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)

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Other interesting web sites:
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Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
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Yet another weird SF fan

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New York Doesn't Exist!

Steven Dutch proves it. At least, his explanation of how Los Angeles is reaching its population limit shows that New York, an allegedly far-larger city, cannot exist.

I'm reminded of the following (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams):

New York has gone. No reaction. He'd never seriously believed it existed anyway.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Penn Jillette and Islam

Penn Jillette has been quoted as saying:

Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back ... Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific. [...]

I've read that during the McCarthy era, people were shouting from the rooftops that they were afraid to speak above a whisper.

Neuroscientist Analyzes Own Brain

If finally happened.

At long last, a neuroscientist analyzed his own brain (seen via BoingBoing) instead of using brain research to decide what others must do:

The criminal brain has always held a fascination for James Fallon. For nearly 20 years, the neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine has studied the brains of psychopaths. He studies the biological basis for behavior, and one of his specialties is to try to figure out how a killer's brain differs from yours and mine.


"Here is a brain that's not normal," he says. There are patches of yellow and red. Then he points to another section of the brain, in the front part of the brain, just behind the eyes.

"Look at that — there's almost nothing here," Fallon says.

This is the orbital cortex, the area that Fallon and other scientists believe is involved with ethical behavior, moral decision-making and impulse control.

"People with low activity [in the orbital cortex] are either free-wheeling types or sociopaths," he says.


"And I took a look at my own PET scan and saw something disturbing that I did not talk about," he says.

What he didn't want to reveal was that his orbital cortex looks inactive.

"If you look at the PET scan, I look just like one of those killers."

Was this research part of the swelling wave of knowledge?

Of course, Philip K. Dick already covered this.

Addendum: I just remembered I'd covered a similar phenomenon already.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Same Boots?

The latest excuse for the G20 riot is that the rioters are actually undercover police. The main evidence of this is … both sides were wearing the same boots.


Addendum: On the other hand, we see this (seen via Fourth Checkraise). Does this mean the police were conspiring with the Graduate Student Union? Or is it another example of parallel universes?

Nuttier Than Thou

I thought trying to end birthright citizenship was nutty. Now I see that someone on the open-borders side has come up with something nuttier.

On the other hand, it might help to move the Overton Window.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Parallel Universes

The coverage of the protests/riots at the G20 meeting in Toronto appears to be in two different universes.

It's well known to my fellow neocons and wingnuts that the left is more likely to attack places where the authorities act with self restraint (e.g., Israel instead of Syria). Is the Toronto protest/riot an exaggerated example? It seems to be nastier than similar nonsense in the United States or Britain. That might be due to the assumption that the Canadians won't react at all.

I also noticed the two main complaints on the left are: 1) The police are taking our cameras away! 2) They're installing surveillance cameras! Is the left for or against cameras? (For the record, I applaud both types of camera.)

Advice for those protesters who really are peaceful: Remember Law 1b.

The Latest Day by Day

The latest Day by Day reversed the “population of these states” paragraph (earlier discussed here). The original paragraph is:

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Did the Organic Fertilizer Hit the Air Circulation Device?

According to a recent article in the Atlantic (seen via TJIC):

The two most controversial measures were saved until the very end. The Volcker Rule and derivatives didn't get brought up until after 11pm Thursday night. By this time, some in attendance had already begun to leave. With many open seats, proxy votes were necessary for key changes. Of course, those who remained were likely beginning to check out mentally at this late hour. The yawning had begun. In the hours that followed, gallons of diet coke were consumed and snacks were everywhere. At one point, Chairman Dodd (D-CT) was even waving around a half eaten candy bar as he spoke.

It got to the point where debate stopped mattering. Sometimes several politicians might be displeased with how a proposal was written, but so what? They began to realize that the more they complained, the longer they would be there. And God, it was late.

Extending a meeting until everybody else has gone home is (or at least was) a standard Communist tactic according to Olivia de Havilland, Calvin Trillin, and my father.

Repealing this bill might have to take priority over even repealing the health-car bill.

There's a Difference?

Bruce Charlton recently posted Why the future is theocratic not libertarian. Of course, if you ask any liberal, you'll find they think of theocracy and libertarianism as synonymous. Sometimes, they even have facts backing them up.

On the other hand, he also claims to have been a libertarian:

But libertarianism is not a viable alternative to liberalism. (I speak as an ex-libertarian, one whose libertarian writings are all over the internet!) Libertarianism replaces the self-loathing, paralysis and ideological group submission of liberalism with a high-minded but actually psychopathic selfishness and a focus on personal, individual gratification.
He has a little bit of a point. Libertarianism is frequently sold on the basis of legalizing common vices that are still technically illegal. I suspect most people who have indulged in such vices are embarrassed about it now. They may think of libertarianism as the irresponsible-twit ideology. Maybe we should de-emphasize vices or at least emphasize voluntary ways of combating them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

That Would Be None … Right?

A phrase I came across recently: “optimal brain damage.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Emergency Memo to the Open-Borders People

Stephen Dutch has pointed out a problem in open-borders rhetoric:

Oh, by the way, borders are easily visible from space. Their very artificiality makes them stand out.
I must admit to having used that kind of rhetoric in the past. We must change our cliches.

To: Open-Borders People
Subject: Change in Rhetoric
Date: Effective Immediately

For future reference please use the slogan “When you look at the world from space, you can't see any national labels.” instead of the deprecated slogan “When you look at the world from space, you can't see any national boundaries.” The problem isn't the border; the problem is the belief that one particular gang of clowns who happened to have been hanging around have more of a right to be there than people who might make something of the area.

But wait, there's more

The use of “national-boundaries” rhetoric instead of “national-labels” rhetoric might have caused the now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't nature of the alleged leftist support for open borders. Since you can easily see ocean boundaries from space, ocean boundaries are regarded as more legitimate. For example, Mexicans get to the United States by land so they must be defended; Cuban refugees get to the United States by water so they must get sent back. Israelis of European descent, Protestant Ulstermen, or white Rhodesians got to Israel, Ulster, or Rhodesia by water so they're regarded as illegitimate. If we look at the idiocy Stephen Dutch was responding to, we see:

People of European descent — who crossed a vast ocean, not just a river that in some places is only a trickle of water (they are the true "wetbacks," if you will) and who only have a few generations on this land — are considered the "true" natives. This is how goofy borders have become, helping turn the truth on its head. In fact, there are Native peoples in the U.S. (although most of them have been embracing and open) who won't accept indigenous dances from Mexico or Central America in their Pow Wows or other ceremonies. The border has even affected how some native peoples see their native relatives from the other side.
I think he's saying “go back where you came from.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Difference between the Arks

Since the following comment at TJIC has attracted favorable attention, it might be worth repeating here:

Let’s see… If you pay someone from the A ark to design a nuclear power plant, you will get it. If you pay someone from the C ark to build a nuclear power plant, you will get it. If you pay someone from the B ark to make a movie that makes sense about a nuclear power plant, you will get The China Syndrome instead of something that makes sense.

On the other hand…

The B-Ark metaphor might have inspired the following piece of self congratulation discussed at View from the Porch:

The chief difference: public employees are doing necessary work while private employees are trying to convince use of what brand of pickles to buy.
So … maybe we should use B-Ark allusions with some restraint.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

This Calls for Money Laundering

Money laundering isn't always crooked (see via Junior Ganymede):

ST. LOUIS – This is why your mother says to wash your hands after handling money: A St. Louis worker found $58 — packed in dog poop.

Steve Wilson works for DoodyCalls Pet Waste Removal. On a recent call, he noticed money sticking out from doggie doo. Wilson wasn't sure what to do, but eventually pulled out the bills, sanitized them, placed them in a plastic zip-locked bag and returned them to the customer. It turned out to be $58.

That is not a job I want to have.

If I Were a Rich Man…

It turns out that the theory of large ordinals has applications on Wall Street (seen via Computational Complexity). Since I know a little bit about that … maybe I too can have the opportunity to be blamed when the traders don't understand the algorithms and produce a financial panic.

Penrose Chess

When I saw the title of this Abstruse Goose comic, I thought it would be about chess on a Penrose-tiled board instead of a checkerboard.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Gentleman Doth Protest Too Much Methinks

That's the only reasonable response to this (seen via Fourth Checkraise).

On the other hand, you might say the same about the people responsible for the 129 comments.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We Elders of Zion Approve

According to Phil Plait (seen via the Defender of the Establishment):

A lot of these claim that the United States is either a Christian nation — a ridiculous and easily-disprovable notion — or that it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (the "Judeo" part is a giveaway that these politicians are Leviticans: they seem to keep their noses buried more in the fiery wrath of the Old Testament than in the actually gentle, politically-correct teachings of Jesus… more on this later, promise). Specifically, they claim quite often that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments.

It's just another part of the takeover of the United States by my fellow Red-Sea pedestrians.

Where the Zombies Are Going

An interview excerpt at BoingBoing shows where the zombies of the preceding post are going:

Depending on where you live, eating baby spinach or arugula is almost like eating a burger, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. It's that intense. Sure, if you live in the Central Valley of California, or in Florida, not so. But most people live very far from those places. If you live east of longitude 100 [Draw a line through the middle of the Dakotas—MKB] and north of, say, Jesse Helms country, you have no business eating greens at all between October and June. Again, you know, you're free to do whatever you want, but if you want to be really careful about your greenhouse gas footprint, this is what you should do.

Brace yourselves.

By the way, does the above mean the Enlightened Ones are about to throw arugula “under the bus”?

Of course, in a rational world, the obvious solution would be to ship vegetables by nuclear-powered truck.

On the other hand, if “we don't need nuclear power” then there must be a better solution, which also means there's no need to give up winter greens.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

They're Mindless, They Will Stop at Nothing, They Have Insatiable Appetites, and They're Coming Your Way

If you live in a rural area, you'd better be braced for the invasion of the “authentic“ food freaks. The rules for authentic food are described in a recent Salon article (seen via Katherine Mangu-Ward, guestblogging for Megan McArdle):

To promote better food, in an article that appeared some years ago in Mother Earth News, Coleman proposed an attractive, romantic new post-"organic" term based on the Greek word authentes -- "one who does things for him or herself." To have an "authentic" label, food would have to be sold directly by the person or family who grew it -- no middleman. (Of course, many farmers don't have the time or desire to do their own retail selling. But if they did, customers could give useful feedback on varieties, ripeness, and taste.) "Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and meat [would be] produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of final sale," Coleman wrote, suggesting possible standards. "The seed and storage crops (grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, etc.) [would be] produced within a 300-mile radius."
This is, when combined with an insistence on “organic” food, a recipe for starving New York. You can expect a mass exodus of left-wing idiots from major cities if this catches on. If you live in a rural area, you will soon have unwanted neighbors.

There is a bright side. Some of the comments are hilarious. From neumann103:

What is needed is a term that:

  • denotes attributes that resist easy re-definition in counterfactual ways.
  • corporations cannot or will not want to co-opt
  • is memorable, obvious and will not be confused with other descriptors
  • and it would be good if it spoke to the values or perspective of the target consumers.
I humbly suggest "Full of Shit (TM)" as it:
  • identifies the fertilizer used
  • is less likely to be appropriated by greedy corporations
  • will not be confused with product marketing
  • clearly aligned itself with the consumer demographic obsessed with the label.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I've Reprogrammed My Taste Buds

A few months ago, my doctor recommended that I cut down on salt. (My blood pressure was a bit high.) I cut out the obvious stuff (e.g, pastrami sandwiches) and read labels to see what non-obvious stuff not to eat. It turned out that ramen noodles are loaded with sodium. More recently, my blood pressure had dropped to a range within reason and I figured I could afford the sodium in an occasional serving of ramen. The ramen tasted almost inedibly salty. Hmmmm…

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are Scientists Overwhelmingly Liberal Atheists?

According to a study of the opinions of scientists (described by endorendil, a commenter at EconLog):

Hmmm. Only 6% of scientists identify themselves as republicans, only 9% as conservative. You can look through the other tables, they all show that scientists largely take very un-libertarian and anti-free market viewpoints - much more than the public. Even those that don't work for universities. Remarkable is also how irreligious scientists are. Maybe that's why they don't buy into libertarianism or the free-market dogma.

On the other hand, the study also says:
The survey of scientists was conducted online with a random sample of 2,533 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), from May 1 to June 14, 2009. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, and includes members representing all scientific fields.
Maybe the conclusion is not that scientists tend to be liberal atheists but that members of an organization with vague goals and a leftist reputation tend to be liberal atheists. (That might also explain the results discussed here.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's the Vegan Orbital Fort

For some reason, Spengler's discussion of whether the recent nonsense near Gaza is part of an attempt at reviving the Ottoman Empire reminded me of the Vegan orbital fort in Cities in Flight by James Blish.

Let's see… If the Vegan orbital fort tried playing “good cop–bad cop” with respect to the Hamiltonians…

Addendum: I just realized people who aren't SF fans are wondering why fanatic vegetarians need an orbital fort (besides defense against cannibals). Let's just say that the Cities in Flight included an orbital fort built by an former empire with its capital at Vega and that the fort made an attempt at reviving the long-obsolete empire.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'd Like This Checked by Real Chemists

The Environmental Law Foundation has claimed that 85% of the children's snacks and drinks tested contain unacceptably-high levels of lead. This sounds alarming but, judging by past hysterias, will probably turn out to be overblown.

The Republican Party has the obvious people to organize a check of this. Exposure to lead is more common in urban areas and might explain why urban areas tend to vote Democratic.

Checking out Similar Pages

I've been checking out the Similar Pages extension of Google's Chrome browser (seen via Fourth Checkraise). The top four results are Dustbury, Transterrestrial Musings, Dispatches from TJICistan, and Israellycool. I was familiar with the first three but not the fourth. It looks like I have a new blog to waste time on.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'd Be More Sympathetic to the People in Charge of BP

… if they hadn't been emitting green Kultursmog for the past few years. It's the worst form of hypocrisy: preaching something that the writer disagrees with while doing the opposite.

I suspect the real reason for said Kultursmog was to eliminate rivals. A company that can keep competitors from starting up in the first place is ahead of the game. BP's lack of attention to nuclear power might also be part of it. They pushed solar and similar stuff that couldn't threaten them and pretended a real rival didn't exist.

Bait and Switch

First, we are told to save the Earth for posterity then the sort of philosophers who give the field a bad name tell us not to have posterity. (Philosophy isn't all pointless bullbleep; some of it is harmful bullbleep.) This is right up there with first telling us to use self-actualization and then telling us there is no self to actualize.

Note to philosophers: In That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis, Frost was not the hero.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Member of Turkey's Cabinet?

Is there any truth to the rumor that Serdar Argic is a member of Turkey's cabinet? It would explain so much …

Addendum: Bob, a commenter at the Belmont Club had a similar idea.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

If Israelis Did Something Like This …

If Israelis had done this, what would be the reaction of clowns claiming to speak for “world opinion”?

A GREENPEACE activist trying to free tuna from a commercial fishing net in the Mediterranean was harpooned through the leg by fishermen on a French boat, the environmental group said.

"In a non-violent action, Greenpeace activists in zodiac boats attempted to lower the side of a purse seine net with sand bags to free the fish," said Isabelle Philippe of Greenpeace France.

"At that moment, fishermen violently attacked the activists, harpooning one of them through the leg," she said.

The injured man, a British national identified by the group as Frank Huston, was transferred to a hospital in Malta where he was to undergo surgery on Friday evening (local time).

So … When will British government start ranting?

Will Bill Maher Report for Cleanup Duty?

Bill Maher is well known for the following quote (seen via Dispatches from the Culture Wars and earlier discussed here):

Every asshole who ever chanted 'Drill baby drill' should have to report to the Gulf coast today for cleanup duty.
Meanwhile back in reality:

The disastrous BP oil spill is now believed to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Even worse than Exxon Valdez. Exxon Valdez stirs up strong memories. Who can forget the images of birds covered in black oil slick? Imagine an Exxon Valdez happening every year for 50 years. Pretty unimaginable.

Yet, this is what residents of Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta have been living with for the last 50 years.

Experts estimate that some 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the Niger Delta since oil exploration began in 1958. This is the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every year for 50 years.

The less we drill here, the more they drill there.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Precisely Right

In response to Helen Thomas telling “second-generation” immigrants to go back where they came from, the very first commenter said:

Celebrate diversity.


He is completely right (even if somewhat ruder than I would be). The fact that far leftists pretend to support toleration of diversity is no more reason for my fellow wingnuts to reject it than the fact that they pretend to support the Bill of Rights is a reason to reject that.

From the “You Can't Win” Files

One the biggest complaints about Jews who support Israel (from both the far-left and far-right) is that most American Jews also support civil rights laws and that it's hypocritical to outlaw discrimination on one hand and to defend discrimination against Palestinian Arabs on the other hand. So when we have a Jewish law professor who's critical of civil rights laws and supports Israel, we see the following comment:

I personally find the contrast between Bernstein discussing the Civil Rights Act and Bernstein discussing anything related to Israel almost comical.

When it comes to the Civil Rights Act, Bernstein is in full-out professor mode.

The mere fact that something is disagreeable doesn’t mean that it should be illegal.

The mere fact that someone supports the rights of bigoted discriminatory restaurant owners doesn’t mean that they’re a racist.

The mere fact that libertarianism is an abstract political philosophy that has had only minimal impact on real-world governments doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide perfectly good reasons to oppose the Civil Rights Act.

So … It's hypocritical to support both Israel and civil rights laws and it's also hypocritical to support Israel and oppose civil rights laws …

You got that straight?

While I'm at it…

I posted the following on Usenet a few years ago:

According to anti-Zionists:

The Zionists are acting just like the Nazis …
… who didn't kill six million Jews …
… and the Jews deserved it anyway …
… and we're only anti-Zionist, not anti-Jew.

The Jews have been up to no good for centuries …
… since they massacred the Palestinians under Joshua …
… and are mostly Khazar anyway …
… and are also inbred.

The murdering Jews completely wiped out the Amalekites and Canaanites …
… who became the ancestors of the Palestinians …
… who are oppressed by Jews with no claim on the land …
… because it's preposterous to trace ancestry back that far.

The Palestinians deserve the land since they lived there for centuries …
… and the Jewish interlopers should be kicked out …
… since their residence in the distance past is irrelevant to today.

The Palestinians must be granted a homeland …
… since otherwise they will blow up buildings in Western Civilization …
… and their fellow Arabs will withhold oil in solidarity …
… and they need the homeland since nobody will take them in.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I Vote for Vienna

At the Greenroom, there's a discussion about the implications of a mosque planned to open near the World Trade Center site and named after the Muslim victory at Cordoba:

A mosque at Ground Zero is something intelligent people can dispute honestly and in good faith. But honesty is essential, and it would be dishonest to dismiss the implications of proposing to name it Cordoba House. Let’s propose naming it instead Tours House, after the Battle of Tours and the defeat of the Umayyad Muslim forces there in 732; or Lepanto House, after the naval battle in the Eastern Mediterranean in 1571, in which the Western forces broke the maritime power of the Ottoman Empire; or Vienna House, after the battle of 1683 in which the Western armies broke the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman invaders.

I vote against the name Tours House, for the name Vienna House, and will stay neutral about Lepanto House. All three decisions are for the same reason: In a fight between civilization and barbarism, I side with civilization.

In 732, Western Civilization didn't exist yet. Europe was mainly the junk left over from the collapse of the Roman Empire. What Christian civilization there was was represented by the East Roman Empire, which was mainly noted for alienating its subjects in Syria and Egypt. (The Muslim armies conquered so readily because local peasantry had no reason to resist.)

Leftists convinced that neo-conservatives are a bunch of Islam-hating chauvinists will ignore the above paragraph.

By 1510, Western civilization was a going concern. It was not yet clear if it was any better than Islam. By 1683, it was a definite improvement on Islam (which was starting to decay). By 1683, parts of Western Civilization were starting to go beyond the rule of armed bullies (earlier comments here). Islam is mostly still stuck there.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

We Should Not Let This Crisis Go to Waste

The nonsense about the recent incident near Gaza can be used to discredit the UN, the Nobel Peace Prize, and “peace” protesters in general.

Addendum: I just realized what this incident resembles. It resembles the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. In case anybody was wondering, my reaction at the time was “Vive la France!”

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