Sunday, February 26, 2006

Math and Science Quizzes

Okay, no one took the evolution quiz. Try these instead.

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sorry about this, Phil

I like Windows Media Player.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I can't get it out of my head

As you may know (from earlier posts), I saw Star Wars: Episode III yesterday.

There is something about it that bothers me. The fact that it does bother me bothers me even more.

It's that damn droid general (General Grievious, hence forth GG). Why the hell would the writer's make it cough and wheeze?

Since no one is reading (or at least commenting on) my blog, I have to make up arguments myself. Don't worry, I have no friends here, so I do this a lot anyway. (Maybe you should worry)

Towards the end, when GG is fighting Obi Wan, we see that it (GG) has organic parts (flesh around the eyes, internal organs), so you might believe that is the reason. But its throat is mechanical. Why build a voice box into the air intake when an electronic speech synthesizer seems more efficient? With the voice box you'd need a tongue and lips (or something similar) to produce speech. All the synthesizer needs is a speaker.

Darth Vader's doctors (technicians? mechanics?) apparently went with the synthesizer option (because you can hear him breathing while he talks). This makes sense in light of his burns. His throat and lungs were probably almost destroyed. We have seen that, in the Star Wars universe, mechanical prostheses are used instead of biological replacements. The dramatic change in his voice also supports this.


What is a "low," and where is he laying it?

"Record Jackpot Winner Probably Laying Low"

This is a headline from Yahootm News.

Can anyone see the problem?
Neither could the journalist or editor, apparently.

It should be "lying low."

How do I know?
Because I had English Grammar in elementary school.

"Lying" is a verb that uses the subject as its (the verb's) object.
i.e. : The book is lying on the table.

"Laying" requires a separate object. The subject does it to something.
i.e. : He is laying the book on the table.

Do you see the difference?
Am I a jerk because I think professional writers should know how to write?


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Episode III, afterwards

My final verdict. It sucked, just like the other two prequels.

It never did get much better. I did find a couple of good things to say about it though. Yoda looked pretty good. So did the wookies.

The plot was obvious and unoriginal. It seemed to me that a lot of dialog was rehashed from the original trilogy. If this was Lucas' way of relating to it (the original trilogy), he failed. It only made this movie seem hackneyed.

I still would have said the movie was okay, except for the ending. It went on too long. We didn't need to be shown the twins being born and given to foster parents. We know that happened. We also did not need to see Darth Vader rise from the table (complete with Frankensteinian lurch) and the "NOOOooo..." shout (talk about hackneyed. At least he didn't drop to his knees). There was a scene that would have been a perfect ending. Anakin is lying burned. Darth Vader's mask is lowered onto his face. Cue John William's "Imperial March" (just the first bar). Fade to credits. Everything after that was unnecessary.


Star Wars: Episode III

I rented Revenge of the Sith, because a lot of people have said that it is much better than the first two. So far, it is not. I am about 15 minutes into it, and have to stop to make this post.

I have a few complaints.
The acting is very stiff. It sounds as if the actors are reading from a malfunctioning teleprompter.
The CGI is cartoonish. The old movies had more realistic looking space battles.
The droid general coughs and wheezes.
The droid general coughs and wheezes.
The guns on the droid flagship are lasers or some kind of energy weapon, yet they have recoil and discarding shells.
The internal gravity on the droid flagship apparrently depends on spatial orientation.

I tried to find something good to say about it, but so far I can't. Hopefully it will get better, but I don't believe it will.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

on the scientific method

I have read several claims recently that there is no such thing as "the scientific method."

Here is one such claim from some (IMO*) crackpot.
Here is another from someone who seems (also IMO) otherwise rational.

I have to weigh in on this.


These two examples, and all others that I have read, create a strawman, "The Scientific Method," (insert dramatic chord here) which they then define as a "special way of knowing things" that only scientists can, and must, use. This strawman is easy to knock down. That's the whole point of strawmen.

"The scientific method" is just a name given to the only process that has been observed to consistently produce reliable knowledge. It doesn't matter if you are a professional scientist or not. No special training is required. This is not a "special way of knowing." In order to really know anything, you follow the scientific method. It is not dogma, it is a process that everyone follows, consciously or not.

You may find it described in many ways. If those descriptions are honest, they will boil down to the following steps:

  1. Observation - Observe some aspect of the universe.
  2. Hypothesis - Form a hypothesis that is consistent with what you have observed.
  3. Prediction - Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
  4. Experiment - Test those predictions by experiments or further observations.
  5. Refinement - Modify the hypothesis (or the experiment) in light of your results.
  6. Repeat - Go to step 3. This is an ongoing process, repeat ad infinitum, nothing is ever proven except pure mathematics.

Sometimes a hypothesis is confirmed so often that only a complete idiot (IDiot?) would try to refute it.

Sometimes you observe something so obvious that you do not really need to go past step 2.

  1. Observation - I see water falling from the sky when I look out my window.
  2. Hypothesis - It is raining.
If you claim (2), any rational person who also observes (1) will agree with you.

However, let's go through the whole process:
  1. Observation - I see water falling from the sky when I look out my window.
  2. Hypothesis - It is raining.
  3. Prediction - If I step outside, I will get wet.
  4. Experiment - I step outside. Result - I don't get wet.
    Further Observation - There is a roof over my front stoop.
  5. Refinement - The hypothesis still seems sound. In this particular case it is the prediction and experiment that need to be refined. Remember, well designed and carefully conducted experiments are vital to accurate testing.
  6. (3) Prediction - If I step beyond the bounds of shelter, I will get wet.
  7. (4) Experiment - I walk to the sidewalk. Result - I get wet.

There is really no need to go any further with this simple example. The statement, "It is raining." is not really a hypothesis, it is an observed fact.
(scientific) fact
a controlled, repeatable and/or rigorously verified observation.
(scientific) law
a statement of an observed regularity among facts, often expressible as a simple mathematical relationship.
(scientific) theory
an integrated conceptual framework for reasoning about a class of phenomena, which is able to coordinate existing facts and laws and sometimes provide predictions of new ones.
Go to this site for a detailed explanation of the difference.
This is where I got the above definitions.**
Anyway, using this process (the scientific method, in case you have forgotten) is the only way a person can actually know anything. Without it, you don't know, you believe.

If I ask, "How do you know?"
and you reply, " My parents (my teacher/the Bible/my goldfish) told me."
then you don't really know, you believe.

We all conflate belief with knowledge. If we didn't, our educations would be pretty meaningless. The important thing is to consider the reliability of the source. But I'll leave that for another post.


UPDATE 6/18/07: over a year later, the 'rational' link is dead but the 'crackpot' link is still good. Go figure.

* This is often IMHO, but my opinion is most definitely not humble.
** Yes, I am aware that this is the same site referenced above with a false denial of the scientific method. The irony is not lost on me.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Massive online games may have a new monster: the IRS

I heard (on NPR) an interview with Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money and this article. I don't know if I have this exactly right, and I don't care enough to check. You can if you want. I just thought it was funny, especially if it actually happens.

Here's the deal.

MMORPG's have become very popular. Some people are so obsessed that they pay real money for powerful items, or even characters.

Once real mony changes hands, the item in question now has fair market value (FMV), and FMV could be determined for all other items, based on their relative values in the game. This is where the IRS comes in. I'm pretty sure the IRS believes that no exchange of money should ever happen unless they get a piece of the action.

But that isn't all. The IRS has barter laws. Whenever items or services with FMV are traded, the IRS is supposed to get a cut. (I don't think this is strictly enforced, if at all)

So every time items are traded online, the trade is taxable, and the company running the game should issue a 1099 to both players. Every time.

The IRS also has laws covering prizes. So when a player gets an item for defeating some monster, guess what? 1099 time!

I wonder if selling items at shops could also be taxable.

I think the IRS should run with this, it would be a big new source of income for the US government.

Good thing I don't play MMORPG's. Have fun with that, Tim, Caleb, and Paul.


UPDATE: I read the above article. I do have it right. Cool!


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

on Beliefs

Phil put a post about things he doesn't believe on his craziness blog. Here is the list. Remember these are things he does NOT believe. Text like this are my comments.

  • in Space Aliens --- I am open to the possibility of extraterrestrial life, if he means alien abductions, or any other kind of visitation, then I agree

  • that the moon landings were staged (so I do believe that we actually went to the moon) --- I agree, check out Bad Astronomy for a thorough refutation of the Moon Landing Hoax

  • that the Holocaust never happened (It most certainly did) --- again I agree, read Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World or Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Strange Things

  • that drugs are harmless (I don't like any form of chemical body/mind manipulation including most pharmaceuticals) --- I agree, drugs are not harmless, but 'no drugs' is at least as harmful

  • that violence, pornography, and vulgarity on tv, in movies, and in music is harmless (it has a major impact on behavior - and I don't just mean for kids - it affects all people) --- I only sort of agree, I think these things are symptoms, not causes

  • that promiscuity can be safe and harmless --- see my previous response

  • that abortion is different than murder --- sorry, I have to disagree on this one

  • that everything is all well and good with the world --- I agree, but I don't think it's really that much worse than it ever was, there are just more people and much better media coverage

  • that technology makes our world a safer/cleaner/better place --- Wow, I really disagree here

  • that people are basically good (perhaps more on this later) --- I agree

  • that Satan is not real --- I disagree, I think people created the idea of Satan to shift blame off of themselves. If they did it on their own, they're evil; if Satan made them do it, they only had a moment of weakness.

  • that Demons and Angels aren't real (perhaps more on this later) --- I disagree, most claims of angel (or demon) sightings are virtually identical to claims of alien abduction, again, read Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World or Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Strange Things

  • that Jesus was a good teacher, but not the Messiah and not Divine (definitely more on this later) --- I disagree, I'm not even convinced that the Biblical Jesus was all that great a teacher

  • in Buddha --- I do not believe in his divinity, but as a person Buddha is at least as plausible as Jesus

  • that Muslims worship the same God as Christians - or that Islam is another path to the same God --- Really? According to the Koran the Islamic nation was founded by Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. He also appears in the Bible, as the son of Abraham and Hagar. The last we see of Ishmael in the Bible, God promises to make a great nation from him. (Gen. 21:18) Jesus (thus Christianity) descended from Abraham through Isaac, Abraham's son by Sarah.

  • that there is any path to God/salvation other than through Jesus Christ --- Whatever. *yawn*

  • that the medieval Crusaders had God's blessing --- I agree, but clearly for a different reason

  • that God advocates violence towards non-christians today --- I agree, but again, clearly for a different reason

  • that Islam does not advocate violence or that it is a peaceful religion --- This applies to any religious fundamentalism

  • that "the experts" know what they're talking about --- I agree, argument from authority is always suspect. *cough*PatRobertson*cough*

  • that being published in a magazine or writing a best selling book means that you are right --- I agree

  • that you are right because any number of other people agree with you --- I agree

  • that non-experts must be wrong if they disagree with the experts --- I agree

  • that there is any living person who does not make mistakes --- or ever was

  • in the theory of Evolution (more specifically biological Macroevolution) --- Yeah, right. Remember Behe's smirk and handwave dismissal of a pile of research data? Whatever.

  • that the Earth could have maintained a habitable environment for millions or billions of years --- Why not? Really, I'd like to hear the evidence for Young Earth Creationism. Real, hard evidence, not just some pronouncement from thousands of years ago. Remember that argument from authority thing? Why is that ancient creation myth true, and all other ancient creation myths false? This page also has a bunch of flood and afterlife myths.
Random thought - In the late 1700's and early 1800's religious fundamentalists were vehemently opposed to lightning rods. Apparently they were "an attempt to thwart God's will."

I'm sorry that many relatives of mine who might read this will be very offended. I'm not sorry for my beliefs, just that some people will be offended by them (and maybe take this post as a personal attack. It isn't).


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A random thought


1) Abraham and Sarah left Canaan because of a famine. They came back.
2) Isaac (son of A&S) and Rebekkah left Canaan because of a famine. They came back.
3) Jacob (AKA Israel, son of I&R) and his sons left Canaan because of a famine. They didn't come back.
4) God told Moses he would give the Israelites a land "flowing with milk and honey." What land was that? Canaan.

Think about it.


He had someone else call.

Right after I finished the last post, some woman called for Carolyn. I could hear "SG" in the background. I'm not sorry to say that I don't regret that I was extremely rude.


Phone moron

This is a phone conversation I just had:

Me: Hello?
Some Guy(SG): Carolyn? (This Carolyn must be scary masculine, if she sounds like me)
Me: I'm sorry you have the wrong number.
SG: Carolyn isn't in? (Oh, no)
Me: There's no Carolyn living here.
SG: When will she be back? (Unnghhh...)
Me: Wrong number.
SG: I need to talk to Carolyn. (If I were telepathic, this guy would have had an aneurism about now)
Me: You called the wrong number. Please do not do it again. Goodbye. (I hung up)

Are there really people this stupid in the world? Yes, there are. I used to work at a convenience store in State College, PA. Not a day went by when I didn't get depressed thinking that all the idiots that came through would have (or had, a lot were PSU alumni) better jobs than I ever would. I have a really good job now, but I bet it's still true.


What's up with my spam filter?

A lot (and I do mean a lot) of spam has been getting through to my gmail inbox since I moved. My email address hasn't changed, and I can't see why my IP address should matter. Weird.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Lunatic fringe

I was listening to the radio while driving between wellsites the other day. There was this guy being interviewed about the State of the Union address. He started out sounding like a pretty normal political commentator. He was soon sliding into the lunatic fringe, then dropped way, way off the deep end. Go here and see what I mean. Be sure to check out the crap advertised in his sidebars. I wish that I could believe it's all a joke.


Current state of my life

I got my first paycheck here Friday. So I went to Wells Fargo (it's less than a block from my house - yes, that is how I chose my bank) and opened an account. Moron that I sometimes am, however, I didn't think that I might need some cash for the weekend, and that my new account wouldn't be available until early this week (tomorrow in fact). So although I have plenty of money in theory, I am, for all intents and purposes, broke. Until tomorrow. I could probably go to the grocery store and cash a check, but I still have a little money left in my account back in Greybull. Not much, but enough that I can get the stuff I need for supper tonight and lunch tomorrow. I have been living on PB&J and Ramen soup for over two weeks now. I am looking forward to some real grocery shopping after work tomorrow.