sour milk and wilting boobs.

21 September 2006

Too Cool

Spaceballs: The Animated Series

20 September 2006

Voter ID and Poll Fraud

The US House has decided that everyone who votes must show photo ID, beginning in 2008.

Frankly, I don't see how this will reduce fraud. In fact I don't at all understand people's obsession with photo ID and prevention of fraud, terrorism, or whatever. Oh, wait, I do. Americans are dumb SJs. Silly me. (And yes, I'm really riled up when I use stuuuuuupid personality test categories to generalize Americans.)

Dum 'merican dolt sez: "Who cares about the process of getting ID or side issues like whether ID can be faked. It's all about having some kind of fact to point to. A piece of plastic with a magnetic strip is a fact, a fact! It's undeniable proof of whatever I decide it Proves. If they had only listened to me ten years ago then nobody would have died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, because the hijackers would have needed federal ID checked by federal officials to get on those planes. Sure, they had state issued ID, but that is inferior. States issue ID cards to foreign cars to hang on their butts all the time, after all, so their standards about ensuring nationality are obviously low. And the cards in airports used to be checked by Big Business Employees whose employers donate money to Republicans, so they are incompetent by association. If we just had the federal government taking care of everyting and requiring ID for everyone all the time then nobody would ever get hurt from fraud ever again. As I said already, who cares about fake ID. Photo ID is Proof that the person holding it is okay. As for rights, I don't care what they do to me and my rights because I'm not doing anything wrong, and it's a fact that our government won't ever hurt me, even if it sets up an infrastructure to do so. Now stop hurting my brain and let me watch Survivor. As with anything, I don't need to give reasons. I am, after all, incapable of thinking. I blame my school because it is their fault. Nobody should be required to put in any effort to learn. That's a fact. So the thinking's your job. Now go do it. But don't let your conclusions jar me out of my happy ignorance."

If only they were capable of being so witty.

The photo ID requirement for voting has been called the equivalent of a poll tax because photo ID costs money. The law tries to take care of the influence on the wealthy by requiring that states pay for photo ID for people who cannot afford it. Great, I say, how does that help? The government now gets to decide who is and isn't able to afford ID. Someone with an annual income of $16,000 and inelegible for welfare but barely getting by now will need to spend even more money while the Jane Blows on welfare with three aunts, two grandmothers, and four children from four diffferent men in the one bedroom apartment, and whose mistakes with their genitals really aren't mistakes and so it should be their job, not ours, to pay for the results, get free photo ID from our money as well after we pay for our own ID. I think that every decision that ends up in the hands of the government is one of my rights lost, or if not then historically it's my money lost, but that's probably just me.

When I vote now, my signature gets compared to the one I submitted when I registered, an act that required me to posess proof of person and proof of citizenship. Yet that's all that will be required to get the photo ID needed to vote. So I don't see what photo ID at the polls is helping.

I don't think we'll cut down on voting fraud by requiring cute pieces of plastic with little pictures. The biggest poll fraud has nothing to do with the voters at all. It's about the power hungry idiots on the ballot who are all willing to turn our country into a police state, or point it in that direction at least, just to make sure that they can tell us they're keeping us safe.

Before the November election in 2008 the citizens of New Hampshire will commit scuicide. And rightfully so. Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves fast enough that, if we wrapped them in wire the right way, our nation's energy crisis would be solved, at least for this month. The Earth's magnetic field is strong enough that we won't need to move any magnets in to assist. Having the liquor stores open on Election day? Ben Franklin says, "Fine. Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to prosper." (We'd need to remind him that liquor stores in this state, his, don't sell beer, but then he'd remind us that he was talking about the rain that makes the vineyards grow, not beer.) Having to show ID at the poll? Ben says, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." I say Hurrah! A cheap source of renewable energy!

I'll try to have a nice trip to Cuba for saying all this in public, when I get sent in a few years based on Canadian intelligence reports linking me to someone who met an Arab once. Until then I'll have fun playing phone sex pranks on the NSA boogers who are "legally" wiretapping our phones as part of the investigation initiated by some uppity govvie, known behind his back as MacCarthy no doubt, into whether I really think the current government is withdrawing civil rights. When the time comes, remind my wife that if I'm still alive I love her.

19 September 2006

Headlines Only Academics Can love

Some Universities Shift Future Professors' Focus To Teaching.

Reasons to love it?

Some universities shift not future professors' focus to teaching?

But isn't college about getting an education? (Oh, wait, that's College, not University. Silly me.)

What about shifting the current professors' focus to teaching?

I Totally Found

The perfect vacation.

I would so spend most of my time nagging the crew to let me help them play with the boat ship big toy.

Honey, when do we get to go?

16 September 2006

My Mom Always Says

"Don't tell me about it until after you're done doing it." So I can tell everyone now.

I went for a hike this afternoon. The trail was absolutely empty, and I blame a few things for that. The weather was forcast to be worse today than it turned out to be. The fall leaves are not yet out. People have video games at home. I didn't go to Hawk Mountain.

The weather looked nice around 2:00, with no more rain on the radar but the sky still ominously cloudy, so I figured I had a chance to get in five or seven miles before sunset. My hike took me out and back on the Appalachian Trail from Lehigh Furnace Gap to almost Bake Oven Knob. And you people thought that when I found my way up to the gap I was just out for a joyride. No, I was actually looking for the access points. I parked under the radio tower and there was one other car there, which must have belonged to someone who hiked toward Lehigh Gap because I saw nobody southbound and that car was gone when I got back. Someone had been south on the trail earlier in the day, however. There was a single set of footprints, heavy load and a hiking boot type of tread, where the trail went through some nice, soft dirt. We are currently at the tail end of when the southbound thru-hikers pass through the area, so perhaps....

I say that I hiked to almost Bake Oven Knob because I had only climbed partway up the rocks on the south facing side before I was at my turn-around time (the halfway point between when I left the car and sunset, but dont' try this at home, kids; this trail is north of the SE-NW ridgeline at the end of the hike so I knew it would have decent light even at sunset). I can catch the rest of those rocks some other time.

I got to take my shiny new hiking poles for a spin. Cheap pieces of crap form Wal-Mart. Dispite the fact that I've gotten nothing but negativity out of you lot (including negativity from someone who wonders why thru-hikers don't forage, so I can't take all of you seriously), they were very helpful in (you can skip this part, Mom) keeping me alive on the slippery, wet rocks. I fell down twice and both times I was able to push myself sideways with one pole so that my torso landed on something flat rather than on the pointy top edge of the rock. I was able to catch myself and prevent a fall a few other times. (Since I plant the poles forward they can't help much when my feet slip forward, as the times I fell, but when my feet slipped back or sideways it was quite helpful). And uncountably many times I was able to check a rock to see if it was stable or to hold me so I could lean this way or that to plant a foot. So all of you pole-mockers can continue cursing my hiking poles, since I wouldn't be able to type this drivel you disagree with if I hadn't had the poles to keep me from breaking my back.

For the record, the rocks were actually mostly dry. I only slipped when I forgot that my shoes were wet from stepping on leaves or dirt around the rocks. I figured that out after a few miles. The hiking poles were helpful in getting my speed up to nearly 2mph. The terrain was actually quite nice. Soee parts were small Pennsylvania Rocks. Some were medium Pennsylvania Rocks ,with and without leaves or dirt between them. A few parts were Pennsylvania Boulders, with and without leaves or dirt between them. Some parts were Pennsylvania Cobblestones. Some parts were Pennsylvania Pebbles. A little bit was Pennsylvania Dirt, which is kind of like little tiny rocks. A lot of the southern side of the trail had moss. (I here I've been thinking that the moss thing was a made up story.) I'm never hiking wihtout a pair of poles on rocks again. Without them I could have only done at most 1.5mph on terrain, given my current crappy unexercised state, and if the trail had been dry I wouldn't have slipped at the rate I was going today. Heck, if I would just get in shape I probably wouldn't have slipped at the rate I was going today.

On the way back when I went through the dirt I saw only my own footprints, the other person's that I had seen earlier, and tracks from a deer walking south.

For anyone who wants to visit Bake Oven Knob and have more of a hike than the usual scramble to the top from the parking lot, this is a nice walk. There's one north facing lookout along the way, and the ground is quite varied. Today I saw a squirrel, something I almost never see while hiking, and a deer, something I've seen less, so this part of trail isn't terribly populated. The trail is narrow within the ground cover, when there are ferns and such. There are uphills and downhills of a couple hundred feet, all pretty gentle. Give yourself more time than I did so that you can enjoy the walk.

You have two parking options off Ashfield road. One is to park at the radio tower. The AT goes north from there into the state game lands. If you head that way don't confuse the low-painted round triple dot gameland boundaries with the higher up vertical rectangle trail blazes. Another option is to park at the power lines. Although the road has no blazes the AT follows the road for about 400 feet. At the power lines are some rocks to keep you form parking there. Drive around them to the overgrown track just to the north, if your vehicle is up for it. The trail crosses those parking-blocking rocks then goes under the power lines and into the woods, in a rather poorly marked way, on the far side about 50 feet to the right along the lines. Bake Oven Knob is about 2.5 miles along the trail. The blazes are crap until you get to the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club maintainence sign. Even after that they are obviously better done for northbound hikers than for southbound hikers. Sudden turns are all well marked from both directions.

14 September 2006

Things To Be Happy About

Life is not all sorrow. My data from the jobs on the beowulf cluster is crappy, for example.

But I just wrote my first makefile and it worked.

The fact that I'm elated about this puts me on a new plane of nerd.

Welcome Eris

I found this on a few astronomy sites this evening, so I figured I'd pass it along....

UB-313, up to now called "Xena," has been given a proper name, Eris. It's moon has been named Dysnomia.

13 September 2006

Isn't This Odd?

It seems that Hugo Chavez is getting in on the action. You know, the whole "The US government did September 11 on purpose" thing. And let me point out one line in there that I've heard over and over and over from all the nitwits who believe in this conspiracy:

"The hypothesis is not absurd . . . that those towers could have been dynamited," Chavez said in a speech to supporters. "A building never collapses like that, unless it's with an implosion."

Um... right.

I take issue with the final sentence in the quote, which is substatially the same as what I hear over and over from the nitwits.

Am I to believe that we have many examples of buildings falling down from things other than being imploded for demolition, like being hit by airplanes and burning for a while? And am I to believe that we know that the World Trade Center towers did not look like those uncontrolled demolitions at all but rather looked like when buildings get imploded on purpose?

Of course not. But that's the only way I see to give any credit to the idea. You can't distinguish causes by effects without knowing the effects from all causes. Doing so anyway is akin to (maybe the same as; I get lost in whether such logical concepts can be applied to things like cause-effect relationships) the fallacy of affirming the consequent.

That is where I find the answer to my question. No, this isn't odd at all.

12 September 2006

Five Years

I don't have anything sappy to say. I'm just kind of bored working, and I'm getting tired of computer screen in my face 12 hours a day. So here's something.

On September 11 2001, I was in Atlanta. I was having a bad day. The air conditioning was still broken in our apartment. Grad school was on me like a freight train and I was being forced out of bed really early every day. I was taking four courses, the normal load there, but was dealing with the fact that math physics had turned from a complete sleeper into a weed-out course for Americans. (Hey, that was my graduate coordinater's theory, not mine. The NSF fellows barely got Bs.) I had just gotten kicked out of my office for no good reason and put in a craphole in the basement.

When I dragged my butt into Math Physics roundabouts 9:30, after having endured a stinky train ride (all the MARTA trains stink) and Quantum Mechanics (we were using Sakurai, a book that my current department won't touch) for an hour and a half, I wasn't surprised that our resident lame-joke expert had written on the chalkboard that an airplane had run into the World Trade Center. Yeah, we had a resident lame-joke expert, one of the people who didn't finish the first semester, giving me the honors of worst student in the department from the class of 2001. And if you compare his jokes to mine you'll understand... and laugh at my jokes out of more than politeness.

After class the computer lab was mostly full but I got a computer fast enough. I read the news about what was happening and was, well, nothing, which is what I always am when Something happens. The difference between something happening and Something happening is that something makes me feel like something while Something doesn't make me feel like anything. And besides, while locking my apartment door that fine morning, I had hoped desperately that something would go wrong for someone else that day. The fact that my wish had come true was nearly satisfying, although it wasn't exactly what I had had in mind.

In the computer lab I was sitting next to Lt. Col. Mike of the U. S. Army who was with us to learn more physics so he could teach at West Point. I recall us both being particularly unhappy. We became frustrated with slow news websites and so we went in search of a TV, which we eventually found, along with Lt. Sally, USAF, who was with us becasue she wasn't starting fighter training until the following fall. Then we got to see the replays. Mike was, well, words can't describe it, but you could easily make an analogy with the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, if you throw in a few more expletives and replace the recruits with that poor TV. It scared Lt. Sally away. Either that or she went where Mike was eventually going. The department's facilities manager came to tell us that the campus was closing, so Lt. Col. Mike went off to see his commanding officer and I went to my lab room to hang out for a few minutes and tell my students to go away so I could go home.

I went home, and NE(B) and I watched the TV for the rest of the day. There wasn't too much to say, really. We called home that evening. People all over Atlanta were scared, mostly for their pathetic city. I was happy that there weren't more people thought dead, and the numbers actually went down from there over the days.
Other than that I don't recall feeling anything. I had other things to deal with. I've been told that such a quality makes me a soulless bastard and thus completely capable of running large corporations or universities. Perhaps so. Or maybe I did feel something and I just didn't process it. Who knows. Even now I feel nothing, because once again I've got too many other things to wrorry about. What a crappy culture we live in where we're forced to ignore even the most basic of emotions if that's what it takes to satisfy some arbitrary standard that the more we do the better we are.

The first time I drove towards New York something was missing. Before I even noted the Empire State Building my mental memories told me that the south end of Manhattan should be right about there, where there was nothing notable to see. There used to be two big squarish things there. Now there's a hole in the ground, a hole that I hope gets appropriately filled soon.

09 September 2006

Willnot .OR. Cannot

I don't feel like posting something serious, such as my ideas about why people today are just as backwards as people a thousand years ago (something I like to talk about because it makes certain types of people absolutely enraged), and I have little else to say. I'll probably be around school tomorrow since my wife wants to go for the free outdoor music and I need to at least upload my programs from Heidi, if not do more work on them.

I did go for a long drive tonight. I managed to find Lehigh Furnace Gap by driving up the north side of the mountain. I meant to go back over the mountain at Bake Oven Knob but I missed the road twice (I drove to 309 and Mountain Road and turned around in Bear Rock Junction's driveway) and ended up going back over Lehigh Furnace Gap again. I didn't particularly like that when I realized it was happening, for an amusing reason that I won't explain here. No, I didn't do anything wrong, but it's a funny story. As long as the tires are inflated when I get up tomorrow it's actually one of the funniest things that's ever happened to me, although Noble's own similar experience is more amusing. You can ask me sometime. Or ask him. Before he asks me. Just for fun. Mine, not his.

On 248 I got stopped at tonight's DUI checkpoint (there's always one up there somewhere on the weekends), where they always ask where you're coming from and where you're going along with asking you if you've had anything to drink that night (my honest response is always "some water a while ago"; so far they have always they enjoyed the humor). I said, quite honestly, that I was just in Bowmanstown and I was going to the grocery store before heading home. What was I supposed to say, "Bear Rock Junction for some clandestine after-hours mini golf"? Or "Nowhere in particular. I just risked my tires and undercarriage on a nasty dirt road and drove up over the mountain twice after dark for kicks"? Or "I came from a chasm in my mother's loins and I'll end up in a different kind of hole"? And of course after a moment of chit-chat about my brake light being on (the sensor is shot; I need to check the fluid every few days but otherwise it's no problem) various permutations of the questions and my answers returned as questions. Being sober I had no trouble with that. Even so I was still a little concerned about the event for the above mentioned reason.

If anyone wants to know how to get to Lehigh Furnace Gap let me know. If you want to know how to get to Bake Oven Knob ask someone else. (And I don't need to hear any "Start at point N on the AT and walk in direction Y" comments, even though that is the preferred method.)

08 September 2006

Programming

I'm in the midst of a simple addition to project 2. It's a simple concept. It's a pain to program. But there was a Russian guy who came to visit our group and he programmed it and had results in a few days. Surely, my adviser then concluded, that means Nate can do it by tomorrow?

Words fail me.

Actually, I can't do it by tomorrow. But I can work on it. I'm not so insane as to do things like write my own routines for everything, but I'm learning how to use canned routines that are worth knowing how to use. Case as an example, in an hour or two tonight I figured out how to use a Fortran 90 version of the toms493 algorithm (thanks to Alan Miller, whoever you are, for making the nifty module and posting it online). I had to do all kinds of things I've never done before with Fortran and I remembered a whole lot of other stuff in the process.

My adviser doesn't seem to understand that programming quickly and effectively is very much about having a ready supply of pre-made parts on hand to use however they can be used to make life easier. Getting a bundle of those parts that someone else and then using it as assembled is not the same thing as assembling the parts for yourself. You don't learn how to build a car by buying a car that's already put together. You don't learn how to build a car by driving a car to a new different place. And, even though it is informative and can provide guidance, you don't learn how to build a car by taking one apart. You only learn how to build a car by putting one together. Maybe programming is not like this for everyone and I'm just some kind of freak, but it's been like that ever since I first set out to learn QBASIC.

(By the way, if you're bored you should skip the rest of this, because it doesn't get better, and read this instead.)

As for when I'll finish, this little exercise, let's call it project 2.B, is broken down into steps. What I accomplished tonight made headway with step 1. There's two more parts to step 1, one that requires a repeat of what I've already figured out but for a different function and another that combines everything I mentuioned so far with some things I did earlier today to get the set of points that I need. That will be the end of step 1. Step 2 is to process thsoe points through another equation to make a single point. Step 3 is to put all of that in a loop to generate another set of points. Step 4 is to put together another algorithm, I have the steps written down and I just need to implement them, to find pairs of those points that have certain properties.

All said I should be done by the middle of next week. Wish me luck when I talk to the man who is wondering why I wasn't done yesterday.

06 September 2006

What's Up With That?

StatCounter is on the fritz. I'm geting all my regular readers, minus one, but the locations asociated with the IP addresses have gone totally berserk. The university IP addresses came from a few different states that the school is not in (I feel so bad about that grammatical structure), including New York. Virginia addresses are coming from California. Tennessee addresses are still okay, although that person's occasionally appearing as Louisiana has started back up. This is, well, odd. Sigh.

In other news, Alysia indeed mailed me a brick. Thanks, dude. I owe you :)

Speaking of bricks, today's batch of pumpernickel wisdom has already been tainted by hot wing sauce.

04 September 2006

Crikey!

As most of you probably heard (because you're all sane folk who read the real news and/or The Drudge Report before you read anything here) Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, got a little out of his league with some stingrays and won't be telling the tale.

03 September 2006

In Case You Were Wondering

I don't feel like putting up all kinds of pictures from Colorado. Yes, I mean from June. But I have them now, so you can ask me to see them, or ask the photographer (the one in the middle here who is not, dispite quite direct suggestions to the contrary, touching my butt in that picture).

I do inlcude this shot of me and one of my Steves (I actively know about four of them these days) in Cheyenne, mostly because it lets me poke fun at my sister, who hasn't been to Wyoming and consequently hasn't missed much. I won't poke fun here, though. I'll save that for the next time I talk to her. I apologize for the dim light. We actually had to go to the conference during the day.

01 September 2006

Cheap Thrills

From the area newspaper

"Quite frankly, educational programs can't compete with 5-cent beer specials."

says a Penn State spokesperson.

I thought a few of you would be interested for various reasons.

Friends

I like to talk about my friends, but I have to admit that friends are one of the discouraging things about my life in the near future. I get really glum thinking about what percentage of people from my past I really contact regularly. In any given month I'm only really in touch with Peter, sometimes another old roommate, maybe a blog comment for a few others, and that's about everyone. That's one of the problems with being a social connector (to borrow Malcom Gladwell's langague). Loose friendships come undone in time and space, leaving very few that last.

It's not that after life changes we no longer care for each other as much as we're forced to care about things that are more immediate. Living in a new place, doing new work, getting involved in new churches, and so on takes away time that we would have to spend with those at the old neighborhood, the old work, the old church, or the old whatever. I care a great deal about my fellow youf at the church when I was a teenager, for example, but I have no chances to interact with them anymore. A few of guys that I spent the most time with are still going to that church, living within a few miles of where they lived with their parents. I remember this spring when one of them got married (causing the great I Sang The Missa Solemnis Woozy and Didn't Even Get a Lousy Shirt incident of April 2006) how happy I was to see them, and how happy I was that they were still there for each other. At the same time, though, I had too look at them and ask "What have I missed?" knowing that even if they understood the depth of the question there would never be enough time for them to even explain, much less for me to understand.

I'm a pretty strong introvert, and introverts are commonly thought of as being squirrely people who avoid spending time with anyone bceause they need to be alone to refresh themselves. That's not really what introverts are, however. I define introverts as people who are picky about who they spend time with because, honestly, that seems to explain it. I know a lot of introverts (I study Physics, so how couldn't I?) and they demonstrate this definition. They are each involved with people to many extents, but what they have in common is that none of them will spend time with just anyone. Standards for social times vary, but everyone has a set. With few exceptions my friends demonstrate that being introverted doesn't mean desiring to be alone more than a little bit. It instead means only wanting a little time alone and then accepting more solitude when none of the social choices are acceptable.

I bring that up because I spend a lot of time lonely. Hours, sometimes. Usually I'm alone for hours in the evenings, and it's a blessing and a curse. I don't compltely lose my mind being alone. Quite to the contrary, no matter what time my wife goes to bed I'm usually in bed at least an hour later. I often get things done at this time of day, especially because it's cool and dark outside. I listen to music a lot at night. I do my grocery shopping at night. I drive for pleasure at night.

But I also wish I could turn around right now, or turn on my instant messanger, and have some time with any one of the people I know who I really like. I sometimes even have conversations with people who aren't here (no, not in the schizophrenic way; I consciously control all sides, like I'm all the characters in my own version of Copenhagen) (diagnose me however you'd like, though). Sometimes it's like applying the Metroplis algorithm and making a Monte Carlo simulation of how someone will react to something I do or say. Sometimes It's telling people things I wish I could tell them but can't say or don't know how to say. Other times I make lists of why what they said to me imaginarially is and isn't something that they would really say. At the end, unless I need to do an experiment to test a result, I go back and make sure I've separated this internal dialogue from reality. Life's too short to screw up for real because of mind games when bored, although as my wife can tell you I do sometimes become overly agitated with people because I spend too much time arguing with my idea of them.

When I'm alone every night I have no desire to go meet new people. Meeting new people sucks. It requires these dances of words and eyes and postures that I find to be absolutely innane. In fact, I find them so innane that I don't participate. My friends always end up being the people who can accept that. And therein lie more fears about the future. I'm not only afraid of losing the friends I have now, I'm afraid of not finding new ones.

Today I should be happy. My programs are working, I need to get some more written but keep forgetting to get the materials I need, I have food and shelter and cream that's sucessfully killing the fungus on my feet.... My problem is that I become too contemplative, and I look at my future and ask "Who will be Paul and Sara in five years? Who will be Mike? Steve? Jeff S.? Noble? Rich? Fede? The rest? Will there be anyone like them where I go? What will happen to them? A year from now will they be more than a thankful note in my dissertation or a pile of fond memories?" It always looks bleak, except for the fact that my wife will be going with me. My time where I am is coming to a close sooner than I'd like, and leaving here is really going to suck.

There's nothing I can do about it. I'm going to get done with my Ph.D and then move on. It's scary, though.

Thanks to all of you who make it worthwhile to be where I am, and to those of you who made it worthwhile for me to be where I've been before.

By the way... When I started this blog 18 months ago only two or three of you knew about it. Now all of my local friends and some long distance friends and a few strangers and others read it regularly. As for stats, I've posted about once every 1.08 days, which means I've posted double on a good number of days. And yes, friends, even though your ideas for my 500th post were crap, and even though it's so sickening sappy I want to kick myself, I dedicate it to you.