Yet another weird SF fan


I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Small Sample Watch
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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
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Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
EconLog
Foreign Dispatches
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Howard Lovy's NanoBot
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My sister's blog
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Out of Step Jew
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Poor Medical Student
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Respectful Insolence
Sedenion
Seriously Science
Shtetl-Optimized
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
TJIC
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Fourmilab
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress


























Yet another weird SF fan
 

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Two Types of Mad Scientist

The debate over embryonic stem-cell research can be summed up in two quotes from The Man with Two Brains (mentioned in another context at The Volokh Conspiracy). Supporters of stem-cell research think they're saying:

Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: The only time we doctors should accept death is when it's caused by our own incompetence.
Opponents of embryonic stem-cell research hear them saying:
Dr. Necessiter: Nonsense. If the murder of twelve innocent people can help save one human life, it will have been worth it.

Defending Rabbi Lapin

Tom Paine at Silent Running is highly critical of Rabbi Daniel Lapin's recent anti-Hollywood rant. Apparently, Rabbi Lapin complained that some Jews in Hollywood have produced movies that resemble antisemitic stereotypes. Calling attention to that problem appears to be a no-no in some quarters.

The rant was inspired by Meet the Fockers. I've been informed that this movie is not only tasteless (which is forgivable) but the tastelessness was portrayed as being connected to Judaism. In the absence of that characteristic, we should merely ignore the movie. Given the attempt at connecting the tasteless behavior to Judaism, people will think of antisemitic stereotypes anyway, and this way Rabbi Lapin can point to the lack of connection to real Judaism.

Besides, we can't complain about the reluctance of Muslims to denounce their jerks if we ignore ours.

Addendum: Organic Fertilizer! It looks like real antisemites have discovered this.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I've Been Dethroned!

When I first blogged it, my nerd score got me classified as a Nerd King. As of this writing, I'm a mere Supreme Nerd.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Brains!

It's Deja Moo in Wired. Yes, Daniel H. Pink is attempting to revive the left-brain–right-brain cliche. It was based on research done in the 1960s and it became well known when Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was published in 1979. The article starts off wrong:

When I was a kid - growing up in a middle-class family, in the middle of America, in the middle of the 1970s - parents dished out a familiar plate of advice to their children: Get good grades, go to college, and pursue a profession that offers a decent standard of living and perhaps a dollop of prestige. If you were good at math and science, become a doctor. If you were better at English and history, become a lawyer. If blood grossed you out and your verbal skills needed work, become an accountant.
Excuse me. Speaking as someone who got through the 1970s unstoned, the common idea at the time was that “linear thinking” was obsolete (anybody here remember Marshall McLuhan?) and that computers would do all our logical thinking for us. This was partly due to the theory that creativity was highly important and (this is the preposterous step) the opposite of logical thinking. When the research on brain hemispheres came out, it turned out there was some reason to think that the left hemisphere was better at logic and the cliche mongers jumped to the conclusion that the right hemisphere must be creative. (It replaced the earlier theory that creativity was marked by α waves.)

In any case, the routine left-brain jobs can't disappear. They're mostly already gone. There are far fewer openings for typists and bank tellers nowadays. The left-brain jobs remaining are those that are conceptual and there's no reason to regard conceptual thinking as a right brain function.

In the other direction, routine right-brain jobs can be outsourced just as easily as routine left-brain jobs. Photoshop can be used overseas as easily as Excel.

Future Cliches?

By the way, isn't it time for a new set of brain buzzwords? Why not draw a distinction between the top brain and the bottom brain or between the front brain and back brain? Why not draw a distinction between the plan-everything frontal lobes and the go-with-the-flow cerebellum?

If it turns out that I started something here … can I get royalties on it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Why Otherwise Intelligent People Become Creationists

This puzzling phenomenon is explained by Bora Zivkovic (seen via Respectful Insolence). He explains it, not by analyzing Creationists properly, but by exemplifying what they're afraid of. We have here someone who ties evolution to left-wing bullsh!t.

For example, my usual response to Creationists who claim evolution is a religion is to argue that, if it were a religion, we would not see evolutionists who believe in other religions. For some reason, they don't seem impressed. Now, thanks to Bora Zivkovic, we see why they might object to theist evolution:

Christian theology postulates a God who is omnipresent (i.e., aspatial) and atemporal. God is not just everywhere, He is also everywhen. Christian God does not travel in time with us, from past through present to the future. When God created the Universe, he did not create just its beginning, he created ALL of it, including the whole HISTORY of the Universe, much of it is still in the future from our perspective, but can be seen all at once by God. When God is looking on his Creation, he is SIMULTANEOUSLY seeing the primordial soup, Galileo's trial, bomb exploding in Hiroshima, you praying, and your great-great-grandchildren going on a school field-trip to Mars. Why would He make changes in his Perfect Creation just because someone is praying for something? A little tweak of the fabric located just after the act of the prayer? Why? Our future has already been created for us long time ago, and that future is exactly what God wanted all along. No free will. No reward. No punishment.
First of all, an atemporal God could quite easily make changes at the beginning of time in response to somebody's sins or virtues. Second, the fact that God can see what we will do does not subtract from free will. There is a difference between watching someone do something and causing that someone to do something. Third, there is nothing specifically Christian about this. Most important of all, when Creationists hear “theist evolution,” they figure it's something similar to the above. It's the equivalent of telling them “You can have your religion, but only if it's on our terms.”

I'll have to come back to this site later for a more extended fisking. It's noteworthy for assuming the viewpoint of the Berkeley psychology department and analyzing everything in those terms.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Miss Marple and Little White Cells

According to a recent press release from the University of California at Irvine:

While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence.

The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance.

Hmmm… If Hercule Poirot used his “little gray cells” to solve cases, did Miss Marple use her little white cells?

On the other hand, “The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media” is one of The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science.

By the way, I've wondered how men and women differ in the less intellectual brain areas. For example, I have a theory that the brain area that women use for feminism is the same as the brain area that men use for watching sports. For example, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” makes absolutely no sense at all when considered as a logical argument. It makes much more sense when considered as the equivalent of “It's a touchdown! Yay team!” Similarly, the reaction to Lawrence Summers' recent speech makes more sense as the female version of “KILL THE UMPIRE!”

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Team America and Science Fiction

A quote from Team America at Samizdata reminded me of the following quote from The Demon Breed by James H. Schmitz:

For the large class of non-aggressive citizens who'd prefer simply to be allowed to go about their business and keep out of trouble, that's a non-optimum situation. They're presented with many unpleasant problems they don't want, are endangered and occasionally harrassed or destroyed by human predators. But in the long run the problems never really seem to get out of hand. Because we also have highly aggressive antipredators. Typically, they don't prey on the harmless citizen. But their hackles go up when they meet their mirror image, the predator—from whom they can be distinguished mainly by their goals. When there are no official restraints on them, they appear to be as a class more than a match for the predators. … There are shadings and variations to all this, of course. The harmless citizen, the predator and the antipredator are ideal concepts. …

I Thought I Had an Appetite

100-pound woman downs 6-pound burger.

Afterwards, several people asked when the child was due.

An Anti-Semite Who Was Right …

… but not about Jews. Ezra Pound wrote:

  1    Winter is icumen in,
  2    Lhude sing Goddamm,
  3    Raineth drop and staineth slop,
  4    And how the wind doth ramm!
  5        Sing: Goddamm.
  6    Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
  7    An ague hath my ham.
  8        Damm you; Sing: Goddamm.
  9    Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm,
10        So 'gainst the winter's balm.
11    Sing goddamm, damm, sing goddamm,
12    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.
My feelings exactly.

Department of Irony

Several Protest Warriors were beaten up by pacifists at the inauguration.

Do Liberal Professors Have That Much of an Effect?

According to The New York Times (seen via Foreign Dispatches):

David J. Zimmerman, an economics professor at Williams College, recently looked at the political views of 3,500 students who had shared rooms as freshmen, noting their leanings when they started college and again three years after graduation. Generally, roommates kept the same political persuasion -- except those freshmen whose roommates were on the far left of the political spectrum. No matter what their politics at enrollment, they were more likely than similar students to be conservative as adults.

We can derive several conclusions from this:
  1. This means the political skew of college faculties has almost no effect. If we look for leftist brainwashing, we should look at primary and secondary schools instead. Most people who exit college on the left entered college on the left.

    As far as I can tell, two types of people move left in college:

    • Ex-Creationists who have come to accept the fact of evolution.

    • Clowns who think they're pro-life until their girlfriends get pregnant.

  2. Self-congratulatory leftists can stop patting themselves on the back for being so educated.

  3. Rush Limbaugh was almost right when he said that we need two Marxists on every college faculty so we never forget what those people were like. We need more than two and they should be perpetual college freshmen.

But wait, there's more:

The study also found that the higher the SAT score, the more liberal the views.

If I remember correctly, liberal critics of the old SAT said that it was useless above 1300. I suspect that's where the percentage of liberals reaches a maximum.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Worse No-Win Situation

According to Jonah Goldberg:

I happened to catch a few seconds of a Friends re-run last night. It was the one where Rachel finds out she's pregnant, something we've discussed before in re abortion.

What's really interesting to me is how double-edged allegedly conservative victories are. The argument over Murphy Brown was how it sent a bad message to encourage single-motherhood as glamorous. Today, single motherhood on TV may be less glamorous but it is far more ubiquitous. Anyway, the point is that characters like Rachel decide not to have abortions, which is something of a nominal conservative victory. Right? But they also conclude that being a single mom is eminently "doable." This, it seems to me, is a conservative defeat.

Admittedly they are sort of apples and oranges so it's hard to say which is worse for society. Obviously if you believe abortion is akin to murder then the societal harm of these messages should take a back seat to the importance of choosing life. But sending the message that having a baby on your own is like picking up a new hobby is not good news for society either. This really seems like a no-win situation to me.

There's an even worse potential dilemma facing religious, pro-life but not yet Orthodox Jews. In the rest of society, the obvious conservative solution to avoiding both bastardy and abortion is for the couple to marry. That's not always an option for Jews if it means an intermarriage. Orthodox Judaism has rules intended to prevent Jews and gentiles from socializing and to prevent men and women from getting together outside of marriage. Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism (in practice, if not in theory) ignore those apparently-silly rules. The effect is to give some people a choice between tolerating intermarriage (bad), bastardy (worse), and abortion (rotten).

The rules of Orthodox Judaism might look absurd but rejecting them has led to disaster.

Maybe I should look at the Midwest Conservative Journal for hints of the right type of rhetoric to use while starting to move to a more rigorous religous organization.

A Speculation

This might account for the belief in some quarters that a pro-life Jew is highly assimilated and quasi-Christian. If we just look at non-Orthodox Jews, we might find that pro-lifers are more likely to be intermarried.

Not Ignorant, Merely Suspicious

Brian Carnell is highly critical of bloggers who are dubious about the UN's reproductive health assessments. I think suspicion is warranted here. “Reproductive health” has become a euphemism for abortion in recent years. Maybe the UN really is worried about maternal and infant mortality, but that's not the way to bet.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Gates Derangement Syndrome?

According to Annoying Old Guy, commenting at The Brothers Judd, there's a resemblance between Bush Derangement Syndrome and Gates Derangement Syndrome:

Yeah, the Dark Empire is pulling a briar patch ploy here but people are too obsessed with revenge to see it. Hmmm, that sounds awfully familiar… is there some well known politician who does this to his opponents over and over because they're suffering from a derangement syndrome?

That helps explain BoingBoing's reaction to some of Bill Gates's comments.

By the way, eXTReMe tracking reports:

Netscape 28.39% - MSIE 70.67% - Other 0.81%
for this site since April.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Hobbits and Mathematics, Continued

There's another connection besides Bilbo Baggins, PhD. I recently came across the MERRY and FRODO algorithms:

The MERRY algorithm (Multicarrier Equalization by Restoration of Redundancy) makes use of the redundancy of the data introduced by the cyclic prefix (CP).…

………

MERRY can be extended to compare multiple samples in the CP to multiple samples at the end of the symbol. As shown in Figure 4, each difference term that is added to the cost function produces a different window with a different delay, and the (somewhat smaller) overall window is the union of the individual windows. This allows the option of using more data, increasing the convergence rate at the expense of over-shortening the channel. This cousin to MERRY is called Forced Redundancy with Optional Data Omission (FRODO).…

On the other hand, I don't think they award either Fields Medals or Nobel Prizes for far-fetched acronyms.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Introducing Comments

Now my dozen or so regular readers can publicly comment on my ramblings.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Test of Integer Sequence Website

I tested The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (seen via John Derbyshire at The Corner) on the sequence 4 14 23 34 42 and found:


ID Number: A000054 URL: http://www.research.att.com/projects/OEIS?Anum=A000054 Sequence: 4,14,23,34,42,50,59,72,81,86,96,103,110,116,125,135,145,155, 163,168,175,181,190,200,207 Name: Local stops on New York City A line subway. Comments: These are the numbered stops for the A train, as of Feb. 2000. Links: Map, schedule, etc. See also: Cf. A000053 A001049 A007826. Sequence in context: A051806 A034051 A044437 this_sequence A063616 A031254 A031224 Adjacent sequences: A000051 A000052 A000053 this_sequence A000055 A000056 A000057 Keywords: nonn,fini,full Offset: 1 Author(s): njas

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Frankenstein Complex, Part II

A month after I blogged it, Douglas Kern also used a Frankenstein analogy:

The Bride of Frankenstein option is immigration. By importing hordes of proto-citizens unassimilated into the prevailing culture, the Left hopes to create an overclass of ethnic leaders dependent on affirmative action and government jobs to maintain their mandarin status. In turn, those ethnic leaders will keep the underclass immigrants dependent upon welfare handouts and government-enforced language barriers - and, thus, wedded to leftist economic policies. If the mass of immigrants is big enough to exercise appreciable political power, and if the prevailing culture is sufficiently indifferent to assimilating new arrivals, this strategy can work for a time. Indeed, in just this fashion, the Left has kept a stranglehold on black and Hispanic votes for decades. And, best of all, immigrants reproduce in large numbers, so you don't have to!

The problem, of course, is that the Bride of Frankenstein reviles the monster it was created to marry. The Europeans are learning to their horror that their Arab immigrants detest and revile the socially liberal ideology that their presence permits. Similarly, the American left is discovering that most blacks and Hispanics want no part of the radically heterodox morality that leftist intellectuals promulgate. Whereas the left wants to reform (or, in the extreme, abolish) bourgeois middle-class American morality, most American minorities want to embrace that morality more fully. As the '60s generation of minority leaders passes away, a new, independent-minded, and conservative-friendly generation of leaders is coming to take their place. And this new generation of leaders will not be bought off as easily as their parents were.

Come to think of it, an anti-immigration conservative might think of a “nation of immigrants” as Frankenstein's monster. Bits and pieces of other societies (some no longer in existence) are put together to form something unnatural.

This Looks Suspicious

I'm dubious about whether Will Life Be Worth Living in 2000 AD? (seen via Geek Press) appeared in a real magazine. For one thing, predictions of personal hovercraft and predictions of solar ovens were not common in the same era.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

That Explains It!

If you ever wondered if people in Washington, DC were brain-damaged, you can stop. The Washington Post (seen via The Corner) has evidence:

Capitol Hill employees have been advised not to use water from bathroom and kitchen faucets for drinking or cooking after tests last month discovered excessive levels of lead in water at the Library of Congress.

………

The action comes nearly a year after the disclosure that thousands of District homes had water with excessive levels of lead resulted in a massive expansion of water testing by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority.

It's additional evidence that lead can cause brain damage and voting for Democrats.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I Am a Nerd King!

Overall, you scored as follows:

I am nerdier than 92% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

8% scored higher,
0% scored the same, and
92% scored lower.

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Nerd King. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.

Seen via Respectful Insolence.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I'm Sorry Some People Can't Understand a Simple Analogy

The Curt Jester (seen via The Dawn Patrol) recently commented on a German bishop who recently apologized for comparing the current abortion holocaust to the German part of the collectivist Holocaust of the mid-20th century. According to Haaretz:

Joachim Meisner, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Cologne, said he would have left out the reference Adolf Hitler in his Epiphany sermon Thursday at the Cologne cathedral "had I had any inkling it would be misunderstood."

During the sermon, Meisner cited what he said were examples of humans taking on unlimited powers: "First Herod, who had the children of Bethlehem killed, then, among others, under Hitler and Stalin, who had millions of people exterminated, and today, in our times, millions of unborn children are killed," he said.

The head of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Paul Spiegel, called the comparison "unspeakable and offensive."
I'm offended that he's offended. This makes us Red-Sea pedestrians look like people who can't understand analogies. (The analogy is worth nitpicking on the grounds that the collectivist Holocaust was run by large governments and most abortions aren't. That's one reason I think human sacrifice is a better analogy.)

Meanwhile …

The Curt Jester first responds by pointing out that the comparison is valid:

I am not quite sure what would be "unspeakable and offensive" about the statement. It shows no diminishing of the horror of Hitler and Stalin and only puts abortion in the context of the escalation of evil. Those children killed by abortion world wide in the last 30 years overwhelms the number of deaths under both Hitler and Stalin. Those who work in abortion clinics and those who worked in concentration camps relate similar stories of dealing with what they saw and did and how those under their charge became less than human to them.
He then backs off and says:
Their are many ways to proclaim the truth and not all of them are fruitful. So on further reflection I can now understand why the Bishop would apologize for a statement that was truthful.
Uh oh… This sounds like the reasons given for the lack of public condemnation of the Nazis in World War II (that it would not be helpful).

In any case, from the point of view of us Pharisees, he should have stuck to a condemnation. Sometimes a clear statement can shift the debate.

Anti-Choice

Barry Schwarz appears to think that too much consumer choice is a bad thing:

Psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper have shown that as the number of flavors of jam or varieties of chocolate available to shoppers is increased, the likelihood that they will leave the store without buying any jam goes up.

When we look at a a more detailed report, we see:

In one of the studies reported in the journal, a group of subjects were asked to choose which type of chocolate they would buy from a selection of 6 Godiva flavors. Another group was asked to choose on variety from among 30 different flavors.

Subjects who were given extensive choices found the chocolates they had selected less tasty, less enjoyable and less satisfying than did the subjects given limited choices. They had more regrets about their choices and they were less likely to choose chocolates as compensation for taking part in the study than were subjects whose field of choice was restricted.

In another study, the researchers set up a "tasting booth" at Draeger's Supermarket in Menlo Park, Calif., an upscale grocery store known for its wide selection of foods. (On a normal day, Dr. Iyengar and Dr. Lepper report, Draeger's features "roughly 250 different varieties of mustard, 75 different varieties of olive oil and over 300 varieties of jam.")

When shoppers approached the booth, some found a selection of 6 types of jam to taste; others encountered a choice of 24 different jams.

The wider selection, Dr. Lepper and Dr. Iyengar found, attracted more shoppers: of 242 customers who passed by, 60 percent stopped at the tasting booth, compared with only 40 percent of the 260 customers who passed the more limited display.

But while nearly 30 percent of the shoppers given 6 choices subsequently bought a jar of jam, only 3 percent of those offered 24 varieties made a purchase.

In other words, we're dealing with unprepared subjects who were probably not thinking “how will I make a choice of a free sample?” Under normal shopping conditions, consumers have some idea of what they want ahead of time and, if they don't already know exactly what brand they'll get, they will pick the closest match. Such a match is likely to be closer when there are more choices.

We can consider the consequences of the theory that “fewer choices are better” in other fields. People nowadays have a very wide variety of choices when it comes to selecting a spouse. Should that be restricted? For that matter, why do we have so many newpapers or magazines? It's far more cost effective to shut down The New Republic or The New York Times.

Conclusive Proof Leftists Are Bonkers

According to The Wall Street Journal:

This past Sunday a New York Times feature in its City section asked famous New Yorkers to identify New York's golden age. At least four identified the 1970s as the golden age. This is worth notice because in the 1970s banks said New York had spun its credit rating into dross and refused to lend more money to a city whose accumulated deficit reached $8 billion. Today its budget office reports that starting in FY2006, per-annum deficits for three years will be $3.7 billion, $4.5 billion and $3.7 billion. There is a mayoral election this November when we'll get the opinion of all New Yorkers on the city's current alchemists. But perhaps we should regard the famous Times' commentators yearning for the 1970s as canaries in the gold-plated mine shaft.

The actor John Leguizamo: New York in the '70s "was funky and gritty and showed the world how a metropolis could be dark and apocalyptic and yet fecund." Fran Lebowitz, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair: The city "was a wreck; it was going bankrupt. And it was pretty lawless; everything was illegal, but no laws were enforced. It was a city for city-dwellers, not tourists, the way it is now." Laurie Anderson, a well-known New York artist and performer, admits the '70s were considered "the dark ages" but "there was great music and everyone was broke."

Nostalgia for going bankrupt and getting mugged? Since when are crooks and losers the epitome of “city-dwellers”?

Answering Diamond's Question

Jared Diamond (seen via Muck and Mystery (seen via FuturePundit)):

Why were Easter Islanders so foolish as to cut down all their trees, when the consequences would have been so obvious to them? This is a key question that nags everyone who wonders about self-inflicted environmental damage. I have often asked myself, "What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?" Like modern loggers, did he shout "Jobs, not trees!"? Or: "Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we'll find a substitute for wood"? Or: "We need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature"?

The man who cut down the last tree on Easter Island was probably doing it in revenge for the incident in which the other side cut down the next-to-last tree on Easter island.

It probably would have had no effect in a more established settlement, but new settlements at the edge of their respective civilizations (Easter Islanders, Greenland Vikings, Haitians, and Anasazi) tend to be vulnerable. The only ecologically-related collapse I can think of in an established core civilization is the collapse of Mayan civilization … and that had more to do with a takeover by jungles instead of deserts.

SF Fan for President?

No, not me. Newt Gingrich.

Isn't it time we had a President?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Speaking of Communists …

Bill Gates recently compared open-source advocates to communists:

No, I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.
The reaction at Boing Boing, instead of pointing out that Microsoft software is centrally planned, was to come up with a red copyleft flag in imitation of the hammer and sickle as though being compared to communists were a point of pride.

Are they trying to discredit themselves?

Irrelevant Comment on Che Guevara

After considering the reaction of my fellow reactionaries to the Che Guevara watch, I looked up part of Che's life story and noticed an interesting incident in which Che becomes a dentist:

19 June 1967 The guerrillas reached the village of Morocco; Che set up as a dentist; three military spies disguised as commercial travellers were captured, and later set free; a young peasant recruit, Paulino, from the village, was sent to Cochabamba as a courier to make contact with the urban network, but shortly afterwards captured by the army.

I was reminded of the dentist in Little Shop Of Horrors:
When I was young and just a bad little kid, 
My momma noticed funny things I did. 
Like shootin' puppies with a BB-Gun. 
I'd poison guppies, and when I was done, 
I'd find a pussy-cat and bash in it's head. 
That's when my momma said... 
(What did she say?) 
She said my boy I think someday 
You'll find a way 
To make your natural tendencies pay... 

You'll be a dentist. 
You have a talent for causing things pain! 
Son, be a dentist. 
People will pay you to be inhumane! 

You're temperment's wrong for the priesthood, 
And teaching would suit you still less. 
Son, be a dentist. 
You'll be a success.
Yes, I know it's a cheap shot…

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Another Type of Calendar Reform

Instead of adding leap days (as at present) or leap weeks (both calendars have the problem that months have nothing to do with the moon), why not change the Solar System to make days and months fit evenly into the year? It may take a while, of course, but once the Solar System has a population in the quintillions, it should become affordable.

Of course, by then the Earth is likely to be a museum …

Contradiction in First Things Article?

A recent article on George Orwell has a few paragraphs that don't quite belong together. One the one hand, we have:

A second example. In Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Orwell describes his protagonist’s reaction to a suggestion from the girl he has gotten pregnant that she might have an abortion, and that it can be done for only five pounds:

That pulled him up. For the first time he grasped, with the only kind of knowledge that matters, what they were really talking about. The words “a baby” took on a new significance. They did not mean any longer a mere abstract disaster, they meant a bud of flesh, a bit of himself, down there in her belly, alive and growing. His eyes met hers. They had a strange moment of sympathy such as they had never had before. For a moment he did feel that in some mysterious way they were one flesh. Though they were feet apart he felt as though they were joined together—as though some invisible living cord stretched from her entrails to his. He knew then that it was a dreadful thing they were contemplating—a blasphemy, if that word had any meaning.

As the nature of the phenomenon, the suggested abortion, becomes clear to Gordon Comstock, the novel’s antihero, his response follows naturally and spontaneously. He sees clearly and reacts properly. No theory is needed. If he didn’t see, argument about abortion’s evils would be of no use.

and on the other hand, we have:

This last point connects it to a fourth and final example. In Coming Up For Air, Orwell contrasts his protagonist’s memories of the English countryside on the eve of the First World War with its reality on the eve of the Second. A favorite fishing-pool has become a rubbish dump full of tin cans; a stretch of the Thames that used to harbor herons and alders has become a wasteland of “rowing-boats, canoes, punts, motor-launches, full of young fools with next to nothing on, all of them screaming and shouting and most of them with a gramophone aboard.”

Hel-lo! Human beings crowding out “Nature” is what happens when unaborted fetuses grow up. You may prefer them to have more dignified clothes or music, but they will crowd out “Nature” nonetheless.

We can see the problem more clearly a few lines later:

But in Orwell’s mind, these would be justifications that obscure what everybody really knows, which is that these things are wrong, revoltingly offensive to the natural order. Coolies are not there to be kicked; babies are not there to be killed; people are not there to be forced into near-starvation by industrialization; meadows and moorlands are not there to be turned into slag-heaps; and so on.
One of these things doesn't belong here. The first three examples of moral offenses involve actual people. The fourth example involves swamps.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

For Type Geeks

After reading about Meryl Yourish's experiences in typesetting, I thought I'd mention that not only do I know what the following gibberish means:

(FAMILY CMSY)
(FACE O 352)
(CODINGSCHEME TEX MATH SYMBOLS)
(DESIGNSIZE R 10.0)
(COMMENT DESIGNSIZE IS IN POINTS)
(COMMENT OTHER SIZES ARE MULTIPLES OF DESIGNSIZE)
(CHECKSUM O 4110426232)
(FONTDIMEN
   (SLANT R 0.25)
   (SPACE R 0.0)
   (STRETCH R 0.0)
   (SHRINK R 0.0)
   (XHEIGHT R 0.430555)
   (QUAD R 1.000003)
   (EXTRASPACE R 0.0)
   (NUM1 R 0.676508)
   (NUM2 R 0.393732)
   (NUM3 R 0.443731)
   (DENOM1 R 0.685951)
   (DENOM2 R 0.344841)
   (SUP1 R 0.412892)
   (SUP2 R 0.362892)
   (SUP3 R 0.288889)
   (SUB1 R 0.15)
   (SUB2 R 0.247217)
   (SUPDROP R 0.386108)
   (SUBDROP R 0.05)
   (DELIM1 R 2.389999)
   (DELIM2 R 1.01)
   (AXISHEIGHT R 0.25)
   )
I can even edit it (and save it under a new name, of course) when an author is fussy about where subscripts go.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Resistance is Futile!

The vast right-wing conspiracy will assimilate all:

When I was young, as many young people are, I was a good liberal. I was raised a good liberal by my mother, who could probably be considered a socialist on many issues. Some philosopher (you don’t really think I’ll look it up, do you) said that a man who isn’t a socialist at age 20 has no heart. A man who is still a socialist at age 30 has no brain.

This is one stereotype I definitely fit.

But during these years, there was one guy who hung out in the library. Tall. Long haired. Full short beard. Top button always buttoned. Was not a socialist. All in all, someone very different from the rest of us. He called himself a classical liberal.

We would get into large political discussions.

Heated political discussions.

Extremely heated political discussions.

And now, lots of time has gone by. From what I remember of my discussions with Joe, he was right and I was wrong.

So the question comes up, was Joe just being contrary all those years ago, or did his opinions actually come from well thought out philosophies. I don’t know, but according to his blog, he still believes.

Friedrich Nietzsche and Henry Morgentaler

The fact that the well-known abortionist Henry Morgentaler survived a concentration camp (seen via the Midwest Conservative Journal) reminded me of a Nietzsche aphorism:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Bad Timing?

I recently blogged about an artificial island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I didn't realize until just now that that island might not be there any more.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Gloat! Part II

We Red-Sea pedestrians can't leave our plan to chance, you know. Mark Steyn describes how we're activating our allies:

But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of ACLU efforts to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicized Christianity in America. By ''politicized,'' I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing ''Silent Night'' if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out, it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: What's more important? Winning a victory over the New Jersey kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?

In possibly-related news, one our moles is starting another phase of the plan.

Addendum: I just remembered that Marcus Eli Ravage declassified this years ago.

I Live about 150 Feet above Sea Level

Does that mean I'm off the hook?

Through a combination of computer simulations and observations at New Guinea and other sites of previous, smaller tsunamis, Day and colleague Steven Ward of the University of California, Santa Cruz, predicted that waves up to 200 feet high could crash into the Saharan coast in Africa. They predict it would take about eight hours for the tsunami to travel westward across the ocean, after which waves more than 60 feet high could flood all major eastern cities from Boston to Miami, penetrating up to 15 miles inland.
On the other hand, I think I'm closer than 15 miles to the ocean, but I suspect that's an important figure only in very flat areas.

In the Wrong Place?

What is John Jay Ray doing in Nuts Я Us?

It's Not Hypocrisy, It's Burial

I doubt if the tendency of leftists to pretend that supposed IQ chart of red and blue states is more reliable than The Bell Curve is a matter of hypocrisy. I suspect it is a matter of burying a result they regard as dubious in similar equally-dubious claims. I suspect we can see more such “studies” in the future.

Come to think of it, I once devised a similar theory (that UFO sightings might prevent abortions) in order to bury a supposed correlation between the foreign-born population and abortion.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The Importance of Tradition

The people of a village in Thailand were saved from the recent tsunami when they recalled an old tradition that, when the ocean mysteriously recedes, you must head inland as fast as possible.

Even if you don't know why a tradition is there, you might find out anyway.

 
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