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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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Incident at Whole Foods

I got this second hand (and you're getting it third hand) but it's too good not to share.

Two clerks were talking to a customer. One of them said, “Whenever an organic food touches something inorganic, it also becomes inorganic.” The other clerk burst out laughing and then apologized saying that the laughter just came out.

I suppose there are similar scenes at the cafeteria where Google employees can eat “chemical-free” food (earlier discussed here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lotharingia Lives

In this map of photographed places in Europe, the densest areas on the continent pay no attention to recent political boundaries, but follow closely ninth-century boundaries. In other words, it looks like the former Kingdom of Lotharingia is where the camera bugs are.

Psychics on Wall Street?

The claim that it was necessary to conceal Merrill Lynch's troubles from the public to ensure confidence sounded familiar. I just realized it was similar to the defense of parapsychology (against scientists who insisted on better experimental controls) in Analog back when John Campbell was editing it. “Things were just fine until you ruined it by insisting on looking closely…”

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Simpler Federalism Amendment

Randy Barnett is proposing a Federalism Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I think a much simpler Federalism Amendment is possible:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

We REALLY REALLY mean it this time! Honest!

How to Solve the Problem of Chewing Gum on Pavement

Neo-neocon is discussing the problem of wads of chewing gum accumulating on pavement (seen via Dustbury). My father once suggested a simple solution: Pave sidewalks and subway platforms with chicle. Now those chewing gum wads will simply help maintain the surface.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Environmental Worries Can Be Divided into Three Parts

Trivialities, bullbleep, and the greenhouse effect.

Trivialities are real phenomena that are much less important or intractable than environmentalists like. They include worries about the lower classes doing something uppity in supposedly pristine environments (earlier discussed here), things that can be fixed easily (e.g., lead in gasoline), and the extinction of rare species that had only a limited impact on the ecosystem.

Bullbleep is stuff in the category “Are people still paying attention to this nonsense?” It includes “Eek! Eek! There's a DDT molecule somewhere on Earth!” and the ever popular resource shortage scam. The resource shortage scam is currently being dissected at Coyote blog and also see my earlier comments.

Anthropogenic global warming actually has some evidence to back it up. The loudest advocates might be more certain than they should, but it's likely enough to require a backup plan if it turns out to be a menace. Academic environmentalists are currently making a fuss over it because it's the only alleged environmental crisis that makes even a tiny bit of sense.

By the way, the backup plan can be something that's useless from point of view of imposing the hidden agenda of the Other Side (also see John Schilling's all-purpose response to environmentalists).

To the Other Side: While arguing in favor of the theory that anthropogenic global warming is a crisis, you should look around you. From our point of view, you're standing right next to people saying that “Nuclear power killed my poodle.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Dirt Day

Other people call it something else.

A Post I Cannot Make

Bryan Caplan makes a point I was planning to … that the impossibility of attributing all of human behavior to either genetic or demonstrably environmental causes just might be an argument in favor of the existence of free will. On the other hand, he probably said it better than I could.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Some of Us Were Critical of DHS from the Start

There's a common left-wing meme going around that my fellow wingnuts cannot complain about that DHS report because we had allegedly supported the DHS and Patriot Act before the current administration. You can find a typical example here.

On the contrary, some of us were critical even at the start.

Explaining Obama's Deficits

Obama's deficits can be explained quite simply. He read the following explanation for Republican deficits:

Here's a theory. Imagine your Significant Other or Life Partner or Symbiotic Heterotroph has an incurable spending problem. All your efforts to take away the credit cards have failed. Merchants ignore you when you tell them not to let this person use credit. Lawyers and the courts tell you there's nothing you can do, but you're still liable for the debts. What do you do?

Answer: max out the credit cards on what you want. You get things that matter to you, and your partner can't spend any more.


Americans have shown at the polls and in their personal lives they are not willing to exercise fiscal restraint. So beginning with Reagan and Star Wars, Republicans maxed out government spending on things that appealed to Republicans. They spend on the military, on pork in Republican districts, and so on.

Obama must have read that and figured that Reagan and Dubya were rank amateurs. He would show them what maxing out credit was really like/

Friday, April 17, 2009

Two Updates

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Comments on That DHS Report

  • The DHS barked at us “right-wing extremists.” Did it bite? Can it bite? Does it have any teeth?
  • I think most of my fellow wingnuts have also graduated from junior high school. Surely, we should be able to recognize an example of “I know you are but what am I?” when we see it.

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Heavy Water

The Somali Pirates fire back … with steaming loads of bullbleep:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

They might look like unsophisticated warlords, but they know what buttons to push to get Western leftists riled. I'm reminded of the depleted uranium nonsense of a few years ago.

Let's see … How is this story absurd? Let me count the ways.

  1. The same article also accused Western nations of overfishing in the waters off Somalia. So we're trawling for radioactive fish?
  2. The ocean waters tend to be readily mixed (at least near the surface). If we were dumping significant amounts of waste, we would get radioactive as well.
  3. It would be far easier to dump nuclear waste in the middle of the ocean beyond the 200-mile limit but nearer to nuclear reactors.
  4. Finally, the amount of radioactivity dumped at sea is likely to be minute compared with the amount naturally present. An article cited in a comment in the BoingBoing thread on this mentioned amounts in the hundred or thousand kiloCurie range. There are 3 parts per billion of uranium in sea water. Putting that together with the volume of the ocean and the definition of Curie, we get a figure of around a million kiloCurie of uranium in the ocean.
Meanwhile the Left is swallowing this propaganda whole and congratulating themselves on not being sheep.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ronald Reagan Spoke Truth to Power

Some people object to that.

Addendum: If you want an example of “No true Scotsman,” you can take a look at comment #70 on the thread:

shall we segue into the facts that none of what Stalin or Mao practiced was actually communism per se and that those painted with the red brush by snitches like Reagan were frequently not any kind of communist at all?
You can also think of non-Communists who refused to testify as decoy Communists. By acting like Communists they drew fire away from the active agents.

A Violation of Exodus 23:9

Israel's Finance Minister wants a crackdown on illegal workers:

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz recently instructed ministry officials to develop a comprehensive plan for deporting 100,000 illegal foreign workers from Israel within a year.

"What's going on is an outrage," said Steinitz at a meeting a few hours prior to the Passover Seder. "There are a 100,000 people taking jobs illegally while Israelis remain unemployed. The plan must involve painful economic sanctions on those who employ illegal workers."

On the other hand, this looks like a violation of Exodus 23:9:
You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
It's also a violation of economics to assume that sending customers away is harmless.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Question about the White House Seder

There was a Seder at the White House. I wonder if it included the paragraph:

Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not, and upon kingdoms that did not call upon Thy name. For they have consumed Jacob, and laid waste his habitation. Pour out Thy rage upon them, and let Thy fury overtake them. Pursue them in anger and destroy them, from under the heavens of the LORD.
That's not exactly multicultural.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm Saying This through Clenched Teeth

I agree with the organic food people on the Food Safety Modernization Act.

In related news

The Effect of Passover

Most of recorded human history has been about societies of peasants ruled by armed bullies. You can think of the story of Exodus as a protest and partial reversal of the beginning of that.

Question: If the story of Exodus weren't part of Western Civilization, what would it look like by now?

The Exodus wasn't the only resistance movement. You can think of Greek democracy or English common-law as other instances of resistance. In the case of Greek democracy, the resistance declined after a while; it wasn't reinforced by a religious story. I suspect there would have been a similar decline in our civilization if it weren't for the story of Exodus. Did the Exodus stand between our society and a society of kings ruling subjects ruling slaves?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Side Effect of Getting Older

One side effect of getting older is that people my age are becoming grandparents. As a result, I get to hear children's songs yet again.

I also think the Itsy-Bitsy Spider showed commendable initiative, perseverance, and fortitude in the face of setbacks.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood!

Greener Country, dedicated to environmentalist cliches, has opened a store in my neck of the woods. The Whole Foods was bad enough …

Maybe I'm making too much of this. They're big on recycling, which can be counter-productive while fighting global warming, but their recycling display is of a relatively-harmless gown made out of recycled soda can tops. The result looked like it was either chain mail or else Scottish warrior dress according to Groundskeeper Willie.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Faith in What Science?

Inductivist reports that “faith in science” is correlated with social liberalism. In possibly-related news, Razib reported that liberals are more likely to believe astrology is scientific. I'm reminded of a well-known line from The Princess Bride:

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

An AIG Analogy

If today's US resembles the Roman Republic in the time of Marius, would the AIG furor be the start of proscription lists?

Cognitive Blind Spots in the Real World

A few years ago, I criticized the claim that “cognitive blind spots” made economics obsolete:

Meanwhile, the studies purporting to show cognitive blind spots are based on asking unbriefed people questions in highly artificial environments. I have read that when the knowledge of physics of The Celebrated Man In The Street is analyzed under similar circumstances, most people will give the wrong answer when asked about the behavior of objects swung in a circle and then released. On the other hand, most people can throw a ball across the room. Maybe they're better at making decisions than at answering questions about making decisions.
It looks like there's evidence that people with some incentive to think logically actually do so.

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