Sunday, December 18, 2005


I am teaching myself HTML. As if you can't tell.


How not to design a website

I was reading through some science blogs this afternoon, and came across a link to
From the site: provides concise and accurate information for those who wish to critically examine the antievolution movement.
The problem is that the left and right sidebars together take up about 3/4 of the screen, and the main ariticles are squeezed into a column in the center that is only about 25 or so characters wide. This makes it very hard to read. So I'll probably avoid it in the future.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Vague remembrances of chemistry

If I remember correctly, we (Joe, Jason and I) mixed potassium sulfate [K2SO4] and lead nitrate [Pb(NO3)2] in a water solution. Then lead sulfate [PbSO4] precipitated out of the solution (lead nitrate is one of the very few lead compounds that is soluble in water). We poured off the solution into shallow dishes and let the water evaporate on the windowsill. Voila! Potassium nitrate [KNO3] crystals.

K2SO4 + Pb(NO3)2 -> PbSO4 + 2KNO3

We never got to make the gunpowder, though. Mr. Rainey gave our potassium nitrate to one of the other science teachers to use in a class demonstration of some sort. We were kind of upset about that (who wouldn't be?), but were consoled (a little) by the fact that she said it worked as well as the supply-store stuff she had run out of.


Important safety tip

If you are cooking, and take a pinch of cayenne pepper, be very careful to not rub your eye later. This is very important. Trust me, I know.


Friday, December 16, 2005


Check out Lightscribe.

It's a way to label your custom CD's and DVD's. After you burn your CD/DVD, you just flip it over and Lightscribe uses your burner to label it.

How cool is that!


How would you improve science education in the US?

Over on The Panda's Thumb there is a post (the title of this post is a direct link to that one) about improving science education in the US (duh, it's the title of both my post and theirs). A lot of the comments describe experiences similar to my own. There are a lot, so I'm telling mine here.

I loved science and math in elementary and high school (Note: In 6th grade I got a very low grade in science because I was rebelling against the teacher. It was a conscious decision. Don't ask.) I really don't remember any particularly great teachers in elementary school. They were mostly pretty good, but for the most part they were background noise. At that age, if you put a book in front of me, I would read it. If it had any educational value, I would learn something.
In high school I had some very good science teachers. For example, in 9th grade, Mr. "Old man" Rainey (He taught "Science." It wasn't until 10th grade that science was broken into classes for different areas) encouraged my friends (Joe Autrey and Jason Baker) and I to try to synthesize potassium nitrate (we already had sulfur and carbon) during the chemistry section.

Then I went to college (after six years in the Navy). Most commenters on the post (on the Panda's Thumb) write about how terrible the intro science and math classes that they took were. Mine were also pretty bad (I only went to Physics 101 because the girl who was TA for my recitation was cute). But, at least in the Electrical Engineering department, the later classes didn't get any better. My junior year Electronics Design class (EE 310) had a lab component. It sucked. All of the so-called experiments were fill-in-the-blanks, cookbook recipes. It got so bad that I finally said "Screw this, I don't want to be an engineer," and dropped out (there were also some other issues, but that was the biggest). I still love science and math, particularly electronics. Penn State didn't kill that love, but it did wound it pretty bad.

On a similar note, I applied for an electronics techncian position in Rock Springs today. I hope I get hired. I really want to get back into electronics professionally. Of course, I may have to find a new hobby.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Being related to a genius ROCKS!

Check out my sibling blogs section. The cool mouse-over effect is courtesy of my brother Philip, who worked out how to do it. Check out his blogs.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Warning: This post rated "N" for nerdity

I heard the phrase "quantum teleportation" yesterday. I don't remember where, but I decided to read up on it.

Anyone who has heard me talk about Michael Crichton's Timeline knows (in painful detail) the difference between faxing and science fiction style teleportation. It seems actual quantum teleportation has elements of both. But in the end it is misnamed. It is fancy faxing.

I am not a physicist. I did take modern physics as an elective, about eight years ago, but I am certainly no expert (not even close). But the basic idea is not that difficult as long a you don't get too (at all) technical.

If you are interested, see here and here.

Someone asked me if I was a Star Trek fan the other day. Why? Who knows. Am I? Not really. The rest of this post will make that seem a lie. It is not. I know far more than I should about many shows to which I am basically indifferent (Highlander comes to mind). If you really want to be bored, ask me about shows of which I am a fan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons, Invader Zim, Firefly, among others)

Anyway, I got to thinking about some major inconsistencies between the various series (except Enterprise, I have never seen a single episode.)

In the original series (TOS) some things are established about Vulcans. They are much stronger and tougher than humans. They are emotionally detached and logical. Spock, however, is half human. He gets snarky sometimes. McCoy especially gets on his nerves.

On Voyager (VOY), however, Tuvok (the 100% Vulcan security officer) is a total wuss. There is a lot of talk about how well trained and tough he is, but in action he is almost totally ineffective. Also, he is always irritable and grouchy. Spock had the occasional emotional outburst because he was half human. What's Tuvok's excuse? Maybe he's really a Romulan spy, and feels that he has to pretend to be a wuss to avoid blowing his cover.

On The Next Generation (TNG), Worf (Klingon security officer) was also all talk and no substance. Come on! Riker could (and did) kick the guy's ass. This was fixed when Worf moved to Deep Space Nine (DS9) and there he became the warrior he was supposed to have been all along.

Also on TNG, it is established that Betazoids are telepathic. Counselor Troi was not fully telepathic (she was an empath) because, like Spock, she was half human. However on DS9, Luxwana Troi (Counselor Troi's Betazoid mother) is also only empathic. But on TNG she was most definitely telepathic.

Now for my favorite inconsistencies on TNG: the transporter and the holodeck.

Transporter: The crew discovers immortality. Picard, Guinan, and Ro become 11 year old children in a transporter accident. (Wait a minute! They are vastly different ages. Picard is middle aged, Guinan is over 500 years old, Ro recently graduated from the Academy. So why are they all 11?) In order to fix them, Dr. Crusher has to figure out what happened. She clearly states that they are, for all intents and purposes, 11. Left alone, they would age normally from there. Then the transporter is programmed to reverse the effect. Logically, they should now be able to do this at any time, with anyone (Picard is human, Guinan is ? and Ro is Bjoran. If it has the same effect on each of them, it should affect all humaniods the same way. Note the difference between "effect" and "affect"). The Transporter of Eternal Youth!

Transporter: The crew discovers perfect cloning. A duplicate of Riker is found. LaForge figures out what happened and how. It seems to me that this is an amazing occurrence, and the Federation would put at least some resources into duplicating the conditions that allow it.

Holodeck: General inconsistency. Sometimes the holodeck can create characters who have real intelligence, sometimes it can't. Also, it malfunctions so often that it seems like more trouble than it's worth.

There are a lot more, but I am starting to bore myself.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

This is so cool!

Insomnia proves to be a wonderful thing.

First, let me say that I am a geek. I am a Certified Electronics Technician. I dropped out of the College of Electrical Engineering at Penn State (note: I did not flunk out. I was doing very well in the classes I bothered to attend)

I found this article. It is referenced in Dr. Jeffrey Shallit's expert witness statement for the Dover Panda Trial.

When I found this, I lost all interest in whatever it was that I was reading. This was too cool. I had to read it.

Then I had to stop to make this post, because I had to tell someone. But I'm going back afterwards. I will probably have to finally go to bed before I finish, but I have all weekend.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Whatever happened to Rincewind?

I have read most of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. In the first few, there is a character named Rincewind. He is a wizard. It says so ("Wizzard") in big sequined letters on his hat.

What happened to him? I missed a couple of books after "Sourcery," so I don't know if he was in them, but he hasn't been in any since "Men at Arms," as far as I know. It may be unrelated, but the series seems a lot darker since about then, too.

Oops, he was in "The Last Continent," too. But still.


Thursday, November 10, 2005


What's your pirate name?

Mine is Bloody John Flint.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This is hilarious

Check out this page of flash toons. Evil Josh and Billy.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I really need to learn HTML

If you check out my sidebar, you will see that I added a links section. Go me!

I don't know any HTML, and was just copying stuff and making changes that seemed appropriate. It worked. The sidebar will get more elaborate as I have time to work on it.

In the meantime, check out those four links.


Open mouth, insert foot

Over on The Panda's Thumb is a post about Professor Behe's testimony supporting ID in the Dover trial. It's funny, because while he tries to defend irreducible complexity, he ends up totally sinking it. It is a good read, and well worth the time.

One of the comments touched on a peeve of mine.

This comment said "If the bacteria on the soles of your [shoes] is still bacteria, then obviously it hasn’t been evolving, has it."

WRONG! Every living thing on earth has been evolving for the exact same amount of time. Darwinian evolution (natural selection) does not mean that a species must change. Natural selection preserves successful survival techniques. And if a new survival technique comes up, the "old way" of surviving may still be successful. Especially if the "new way" changes the organisms that have it enough that they don't compete strongly with the "old way."

Anyway, it's fun to see ID proponents (that is, Creationists) shoot themselves in the foot.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Knife of Dreams

Book eleven of the Wheel of Time series. I gotta hand it to Robert Jordan. The man can write. Exciting action, believable characters, and good plots. But, come on, does anyone else think this is starting to drag on too long? Things do seem to be coming to a head in this one, though. Some plot points are wrapped up, some are clearly on their way to conclusion. And more importantly, there were no new major plot points, or major characters, introduced. A few minor ones, but that's okay.

Wow, I can't seem to find a way to say what I want about this book without spoilers (as if anyone who might read this cares about spoilers for this book)

I had a hard time getting into KoD, probably because it's been so long since the last one (speaking of which, now I have to wait another year or two for the next one). But it was really good once I did. I am getting sick of the ups and downs for each subplot (of which there are many). All in all, I think it's time to wrap things up. Just bringing everything to closure will probably take two more books.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

More on Dover

Oh, come on! This crap is still going!

This is a quote from a June 2004 letter from Heather Geesey, one of the Dover school board members.

"The definition of theory is merely a speculative or an ideal circumstance."

Okay, This is true for common use, such as: "Will this work?" "In theory."

But "theory" in this sense is not "scientific theory." In terms of scienific research, the above definition fits the term "hypothesis." Well, not quite. But close enough. This is really the problem. What we have is a group of people who are either ignorant of what a "scientific theory" is, or are deliberately confusing the issue in order to futher their own ends. In the case of DI, I suspect the latter.

In either case, are these the kind of people who should be in charge of educating children?


Thursday, October 27, 2005

P. S.

If you had any doubts that I'm a geek, that should put them to rest.


Joss Whedon rules!

"Buffy" was pretty good. "Angel" was okay. But holy crap!

I was thinking about going to see the movie "Serenity," so I did some research online. It seems the movie is based on this science fiction TV show, "Firefly." I haven't watched much TV in the last couple of years, so I'd never heard of it. I headed on over to Netflix, and checked to see if they had it. They did, so I put the four DVD's for the first (only?) season at the top of my list. The first three came today, and when I got home from work, I started watching them. I have only gotten through two episodes, but I had to make this post. This show kicks ass!

The best character on the show is Jayne, played by Adam Baldwin. He's a complete jackass, but incredibly funny and cool just the same. The rest of the cast is good, too.

Apparently FOX cancelled the show halfway through the first season. What the hell were they thinking? This pisses me off as much as when those retards cancelled the live-action version of "The Tick." Whatever happened to the FOX that gave risky new shows a chance? "The Simpsons" for instance. Look how huge that got. And cancelling a Joss Whedon show? Ever hear of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel." And I thought the WB was dumb for letting UPN snake the last two seasons of "Buffy."

Anyway, I have more "Firefly" to watch.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Try this one.

I am an
Outcast Genius

73 % Nerd, 73% Geek, 78% Dork


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another test

Okay, I calm down pretty fast.

Here is another test:

The Geek test - I am an extreme Geek. 63.31361 %

I expect Phil and Tom to score at least that high.


What a load!

Have you been following the "Dover Panda Trial?"

In Dover, PA, eleven parents are suing the school board for trying to teach kids about "Intelligent Design." The reason this is an issue is that ID is just a way to make Creationism seem scientific, and it is illegal to teach religion in public schools. It seems pretty cut and dried. Until the ID proponent, Discovery Institute, got involved. They are trying to prove in court that ID is a scientific theory, and two of their witnesses, Michael Behe (a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University) and Steven Fuller (a philosophy of science expert), say it would be if "scientific theory" were redefined. Behe's proposed definition would allow astrology to be considered scientific! Fuller would have theory redefined to include any hypothesis, no matter how half-baked.

This whole thing pisses me off. I need to go calm down.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

I don't make empty threats

In my last post, I threatened to analyze John DePoe's paper, "An Argument Why the Mind is Not a Physical Mechanism." Well, here goes.

First, let me discuss his dismissal of physicalism. The basic argument, as I understand it, is that in a physicalist universe, rational thought and purposive action are not possible. What does he mean by purposive action? Consider a thermostat. It acts to keep a room at a constant temperature. Isn't that purposive? It can be explained by purely physical means. Does he mean consciously purposive actions? Okay, would you agree that a computer is not conscious, even a cutting-edge one? Ever played chess against one? Before computers, the ability to play chess was considered indisputable evidence of consciousness. A computer chess algorithm is purely physical, but can seem purposive. I have seen my computer sacrifice it's queen for a winning position. That seems pretty purposive. Let's look at the difference between a human brain and a computer CPU, in terms of intraconnectivity (yes, that is correct, intraconnectivity). A Pentium 4, 3.0Ghz processor has 125 million transistors. Each transistor has 3 connections (Gate, Source, Drain) to connect it with other transistors. A human brain has billions of neurons, each with thousands of dendrites connecting it to other neurons. Even without doing the math, it is pretty obvious that the human brain is several orders of magnitude more complex than a computer. So if physical causes can seem purposive in a computer, how much more purposive would be physical causes in a human brain? Notice that physicalism states that ultimate physical causes must be present. In the philosophy of consciousness this is called "supervenience." A simple causative path is not necessary. Mr. DePoe's dismissal of physicalism in not well founded.

I actually agree with his argument against global external justification.

In my last post I showed that his use of Bayes' Theorem is nonsense. But after reading it again (and again), I found more reasons for this beyond the misuse discussed in the last post. Let's look at his variables: R, N, E, and C.
R - human cognitive faculties are reliable.
N - metaphysical naturalism - this means that no supernatural (non-physical) forces exist.
E - Humans have cognitive facilities (that is: minds) that have arisen through evolution.
C - Humans have blah, blah, blah. He means humans have minds.
Now, he says that the probability of R, P(R), is near one. That's debatable, but I'll go with it.
P(x|y) means the probability of x happening given that y has happened.
so: P(N & E & C | R) =P(N & E & C), since P(R) is assumed to be 1, and so will have occurred in all trials.
P(N & E & C) = P(N) & P(E) & P(C)

P(N) - the probability that nothing supernatural exists - He is trying to argue that 'mind' is non-physical (supernatural) and therefore P(N) = 0, so using this in any equation to support his argument reduces that equation to triviality (0=0, no information)

P(E) - the probability that mind arose through natural selection - Again, he is trying to demonstrate that P(E) = 0. Same argument as above.

P(C) - the probability that humans have minds - Humans do have minds. P(C) = 1. since P(x&1) = P(x), this drops out of the equation.

My conclusion: Mr. DePoe seems to have a poor grasp of probability, and has in no way shown that evolution (or rather natural selection) could not have produced the human mind.

He also restates the purposive causation argument that he used to dismiss physicalism. The same reasoning applies. He hasn't shown that physicalism (above) and natural selection (here) can be dismissed.

"Since mental sensations can cause something physical to occur (e.g., my utterances about beliefs that I have about mental sensations), epiphenomenalism is false."

Epiphenomenalism - physical causes can have mental effects, but mental causes cannot have physical effects.

My answer:
Supervenience - all mental causes are themselves effects of physical causes.
See Jaegwon Kim, "Physicalism, or Something Near Enough," Princeton University Press, 2005.

As for Mr. DePoe's argument against agent causation. Agent causation itself seems incompatible with physicalism, and I can't see how this argument in any way shows that the mind cannot be a purely physical phenomenon.

I do not think this paper achieves it's purpose.

I'd like to make one last comment on this paper.

Obfuscation - a big and confusing word that means big and confusing. Generally considered to be an extremely poor writing technique.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mind: Natural or Supernatural?

Today, on Qalmlea's blog, is a reference to an academic paper by John DePoe, "An Argument Why the Mind is Not a Physical Mechanism." Since a topic of a book that I am currently reading ("Darwin's Dangerous Idea" by Daniel C. Dennett) is that 'mind' is a product of physical mechanisms, I immediately found the paper (the link on Qalmlea's blog was dead) and read it. I have some issues with his arguments, but I need time (maybe this weekend) to make a coherent post about them. I do want to mention one issue though. I am not calling Mr. DePoe irrational, or a Creationist, but I have also encountered this problem in irrational Creationist arguments many times.

Sometimes a person will try to support their argument with mathematical equations. Then they claim that this proves their point, when in fact it does no such thing. This is what I mean:

"... by figuring that given (R) that our cognitive faculties are reliable, what is the probability of the following three propositions being true: that (N) metaphysical naturalism, (E) humans have cognitive faculties that have arisen through evolution, and (C) we have cognitive faculties of this sort that produce beliefs of this kind. Using Bayes’s Theorem, Plantinga expresses EAAN this way:

P(N & E & C | R) = [P(N & E & C) x P(R | N & E & C)] / P(R)

Since we believe our cognitive faculties are, in fact, reliable, P(R) is very near 1. Given the reasonable doubts expressed by Darwin and Churchland, P(R|N&E&C) is less than .5. Yet, even with a high estimation of P(N & C & E), it follows that P(N & E & C | R) is low (below .5). Consequently, Plantinga’s EAAN demonstrates that evolution cannot provide a way to assert that the mind is a rational mechanism."

I will ignore, for the moment, the specific meanings of R, N, E, and C as they are not important to my point. I will come back to them in the previously threatened post.

Here is the problem: Bayes' Theorem gives a probability, which in this case may be almost as high as .5 (according to Mr. DePoe). He then asserts that this 'low' probability "demonstrates that evolution cannot provide a way to assert that the mind is a rational mechanism." .5 is not a low probability. It is the probability of getting 'tails' on a single toss of a fair coin. But that does not matter. The argument boils down to: "Situation A exists. It is unlikely that process B caused A. Therefore, process B cannot have caused A." If you don't see the problem there, let me illustrate. This situation is fictional, the name, dollar amount and odds were arbitrarily chosen.

Emily just received a check for $100,000.00. The odds of Emily winning last week's Lottery drawing were 1:1,000,000. Therefore, Emily could not have won the Lottery.

Yes, the money could have come from somewhere else, but winning the Lottery is not ruled out.
Demonstrating that an event is unlikely does not prove that it cannot have happened.

Mr. DePoe's reference is: Alvin Plantinga, "Warrant and Proper Function" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Anyway, I do want to return to this topic after I have had time to compose my own arguments.


Monday, October 17, 2005


I just took this cool "Which Fantasy/SciFi character Are You?" quiz. Apparently I am a short, bald sicillian. I can live with that.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Old programs

I was thinking, not too long ago, that it would be nice if I had kept all of the programs I've written over the years. Whether in BASIC, Pascal, C, or C++, they were, if not actually useful, at least interesting. I recently bought Borland C++ Builder 6.0, and I think I'll try to recreate some of them. I don't know if I'll bother with the AD&D character generator (or any of the generators for other game systems that I've written. There was a time when writing a generator was almost more important than playing) since I'm not in an RPG group anymore. Some of the others might be fun as C++ refreshers. Some of them are fractal, like the root basin and Mandelbrot set. I'll have to brush up on differential equations to recreate my Runge-Kutta program. I think I'll start with Mr. Engleka's "Funky Chicken" program. Long story. Oh yeah: if anyone has the code for an equation parser (in C++, even a simple one will do) that they'd be willing to send, I'd appreciate it. I actually want to write my own, but I'm lazy.


Key Lime Pie

I have a yen for key lime pie today. Greybull has one grocery store. Sometimes it has fresh key limes, sometimes not. Today was not. So I got bottled key lime juice. Some purists will tell you that using bottled juice is like killing babies or something. Some people get very passionate about desserts. I do use fresh key limes when they are available and I'm not feeling too lazy to juice them. A key lime is smaller than a ping-pong ball. It takes about 15-18 to get enough juice for 1 pie. I keep a garlic press exclusively for this. This makes juicing key limes a lot easier. It's still a pain, though.

There isn't much else happening. I got a copy of Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" that I'm reading, and a copy of Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea," which I'll read next. Sometimes I wish my life was less boring. Then I think of all the exciting things that can happen, and I decide that Rincewind was right. Boring is good.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm going to start deleting comments like this.

"Anonymous said...

u r gay"

People! I don't mind the accusation, although I am not gay. However, as previously stated, I think people who comment anonymously are spineless. If you want to insult me, use your name. From this point on all anonymous comments will be deleted unread.


Am I an atheist?

I suppose that I am an atheist, in the sense that I do not believe in God (or gods).

If you define atheism as an ideology (apparently the definition is, "Nihilistic, Nietzsche-spouting, communist jack-ass"), then no, I am not that.

All religious arguments aside, I do not believe in God in pretty much the same way that I do not believe in leprechauns, the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus. I would invite people to read Richard Dawkins' essay "Snake Oil and Holy Water". Although I do not agree with Prof. Dawkins' agressiveness, I do agree with the main point of the essay.

I am sure that I will now be pariah in my family's eyes. Mom's side is religious (Lutheran, Mormon, or Messianic Jew). Dad's side, while not particularly religious, per se, is spiritualistic with Christian leanings. I am not hostile toward either belief. I just don't agree with them. (Ok. If you want my opinion of religious beliefs, "steaming load," would just about cover it, but that's just my opinion, you can believe whatever you want. Please note Peter Atkins' teapot in "Snake Oil and Holy Water.")

I don't preach God's non-existence. If you want to believe, that's your business, and none of mine. I just wish everyone felt the same.


This blog is just another way to procrastinate.

I have more important things to do. Much more important. Why, then, am I writing a post? Because I am the king of procrastination.

I am reading less fantasy/science-fiction these days. Not because I no longer enjoy it. I do, very much. It provides me with an escape from my own crappy life. I may have mentioned this before: my life sucks. I know that it's my own damn fault. In fact, to an objective observer, my past probably seems full of self-sabotage at critical points. But I don't want to gripe about that. It's my own problem.

I am cursed with intellectual curiosity. I say cursed because this is not the drive-to-know that produces scientists and engineers (I learned this after wasting 5 years and a lot of money at Penn State). Just an annoying itch to know a little more about stuff. So I read books by such authors as Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Bertrand Russell, among others.

Ok. Just because I read something does not mean that I believe it. Reading books by Aleister Crowley (I have), does not imply that I believe in Thelemic magick. I do not. It's just that pesky intellectual curiosity asking, "What's all the fuss?"

On the other hand, I suppose that I am a Darwinist (I don't really consider myself any sort of "-ist"). So I had a bit more reason to read "The Blind Watchmaker" a few years ago. My mother is a devout Lutheran and Creationist. When she saw what I was reading she said, "Why are you reading that?" As if merely reading about the vile, satanic idea of Evolutionary biology was a one-way ticket to eternal damnation. I don't understand this attitude (which I have encountered many times, before and since). How can you condemn something when you know next to nothing about it?

Well, there's more that I want to say, but I really do have things that need doing.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

big mistake

Wow. Do you see how crappy my last post looks? I typed it in OpenOffice, and pasted it into the post page. I'm never going to do that again.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Unleashing the geek

With the DVD release of the HHGttG movie imminent, I thought I'd say a few things.

I saw this movie with Philip, Thomas, and Caleb (we couldn't justify leaving him behind).

Overall, I enjoyed it. That may be because I went in determined to do so.

But I did have some issues.

Marvin. At first I hated the way Marvin was designed. After a while I got used to it, and decided it was okay.

Zaphod. I hated the stupid “pez-dispenser” head thing. I still do. Given today's CGI technology, would it have really been that hard to give him two heads he could bang together?

Ford. Mos Def was okay, I guess, but he's certainly no Geoffrey McGivern.

The Vogons. Actually they looked pretty good, but they should have been green.

I read some reviews that complained that the story just ended, with unresolved plot points. To them I say, “Ever hear of a sequel, dumbass.”

Philip hated it. Halfway through the movie he said, “Disney must have had Douglas Adams killed to get this piece of crap made.” That's hard to misinterpret.

Thomas said it was okay.

I don't really care what Caleb thought.

Moving on...

By general consensus (that is to say, I was outvoted) the radio at work is usually kept on a country station, and I want to gripe a bit.

It claims to be a mix station, but really it's a top twenty station that occasionally plays some other songs.

I work from 5am to 3pm, Monday through Thursday. I hear the same songs at least two, sometimes three, times each day, everyday that song is in the top twenty.

I want to say something about a few of them.

Nothing About Love Makes Sense – Leeann Rimes.
Jayzeez Chroist, this song is dumb!
"Like an ocean liner shouldn't float on the sea" - Archimedes' Principle?
"That big Italian tower, well how does it lean?" - no mystery there either.
"or a bumblebee fly" - okay, I used to hear this one a lot from people trying to defend the "mystery of the universe." The claim is that, according to physics, bumblebees should not be able to fly. This is bullplop. BULLPLOP! I am not a physicist, but I can explain how bumblebees fly. It certainly does not defy science. If you want an explanation, just ask. I will happily bore you to tears.
There are other lines like this, but I want to move on to another song.

Goodbye Time – Blake Shelton
This has got to be the whiniest crap I have ever heard. Grow a pair!

Angels – Randy Travis.
Ok. Randy Travis has some songs that I like. This is not one of them. The song starts with a discussion about the literal existence of angels. One guy says that he has never seen one. The rest of the song is about a mother's love, which is a wondrous thing and certainly a worthy subject of song. But what does it have to do with the literal existence of angels?

You'll be There – George Strait
This song begins by comparing life to a ship on the ocean. How very original. I don't think I've heard that more than a dozen times. Other than that, it was okay the first couple of times, but it got really old really fast. There's a line in the chorus: "I want to go where the streets are gold, 'cause you'll be there." Every time I hear that I think, "He wants to go to Rigel?"
(I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't get that joke. If I explain it, it won't be funny anymore.)

And the not-in-the-current-top-20 songs they play.
By all means, play Reba. But she has more songs than "Fancy." (at least once a week) And is it just me, or is that song actually about a mother pushing her daughter into prostitution?
There are some others that crop up pretty often, too.
I almost passed out with shock a few months ago when they played "Poncho and Lefty" (the Willie Nelson – Waylon Jennings version).


Friday, September 16, 2005

to Milton

Please don't think I was ridiculing you about "it's self." I am a geek and have been for many, many years. Correcting other people's English is an almost Pavlovian response. I can't help it.

I visited your blog. I didn't have time to read much, but I will when I can. It looked pretty good.

Anyone else - check out Milton's blog:


on Editing

I read my posts several times before and after I post them.

I re-edited "more on EvC" several times after I posted it, because I missed some typos beforehand. This one, too.

Please, at the very least, re-read your comments to see that they make sense. If you aren't sure how to spell a word, do what I do, copy it into a word-processor (I use OpenOffice) and spellcheck it.


Reply to a Reply to a Reply

"my quarrel with evolution is not so much that things can not become more complex, but rather that complexity it’s self leads to life"

it's = it is
"itself" is one word

Just because you are incredulous about something does not mean it can't be true. You are free to believe or not as you will, but incredulity is not an argument. It is a statement of disbelief.

None of those examples was meant to defend Evolution, just to point out that 2LoT does not prevent spontaneous order. Evolution says, "It could have happened without design." Some people take that as, "It happened without design, therefore there is no God." That's their personal belief. Some people say, "That's preposterous, there must be a God." They're entitled to their beliefs as well. I personally do not believe ID, please allow me my own beliefs. But the question of how everything began doesn't really interest me. Things are. That's enough for me.
(Note the correct use of "there," "their," and "they're.")

Science does not answer "Why?" Science answers "How?"
"Why?" is a philosophical question.
Science doesn't stick its nose into philosophy.

Science does not preclude the existence of God.
Also, it is hubris beyond belief to say why God would, or should, have done things.
Especially if you believe in God.

Some scientists are atheists (i.e. Richard Dawkins) and are very outspoken (i.e. Richard Dawkins).
Some are not.
Scientists are human. Like most anyone else, when their beliefs are (sometimes viciously) belittled as ridiculous, they feel attacked. When attacked, some people try to defend themselves. Some are good at it. Some are not.

And for any evangelical Christians who think everyone must believe as they do, read Matthew 10:14.

What I'd like to know is, why aren't Creationists as rabid about, say, Hindu creation beliefs?


More on EvC.

Consider this:

"Darwin himself cannot understand how there could be a good purpose for the existence of the Ichneumonidae, yet the Encyclopaedia Britannica says: "the group [Ichneumonidae] as a whole is beneficial to man because it parasitizes many insect pests"6. It turns out that when the caterpillars eat corn seedlings, a hormone is released by the plant which attracts the wasps which destroys the caterpillar, ultimately saving the corn plant7. Thus while on the surface it appears that the wasps weren’t designed with the well-being of the caterpillars in mind (i.e. it appears to have sub-optimal design), from a higher order perspective we see that their purpose is not only beneficial to corn plants, but also to humans and the ecosystem as a whole! Without the wasps, the caterpillars might endlessly reproduce, thus destroying any chance for corn to grow, human to eat the crops, and in the end, for the caterpillars themselves to survive."

This may be great hubris, especially since I dropped out of the College of Engineering at Penn State, but it seems to me that God (or whoever, since ID proponents claim repeatedly that the designer is not necessarily God. "Just someone with the basic skill set to create an entire working universe." - Jon Stewart, the Daily Show) could just have made caterpillars not eat corn. If the existance of the caterpillar is important for some reason (which I can't see, if, as ID seems to imply, humans are the whole point of the universe). But I'm just a not-Engineer, what do I know?

I think I see another problem. It's a "top down" vs. "bottom up" way of seeing things.
The above quote takes the "top down" or "after the fact" view. The wasp has a purpose. The corn has a purpose. And, by implication, the caterpillar probably has a purpose. Looking at what is already there seems to imply purpose. Purpose implies design.
Evolution is "bottom up." Wasps that were attracted to the hormone found more caterpillars to host their eggs. Corn that secreted the hormone survived to produce seeds. For a more cogent explanation, read Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene."

Here's a thought. What if ants are the whole reason for everything, and humans were created solely for the purpose of providing them a challenge to overcome?


Reply to a comment

Ok. Unless you are the person who left this comment, you will probably need to go read it.

Also, show a little backbone. Don't post anonymously. Your comments won't hurt my feelings or piss me off - unless they're poorly spelled. On that note, please edit your comments. "wher", "accidentilly", "be go by." Come on!

Now, my response.

If God is all-powerful, time and His perception thereof are whatever He wants them to be.
By definition, an all-powerful God has no limitations, and you are metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot if you try to impose them.

And besides, Lisa did not create the life in her petri dish. A spark of static electricity did. Although the people that evolved believed she was God, she had nothing to do with their development, aside from being visible occasionally. And she was powerless when they pulled her into their world. A strong case, however, could be made for Bart-as-Devil.


Thursday, September 15, 2005


I've been getting spam comments, so I have word verification active.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

on the Evolution vs. Creationsim debate

All this week The Daily Show is running a special report called "Evolution Schmevolution" and I was going to weigh in with my own belief on this topic. I started this post and got bogged down in long, boring explanations. This happens a lot, which, if you know me, you already know. So I started over and I'll try to keep it (relatively) short.

In the past, I have made several comments about spelling and grammar. I am aware of my own failings involving the use of commas. At least I know the difference between "their," "there," and "they're."

I am firmly in the Evolution camp. (Please spellcheck all hate-mail)

About the Daily Show, from the title ("Evolution Schmevolution") you might get the impression that this special report is pro-Creationism. It is not. If you are familiar with the Daily Show, you know that religion is ridiculed almost without mercy ("This week in God," "Papplication", etc) Plus, Kurt Vonnegut was the guest last night. How awesome is that?

Okay. I think the biggest argument Creationists make against the Theory of Evolution is that it violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. If you want to see the Creationist side of this point, here are two places to look:

There are also several sites by people more qualified than I am to refute these arguments, here are two:

Here is my take on this. Creationists misunderstand and/or abuse 2LoT. 2LoT does not say that the universe tends towards physical disorder. Disorder is a subjective quantity. What 2LoT basically says is that the universe tends towards an even distribution of energy. Physical disorder is a random and accidental consequence of this redistribution, like a tornado moving through a trailer park. Remember, however, that disorder is subjective. Wind blowing across desert sands can produce patterns that seem very orderly. When I was 13 a tornado passed through the woods not far from my home. Seen from above the fallen trees also seemed pretty orderly. Or try this: put a strong magnet under a piece of thin, but stiff, cardboard (cardboard from a cereal box works really well). Dump some iron filings (not a lot) on top of the cardboard. Gently flick the cardboard with your fingernail several times. Tell me that isn't order.

Another claim (I'm sure you can find it somewhere on the same sites, so I won't give new links) is that it is preposterous that such vast complexity could arise from simple beginnings.

Ok. This is not an argument. This is a statement of incredulity. Some people might think it preposterous that an 875 thousand pound 747 can fly. It does not prove or disprove anything. (In fact, I got pissed off the first time I saw the movie "Starship Troopers" when the guy on the talk show says "I find the idea of a bug that thinks offensive!" As if nothing could possibly exist that offends him.)

But I'll treat it as if it were. The following is not an analogy. It has nothing to do with evolution. It is only to illustrate the point. It is a mathematical structure called a fractal. Specifically, the Mandelbrot set.

It uses complex numbers, but I am not teaching remedial algebra. If you want to understand, but don't, get help from someone who does.

Simple beginnings: the basic equation is Z = Z^2 + C.
Z is initially 0+0i.
C is the point on the complex plane that we are testing.
To find out if a point is part of the set, iterate the equation several times
(Some people may see this as analogous to the many generations involved in evolution. It is not. But iteration of some sort is part of any means by which complexity arises from simplicity)
If, after several iterations (1000 is more than enough in most cases), |Z|>2, the point is not in the set. If the point is not in the set, illuminate it on the computer screen. The color is determined by the number of iterations before |Z|>2.
A mandelbrot set is extremely complex.
Once again, this has nothing to do with evolution. It merely shows that extreme complexity can arise from simple beginnings.

I am not going to try to de-bunk any Creationist claims. It cannot be done. All arguments for Creationism reduce to, "Because God wanted it that way." That is also not an argument. If you believe in God, it cannot be refuted. If you do not, it is meaningless. I have two questions though. First, if God created the complexity of the universe, He must be even more complex. I think no one will deny that. So how did God's complexity arise? And second, can someone give me a satisfactory explanation of the fig-tree incident (Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14)?


Monday, September 12, 2005

Fried Ice Cream

Ok. I haven't given up completely on running, but I haven't gone in a while. Long enough that I'll pretty much be starting over.

I really like fried ice cream. Not often (think about it. It's ice cream, and it's fried), but I had a yen for it this weekend. The only place I know of around here that has it is Lisa's (where Caleb used to "work"). There are a few problems. It isn't a very good restaurant. Fried ice cream is about 4 dollars. And it isn't made right anyway.
So I decided to try making my own. I mean, how hard could it be? It really was easy and turned out great. If anyone is interested (or not, I don't care, it's my blog) here's how to make fried ice cream. I don't give any amounts, because I rarely ever measure anything.

Vanilla ice Cream
Corn flake crumbs (you can get these pre-crushed. look by the bread crumbs at the store)
Brown sugar (optional. I used it)
Flour tortillas (I used 8 inch ones)
Oil (for deep frying, duh)
Honey (some places use chocolate sauce, which is ok I guess, but I prefer honey)
Whipped cream
Marachino cherries

Ok. Form vanilla ice cream into balls (use an ice cream scoop, dummy). Don't make more than you plan to use in a day or two so they don't get freezer burn. Put in freezer to harden (on waxed paper or a baking sheet or whatever). Roll hardened balls in corn flake crumbs. If you want a sweeter coating (I did) mix the crumbs with some brown sugar first.
Return to freezer to harden (again). Beat eggs (you probably want one egg for every four balls) Dip balls in egg. Roll in crumbs again (or crumb/brown sugar mix). Return to freezer until ready to fry (give it at least an hour). Heat oil (deep enough to completely submerge balls) to 360 degrees (use an oil thermometer, you don't want it off much either way). Make tortilla cups by placing a tortilla flat on top of oil, then pushing it down with a ladle (If anyone is stupid enough to use a nylon or plastic ladle, I take no responsibility. The other choice is metal. Go with that one) and holding it under until it's golden brown. Carefully remove it from oil and let it drain for a few seconds (unless you really like oil). Place on plate (facing up). Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. (If you don't know how to make cinnamon-suger: first, slap yourself, hard. Then put some sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle in some cinnamon. Mix.) Make all the tortilla cups you need before frying the ice cream. Take a ball out of freezer and lower it into oil with a fry basket or slotted spoon (see above). Fry for 20 to 30 seconds. Let it drain for a few seconds (see above). Put it in a tortilla cup. Repeat for as many balls as you need. Drizzle honey over each ball. Top with whipped cream and a cherry.

I really shouldn't have to say this, but...
Hot oil is very hot, be careful.

Having said that, if you injure yourself while making these, I cannot be held accountable.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I thought this was supposed to feel good

Woohoo! A mile and a half again tonight. A bit slower, probably. My thighs have been killing me all day. At least they kept me from noticing my knees, which by comparison didn't hurt at all.
Also, 'running' is pretty broadly defined here. 'Jog', or 'brisk shuffle', might better define my pace for some (maybe half) of my 'run'. The rest is almost 'running'. I have some problems with my breathing rythm. I did before, too. My lungs almost always hurt for fifteen minutes or so afterward. I'd appreciate any tips anyone would care to offer. (As if anyone reads this but Tom. Tom, tips?) And, no, I can't look for advice in 'Running' magazine. Where would I get it? I'm not interested in the majority of its contents enough to subscribe, and it isn't carried by any of the stores around here.

Well, gotta go. I'm so tired I'm making way more typing errors than usual.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Microsoft. Don't get me started.

Okay, a mile and a half nearly killed me. (I only ran about 3/4 of a mile the first two times) But I ran the whole thing. No walking. When I got out of the Navy, a mile and a half was a joke.

I am sending Mom an invite to gmail. She uses Hotmail right now and it sucks. Marie sent her some pictures of Maggie, and Mom tried to send them to someone else. That person couldn't view the pictures. So, naturally, Mom asks me to do it. (Then she stands there making suggestions about how it might work, but that's another issue entirely) I don't know what Mom did, but it seems to me that it should have worked. But since it didn't I saved the pictures to the hard drive (and what a fight that was) and attatched the jpegs to a new message for Mom to send (that was a real main event, too). If I were designing a mail program, I might do it the same way. Provided that I was also a complete idiot.

Alas, for our time is past.

I have been missing the dice-and-paper RPGs I played as a kid. So I thought I'd give online games a try. I tried WoW when Caleb was still here (he's gone back to Ohio, TG). It was pretty lame. Not much different than Diablo II on Battlenet. There are two big problems, as I see it. First, you are limited to killing things. No actual roleplaying whatsoever. All quests are "go here, kill this thing, bring some item back." It gets boring fast. The second thing is that short, typed comments are not the same as being face to face with a group of real people, which is a lot more fun, even when the campaign and GM suck (which can happen). I admit, I have been playing DII on Battlenet some lately. It gets boring after about 30 minutes (every time). I had to stop.

As for running, I went a couple of times before we had company for a week. I'm going to run tonight (when it cools down a bit). Then, if not everyday, at least every other day. I found a solution for my knees. I take some ibuprofin about 45 minutes before I go. I'm probably doing a lot of damage to them, but unless someone gets me a Bowflex Treadclimber for my birthday (hint, hint), it's the best I can do.

Just kidding about the Treadclimber. I'd never ask anyone to spend that much on me. It would be nice to have one, though.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Same drug, new pusher

Caleb is no longer addicted to EverQuest. He is now addicted to World of Warcraft.

Please note: my birthday is coming up soon (July 6). I really don't expect anything, but if anyone is interested, I have a wishlist on Use my email address (

I want to start running again (I gave it up about six years ago). I'm finding out that I am a very lazy person. Excuses thus far: My knees hurt. The air here is too thin. No time (Ha!). Too cold. Too hot. I'll start tomorrow. I'll start Monday. I need to ease into it. --- Really, I'm just lazy.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Been a while...

Sorry that it's been so long. I am easily distracted. A friend of mine once told me that I have the attention span of a flashcube.

A while ago, my brother Philip posted about some "Your water molecules are too small" scam. I found this in the June '05 issue of Popular Science. (This is one of the reasons I prefer Scientific American) I think it may be the same scam.

"Crystal Clear"
Apparently, this machine changes the hydrogen bond angle from it's natural, "dead," 101 degrees to 114 degrees. This supposedly gives the water some amazing properties: removes "disease markers" from the water, kills "bad" bacteria without harming "good" bacteria, clears arteries, reduces or eliminates the effects of Lou Gehrig's Disease, and relieves Prostate cancer. My immediate question is: "Wouldn't all bacteria be affected the same by this new bond angle?"
I've read some of the website, and most of it makes absolutely no sense.

"Osmosis in trees and plants STOPS when it's raining and starts again when it's DRY! Using the water to make ordinary ice cubes, though the ENERGY is still there, it only expresses itself, and osmosis only occurs, when it's not raining. Water processed TRULY nature's way (God's way if you will) is "programmed" to respond this way. This is the water our Lord and nature wants you to have!"

What? Ice cubes have asomething to do with osmosis? Water is programmable? Does invoking God imbue credibility?

"Today's water is low in Electrons that destroy free radicals that cause disease."

How does changing the bond angle increase the number of electrons?

"My patents and proprietory secrets prove that I am THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD that can find disease markers in water."

If all the scientists in the world are unable to duplicate your results, which is more likely? a) They are all incompetent, or b) You are a crackpot.

Read the "testimonials." This amazing water can make you lose weight, take the grey out of your hair, cure mastitis in cows (I have to show that one to Dad), relieve arthritis pain, and other incredible things. (Note: I use the word incredible literally: not believable)

Check it out. It's pretty funny. Right down to the disclaimer:

"However, since I am an engineer not a doctor, this information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. Statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food & Drugs Administration, as in all health situations, as was done in this report, qualified professionals should be consulted."

I could be wrong, but this seems to translate to "I'm full of it."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I'll start a blog! Then I can pretend anyone cares what I think.

Ok, here's my blog. Are you happy now, Philip? If nothing else, it might improve my typing.

What should a reader (if there ever are any) expect?

1. I am not consistent. If a post contradicts an earlier one, just play along.

2. These are my actual thoughts and feelings. If you know me and I do or say something contrary to something posted here, this is real and that is fake.

3. Expect references to The Simpsons, and plenty of them. Also Futurama, Invader Zim, and some pretty obscure movies. Don't expect me to explain them. Expect asides, digressions and non-sequiturs, too.

4. If you are related to me (particularly on my mother's side) and I expound on religion (I probably will eventually), please don't stone me for heresy (or whatever).

5. If any of my posts are funny, it's entirely accidental.

6. I welcome responses, even hate mail. I would like to know if anyone reads this. Just, please proofread and spellcheck your reply. Especially the hate mail.

7. I am never out to provoke or offend anyone. I am, however, oblivious and often get carried away, so if I ever do offend you, I apologize now.

That's about all a reader can reliably expect. Please keep item 1 in mind as you read.

That's it for my first post.