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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jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

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
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Has Barnes and Noble Also Wimped Out?

Borders and Waldenbooks aren't carrying the issue of Free Inquiry magazine with the allegedly-offensive cartoons of Mohammed. I went to a Barnes and Noble store near my office and didn't see it there. Are they out of stock or did they wimp out?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

If It's Not Compulsory, It's Forbidden

The governor of Illinois has recently ordered pharmacists to fill prescriptions for possible abortifacients. Abortion is no longer “between a woman and her doctor.”

The reactions of liberals are worth noting. According to SBW (a commenter on The Dawn Patrol):

The governor may be grand standing but he is right by saying that pharmacists have to fill prescriptions for birth control. If you are morally against giving women birth control then you should not become a pharmacist.
In other words, either you must always fill a prescription or you must never fill a prescription.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What Conservatives Are Thinking …

… about the recent pro-immigration protest in Los Angeles:

There goes another annoying protest …
I never heard of this group before …
Are those Mexican flags they're waving? …
There are 500,000 people there!?!?! …
We see a group the size of Napoleon's Grand Army, organized in secret, and not loyal to the United States …
If somebody could give the order, they could turn into an army that could take over one of the most important cities in the United States ans hold millions of citizens hostage …
If they're as ruthless as those clowns in Iraq, Los Angeles could be retaken only with immense loss of life …
In other words, …
If we give up in Iraq, the above scenario looks increasingly likely. We need to persist to let any wannabe rebels know they can't win.

The Just One Life Conference

I also attended the same Just One Life conference as Chana Meira. I was mainly reminded that I am not suited for parties. On the other hand, I contributed a small amount toward saving babies and I got to meet Chana Meira.

Addendum: Just One Life does not exist in the same universe as Amptoons.

What Leftists Were Thinking …

… when they talked about whining conservatives is explained here and here.

They Can't Be Blamed for Whining

As evangelical Christian teens attended an anti-pornography rally in San Francisco, they were told to get out of the neighborhood:

That's bad news to Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who told counterprotesters at City Hall on Friday that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."
It's no wonder San Francisco conservatives whine.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Suggestion for an Immigration Law

Let's allow in anybody who pledges not to participate in political demonstrations for at least five years.

By the way, who benefited from this march? It probably made voters more eager to toughen immigration laws than ever. This might have been organized by Latin-American governments that want to keep people from running away.

Friday, March 24, 2006

We Were Looking at the Wrong End of That Berkeley Study

We assumed they were measuring politics right and peronality wrong. I suspect it was the other way around.

After looking at the actual paper, I noticed they derived the “LIB/CON” from seven different measures, some of which could be fudged and none of which included the most objective measure of all: voting behavior. They also went into great detail about which personality components were correlated with the LIB/CON difference but ignored which components of LIB/CON went with which personality difference.

Conservatives who don't adhere to leftist stereotypes of conservatives might not answer questionnaires. A typical libertarian might look at a questionnaire that asks about “opposition to government policies to aid minorities,” mutter something about being asked if he stopped beating his wife, and fold the questionnaire into a paper airplane instead of answering it. (The same libertarian might be inclined to work more diligently for deregulation to aid minorities.)

John J. Ray has more authoritative comments.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What Do the Non-Whiny Kids Sound Like?

In the 1980s, Richard Mitchell had a few comments on the writing style of the excessively self confident:

The attribute that always leaks out of such writing is that supposed virtue that educationists have chosen, ignoring logic in the service of sentimentality, as both a requisite to education and its best reward--Self-esteem.

The voice of that passage, however, is not just the voice of self-esteem. It is the voice of a man full of self-esteem. It is the pompous voice of self-awarded authority, the voice of command, the mighty voice from "above," in which no decent human should speak. It is Father Tongue.

A Blog Name Change?

I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog to “The Whiny Ex-Kid.”

It's about Time They Admitted This

According to a recent study:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

In other words, the kids who disagreed with everybody else turned into conservatives and the kids who went along with the crowd turned into liberals. We natural dissidents on the right side of the political spectrum are independent thinkers who refuse to follow the herd. We go beyond “trust and parrot” and …


I strained my arm while pattting myself on the back.

What's more, the study was done on only 95 subjects in a highly-atypical community and the correlation coefficient was a miserable 0.27. The reaction of liberals (that this low-quality study is proof that conservatives are toads) is more informative than the actual article.

Maybe I'm making too much of this.

Meanwhile, I'll keep my eye open for the actual article.

Addendum: I just remembered I've covered this same attitude before (but before it had allegedly-scholarly backing).

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is This Made by Ghosts?

There's a brand of supernatural granola available here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Just like last year, I had chicken … a little more grown up this time.

In related news …

Samantha Burns has organized People for the Ethical Rights of Vegetables.

In even more tenuously-related news …

Samantha Burns has also reported that there's a vehicle that can be driven by fish:

The vehicle conveys a fish-pilot, or Terranaut, in an aqueous vessel that is propelled by two drive wheels, each driven by its own highly efficient servomotor. The vehicle's power is stored in a bank of electrical cells that delivers energy to the motors at 36 volts.

The Terranaut swims safely in an aqueous vessel called the “cockpit,” steering the vehicle with its movements. A camera above the cockpit tracks the movement of the Terranaut within the vessel. the Terranaut's location is then wirelessly transmitted to a remote processing station, where the data is converted into motion commands and transmitted back to the motion controller on the vehicle.

A similar device was mentioned in The Inventions of Daedalus: A Compendium of Plausible Schemes by David E. H. Jones:
Daedalus criticizes current attempts to communicate with dolphins, pointing out its impossibility without common subject-matter. He therefore intends to introduce the creatures to the dry world by a form of inverted aqualung. This is a framework to support the dolphin, suspended from a small autobalasted balloon and fitted with recirculating skin-dampening pump and water-filled goggles (to correct refraction problems). Just as the human swimmer wears flippers, so the dolphin will locate its fins in large air-vanes giving it traction through the less-viscous air. …

Monday, March 13, 2006

Al-Qaida's Latest Threat

Given the vagueness and grandiosity of al-Qaida's latest threat, I suspect that they're waiting for a really big natural catastrophe that they can pretend they caused.

Addendum: There's an alternative explanation. They might be planning a lame attack on something symbolic of Menace. For example, they might set off a firecracker in front of a nuclear power plant or throw an apple sprayed with Alar in a city reservoir.

Addendum II: I've got it! They're trying to provoke bloggers into coming up with terrorist ideas. We can foil them by coming up with the most insane, unworkable ideas possible. These schemes are not only pro-mouse but based on real research.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Let's Turn This Around

According to Mark Kleiman (defending the claim that the Democratic party is the legitimate heir of the Sanhedrin):

The Solomon Project has some data. It looks as if Jewish women are more Jewish in their voting patterns than Jewish men, and that attending synagogue weekly makes you less Jewish in the voting booth.
In other words, voting Democratic makes us less Jewish in the synagogue.

I also noticed an anomaly in the research cited:

While there have been indications that Bush captured a majority of Orthodox Jewish voters and Russian Jewish voters, the study found that "sample sizes for both of these subgroups were either unavailable or too small in all surveys to make any definitive claims regarding their partisan attachments in 2004."


The report notes that one relatively strong Republican subgroup among Jews includes Jewish men under 30 years of age, who voted 35 percent for Bush in one survey.

If they could find a decent sample size for Jewish men under 30 years of age but couldn't find one for Orthodox Jews, they must have been avoiding the Orthodox.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Testing vs. Teaching

There is a difference between testing and teaching and it looks like testing is more important:

Remember the dreaded pop quiz?

Despite their reputation as a cruel tool of teachers intent on striking fear into the hearts of unprepared students, quizzes -- given early and often -- may be a student's best friend when it comes to understanding and retaining information for the long haul, suggests new psychology research from Washington University in St. Louis.

"Students who self-test frequently while studying on their own may be able to learn more, in much less time, than they might by simply studying the material over and over again," says Henry L. Roediger III, Ph.D.

"Our study indicates that testing can be used as a powerful means for improving learning, not just assessing it," says Henry L. "Roddy" Roediger III, Ph.D., an internationally recognized scholar of human memory function and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Washington University.

Speculation: Could a similar phenomenon be responsible for the Flynn effect?
Another speculation: If teachers and administrators are afraid to give IQ tests to a certain minority group, would that lower the IQs of members of that minority group?

Right Creationists vs. Left Creationists

John Derbyshire is crticizing Right Creationists and Left Creationists:

[NB: For those not familiar with the jargon:

A Left Creationist is a person who believes that with the emergence of modern man 50 or 100,000 years ago, Nature's creation--flash image of a 19th-century English gent with a long white beard--attained perfection, and that human beings have not undergone the slightest evolutionary change since, MOST CERTAINLY NOT by different geographical populations changing in different ways.

A Right Creationist** is a person who believes that with the emergence of modern man 50 or 100,000 years ago, God's creation--flash image of an Old Testament deity with a long white beard--attained perfection, and that we have undergone no biological change since, only improvements in our moral understanding and better hopes of a happy afterlife.

Both the LC and RC positions are threatened by (a) a growing pile of evidence that human evolution has been chugging merrily along this past 50,000 years, and (b) that we shall soon be able to lend a hand, changing innate human nature in ways both desirable and not. These are the things that need our attention, and that we ought to be talking about. LCs and RCs, however, prefer to busy themselves with organizing cavalry charges against the oncoming Panzers.

** At any rate, of the Old Earth variety--there is also a Young Earth species of Right Creationists, who believe the Genesis account of creation to be literally true, and so have no truck with time spans of 50,000 years, or with the "emergence" of anything at all.]

There are three problems with the above. First, there have been several attempts at applying biological lessons to human behavior and those attempts have been failures. Mathusian predictions have been a persistent failure and eugenics programs have mainly kept out people who we can now recognize would have been assets. Second, there is no more reason to go from “evolution happens” to “we must make evolution happen” than there is a reason to go from “things fall down” to “we must make things fall down.” Third, if “we shall soon be able to lend a hand, changing innate human nature in ways both desirable and not” becomes a matter of public policy, it will be subject to same dangers as any other instance of picking winners. In particular, a policy of picking winners gives researchers an incentive to fudge data in a way that makes their associates look like winners.

I have earlier blogged about this problem. I have recently come across another example. Rich Lynn (author of IQ and the Wealth of Nations) has a couple of tables showing the average IQ of Israelis as an implausible 94 or an even more implausible 90. (The latter figure has been quoted by the Usual Suspects.)

If want genetic research to go forward safely, maybe we should try agreeing now that it must never be made the basis of public policy.

I suspect that Left Creationists will be unwilling to cooperate with Right Creationists anyway … until Intelligent Design gets renamed Culturally-Biased Meaningless Design.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Let My Students Go!

According to Arnold Kling, Jews might have a Moses Complex:

The Exodus Narrative

One of the most basic narratives in Judaism is the Exodus, in which Moses leads the oppressed Hebrew slaves out of the land of Egypt. The Exodus is a movie that is constantly being remade, and not just by Cecil B. DeMille. It is the basis of Marxism and of what I call folk Marxism, both of which were embraced by many Jews.

Three Versions of the Exodus

The Original


Folk Marxist


Capitalist Class



Working Class

Other Stores


Karl Marx

Liberal Pundits




On the other hand, there are libertarian/conservative themes that fit with the Exodus narrative. School choice is the most obvious one, but you can think of stopping a single-payer health plan as a matter of “Let my doctors go” and even Walmart controversies can be recast as &Let my customers go.”

Addendum: After reading the comments in TCS, I have to say that this isn't in my Bible.

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