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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E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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My other blogs
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

Thursday, May 31, 2012


On September 9, 2011, I received the following e-mail:

Dear Reader:

Something very big will happen in America within the next 180

It will be more devastating than the credit crisis of 2008. For
most people, it will hit them like a brick wall. 

It will touch Americans harder and deeper than anything else
we've seen since the Great Depression.

Michael Lombardi feels so strongly about this, he's decided to
present his "Critical Warning Number Six" in a new video.

In case you're not familiar with him...

Michael Lombardi has been widely recognized as predicting five
major economic events over the past 10 years. In 2002, he started
advising his readers to buy gold- related investments when gold
traded under $300 an ounce.

In 2006, he begged his readers to get out of the housing
market...before it plunged. 

He was among the first (back in late 2006) to predict that the
U.S. economy would be in a recession by late 2007. 

Michael correctly predicted the crash in the stock market of 2008
and early 2009. 

Finally, Michael turned bullish on stocks in March of 2009 and
rode the bear market rally from a Dow Jones Industrial Average of
6,440 on March 9, 2009, to 12,876 on May 2, 2011-a gain of 99%.

I call Michael's new video controversial because most people will
not like what he has to say...they will find it hard to believe
until they see all the facts as Michael presents them.

Michael's first five predictions have already come true. Now he's
issuing Critical Warning Number Six. I urge you to be among the
first to see this new video here now:

Yours truly,

Wendy Potter, BA 
Managing Editor 
Lombardi Publishing Corporation 
News, Analysis and Information Services Since 1986 
One Million Customers in 141 Countries
I'm waiting.

On the other hand, maybe it did happen but it was so unimaginably huge that our memories of the event were erased. (ObSF: “What Was the Name of That Town?” by R. A. Lafferty)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not a Hypocrite

Some people might think that a former pot-head turned Drug Warrior is some kind of hypocrite. On the contrary, he's being consistent. He was for enforcing uniform brain chemistry and still is. Only trivial little details differ.

I also noticed the following blog comment:

I wouldn't trust anybody that has not smoked a little pot.
I wouldn't trust anybody that doesn't drink a little alcohol.
I wouldn't trust anybody that doesn't take a little caffeine.
Why trust abnormal people?
My reaction is to quote the Conservative Republican slogan in “Null-P” by William Tenn:
An Abnormal Man for an Abnormal World!

Precisely Right!

In an attempt at a snarky comment, someone at Fark said:

Top conservatives want to repeal all of Obamacare, even the parts that regular GOPers and Teabaggers support. You see, Obamacare is kind of like the One Ring, and if you use it for good it will twist your actions to Obama's purpose

Please note that the supposedly-good parts of this alleged reform (e.g., the ban on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions) only make sense when combined with the evil parts (e.g., the individual mandate).

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Leninism and Deep Ecology

After reading Pentti Linkola's brand of eco-fascism (seen via Azizonomics (seen via Greenie Watch)):

"What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship's axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides."
I relized that the best response is to quote from Bryan Caplan's discussion of Leninism:
The key difference between a normal utilitarian and a Leninist: When a normal utilitarian concludes that mass murder would maximize social utility, he checks his work!  He goes over his calculations with a fine-tooth comb, hoping to discover a way to implement beneficial policy changes without horrific atrocities.  The Leninist, in contrast, reasons backwards from the atrocities that emotionally inspire him to the utilitarian argument that morally justifies his atrocities.

What Do I Think Really Happened at Mt. Sinai?

According to Orthodox Judaism, the holiday Shavuot (the past two days) commemorates the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Speaking as a non-Orthodox Jew, what do I think happened?

Well… I'm undecided about this topic. On the one hand, the apparent revelation might have been a matter of a volcanic eruption within sight of ex-slaves who had been rescued by a coincidental tsunami. On the other hand, I certainly would not rule out the possibility that the material universe is the compiled version of God's program and the revelation is one of the symbol tables, or possibly something even stranger happened. (When I say “one of the symbol tables” instead of “the symbol table” I mean that as a pre-emptive strike against the common atheist cliche I earlier discussed here.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

They Said It Was Totally Useless

There's an actual use for one of the results of pure mathematics: It is possible to build a digital sundial. (Somebody is even selling them.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We're All Contaminated!

According to the latest hysterical news:

Their results show that Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an area is defined as being contaminated with radiation from this amount onwards.
Wait a moment… If there are 4 ppm of uranium and 12 ppm of thorium in the Earth's crust and if I did the arithmetic right, there are around 70 kilobecquerel of actinides in the top millimeter of each square meter of ordinary ground.

The Earth is contaminated! WE MUST EVACUATE AT ONCE!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why There's Intrusive Government in America

One reason for intrusive government in America is that intrusive government is supposed to be unpopular. As a result, people who want society to go in one direction will tell people who want it to go in another direction “You can't achieve your goals unless you create a totalitarian regime!” The intent of this is to convince the opposition (who are are regarded as people who don't actually want a totalitarian regime) to surrender. It rarely works. The ethic of “Yes we can!” is even more deeply engrained in Western Civilization than “Don't tread on me!” If you tell people they have to create a totalitarian state many people will try to do so.

As a result… fans of chemical paradises will say “You can't enforce drug laws without jackbooted thugs breaking down doors of houses” and then act surprised when jackbooted thugs break down doors of houses. Or people might say “You can't abolish racism without schools banning hate speech!” followed by speech codes on campus. Or “You can't enforce intellectual property without a Federal censorship authority” and then … actually we turned aside from that disaster (for now) but it might recur. There are other cases.

To my fellow pro-lifers, when you see similar rhetoric aimed at you, please ignore it. (I was reminded of this by a controversy involving a slightly different pro-lifer from the usual kind.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Read Down to the Bottom

The headline of a Huffington Post article read:

For-Profit Hospitals Pushing Patients Out Too Early: Report
The last two paragraphs read:

Seniors in Ontario are even being sent home from the hospital while they're still sick, the Ottowa Citizen reports. They're also being pushed out of the hospitals without adequate rehabilitation or therapy services.

The problem of sending patients home too early isn't limited to the U.S. though. The United Kingdom's National Health Service faced a scandal in 2010 after it was reported that the agency released 500,000 patients every year that were later readmitted because they were sent home too soon, according to Express.

<sarcasm>If only they had a single-payer or public option health program in Canada or Britain!</sarcasm>

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Red Sox Technologies, Updated

A few years ago, Arnold Kling wrote an article for Tech Central Station (discussed here) on Red Sox technologies—technologies that always had fans saying “Wait 'til next year!” He mentioned:

  • Micropayments
  • E-books
  • Speech Recognition
  • Video Conferencing
  • Social Networking Software
  • Virtual Classrooms
Since then, two of the technologies (e-books and and social networking software) have come into common use. By odd coincidence, the Red Sox have also won two World Series since then.

But wait, there's more. Facebook was started in 2004, a year with a Red Sox World Series victory. The Amazon Kindle was released in 2007, a year with a Red Sox World Series victory. Hmmm…

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Tolkien Quote

A person who, I regret to say, represents me in the U.S. Senate is trying to push through a law aimed at attempts to escape U.S. taxes by leaving. I am somehow reminded of the following Tolkien quote:

Why should a man be scorned if, when finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or, if when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. Just so a Partyspokesman might have labelled departure from the misery of the Führer's or any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery. In the same way these critics, to make confusion worse, and so to bring into contempt their opponents, stick their label of scorn not only on to Desertion, but on to real Escape, and what are often its companions, Disgust, Anger, Condemnation, and Revolt. Not only do they confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the ‘quisling’ to the resistance of the patriot. To such thinking you have only to say ‘the land you loved is doomed’ to excuse any treachery, indeed to glorify it.
A difference between American conservatives and American liberals:
  • American conservatives: America, love it or leave it!
  • American liberals: America, we're not giving you a choice!

I just realized that the drone strikes on American citizens who left the country fit this pattern.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Quote from Lord of the Rings

In Lord of the Rings, the following describes Thráin's reaction to the news that Thrór had been murdered by Orcs:

Such was the tale that Nár brought back to Thráin; and when he had wept and torn his beard he fell silent. Seven days he sat and said no word.
It looks like the Dwarves sat shiva in mourning.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bad News

My mother died this morning.

I don't feel like commenting on anything right now.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Bird Is Cruel!

… and and armed.

The title of this post came from “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” by Robert Heinlein.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Learned vs. Taught

Were the Nine Dangerous Things taught in school? Or were they simply learned in school?

I don't recall any of my teachers telling me not to think for myself. Apparently the idea that school is a matter of mindless obedience is one of those ideas that is passed from student to student. (Those students who actually try applying this don't succeed … which reinforces their opinion that the system is rigged.)

To take the most obvious example, item 2 (“Learning ends when you leave the classroom.”) is incompatible with the existence of homework.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Virtue of Selfishness

At least one human being would have been better off if these people had been less altruistic:

( – The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), who last month raised over $400,000 for abortions through its Bowl-a-Thon, touted that it provided money for a 14-year-old’s abortion as part of the group's “real stories of abortion access.”

On its website in a post entitled, “Getting an abortion means getting a second chance,” NNAF highlights the story of Darcy, a 14-year-old who terminated her pregnancy with the help of the group’s “George Tiller Memorial Fund.”

So … Darcy has two chances and the fetus has zero chances.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Avoiding Embarrassment

Many leftists are embarrassed by living in a nation where schools have to be partly funded by bake sales. They found a solution: They're banning bake sales.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Circular Reasoning in an Atheist Saying

A few years ago, I quoted the following atheist saying and pointed out that it requires ignoring the history of Communism:

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.
I was reminded of this by a a comment on Overcoming Bias.

On the other hand, it might make sense to classify Communism as a religion.

On the gripping hand, the most important reason to classify Communism as a religion is that it induced idealists to do evil … which makes the original statement look like circular reasoning.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Pollution and Trees, Part III

There's more evidence that “pollution” (this time thermal) benefits trees:

City streets can be mean, but somewhere near Brooklyn, a tree grows far better than its country cousins, due to chronically elevated city heat levels, says a new study. The study, just published in the journal Tree Physiology, shows that common native red oak seedlings grow as much as eight times faster in New York’s Central Park than in more rural, cooler settings in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. Red oaks and their close relatives dominate areas ranging from northern Virginia to southern New England, so the study may have implications for changing climate and forest composition over a wide region.

Earlier posts on how trees and pollution go together can be found here and there.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


The latest episode of PhD comics features a diagram in which the reaction “I'm OK with that” to the realization that “Actually, my work is funded by the military/drug companies.” is regarded as “Denial.”

Why? I can understand objecting to some military research—it might be for the armed forces of a tyrannical regime—but why object to research paid for by drug companies? Is the idea that someone, somewhere is making a profit so terrible?

To make matters even more irrational, one of the few plausible reasons to object to Big Pharma is the theory that they're parasites benefiting from research paid for by others. That doesn't apply here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

You Don't Have to Be Brain Damaged to Be a Mathematician …

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