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.