30 September 2005


Here is a good article from Lawyers, Guns, and Money about trying to interpret the Constitution according to "original intent." I can think of several other documents to which this argument should be applied...

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29 September 2005


As I drove down twelfth today, a white dove flew out of a tree, flapped around, and disappeared into the leaves of the tree. It's obviously a sign! It must mean something! Possibly, it means that there's a white dove flying around Pocatello. AHA! A Sign!!! (Hmmm...perhaps honey-lemon-garlic tea has an effect on me similar to chocolate...)

Oh, and someone took down my sign in the math center. It's normally full of supposedly encouraging signs like "I use math everyday!" I discovered that the letters in that one could be rearranged to "Die, heavy stray emu!" So I stuck that in with the enouragement sign yesterday. It was gone today. So I shall have to come up with a new and more insane anagram! HA! Take that evil sign-taker-downers!

(Side note on that: one of my stats students was there while I was figuring out that anagram. I wrote out the letters on a copy of the Bengal, tore them so that each letter had its own piece of paper, and rearranged them like Scrabble tiles. My student had apparently been watching me and said, "You're not bored, are you?" :-)

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More news (but less than my last news post)

Here's someone suggesting coal into oil. While this is an intriguing idea, it suffers from one of the author's own criticisms of oil: there's only a finite amount of coal as well. It would decrease dependence on foreign oil, however, and perhaps buy us some time to get actual alternatives working (solar, wind, hydrogen... whichever turns out to be most cost-efficient).

And here's a religious criticism of government programs reimbursing churches for helping out in society. I am pleased that the good reverend recognizes it was Jefferson who was most adamant about keeping a separation between church and state. For some reason, I'm reminded of a quote from Dune: "When politics and religion ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows."

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28 September 2005

Symphony of the Mouse

Well, first the mouse. Last night when I went over to my parents' house after teaching my evening class, Ji'e'toh (our cat) was acting strange: jumpy and jittery. I just figured something had spooked her. I found out tonight that she had brought a mouse into the house. Likely it was still alive during my visit. At about 4:00 am this morning, Ji'e'toh woke my mom up with some hideous howling: the mouse was finally dead, and I think she was complaining about the broken "toy". My mom was not happy.

Then this afternoon, I was covering one of Fibonacci's regular students. I knew she was in Math 025 and would be in the library lounge around 16:45. I got there around 16:55 (late due to taiji), and looked around for someone with a Math 025 book, not realizing they'd switched books this semester. Eventually I just asked if anyone was there waiting for a tutor (got a 253 taker, but I knew he wasn't the one). Then someone told me she'd just left. I missed her, but the same helpful someone said she (Sally) was headed for the Math Center. So I headed to the math center, and somehow beat her there. Anyway, she got her tutoring in, and was quite pleased.

This evening was ISU's first symphony concert, so I bolted down some food and waited for my mom to pick me up. It was pretty good. The first song (Schumann's Symphony 3 in E-flat major) was strange. Schumann is clearly a German name; all the song labels were German; Schumann wrote the thing in Germany. So can someone explain to me why the music sounded French? The fourth movement sounded vaguely Austrian, but the rest sounded French, not German. I liked the fourth movement better than the rest, but overall I didn't care for it. The second (and last) song was much better. It was Bruch's Concerto for violin #1 in G minor. First off, it's minor. I always prefer minor music. Second, the violin soloist was awesome. Bruch is also German, and his music actually sounded, well, German. Though, strangely, bits and pieces sounded like melodies from Phantom of the Opera. Not sure if that's coincidence or not.

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Meaningless Coincidences

Well, yesterday at the math center I was rambling about a giant octopus. Then I got home and found out someone had finally observed a live giant squid. Pretty cool. They've been trying to see one of these guys alive for many years.

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27 September 2005

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Interesting book. Better than The Magician's Nephew, which precedes it chronologically though was written later. Some very obvious Christian symbolism. While I enjoyed it, my main complaint is about how little detail there is. I guess I've been spoiled by Robert Jordan; I like lots of detail. I don't like "and there was a battle and the witch was killed." I like page upon page of description of fighting and tactics. Admittedly this is a children't book, but I still feel this could have been done better. (Incidentally, I feel the same way about battles in LoTR)

Speaking of Robert Jordan, I can now see some parts in The Eye of the World clearly inspired by LWW. Most notably, the part where Rand and company hide in the prepared shelter by the river while the Draghkar and Myrdraal search for them, and the way the Aes Sedai washes away everyone's fatigue; in LWW it was a healing draught. Also (to a lesser extent) in the way the Nym acted after they found the Eye of the World, addressing Rand as "Child of the Dragon."

I guess I have one more complaint, but it's a universal complaint against many, many books. It's the portrayal of absolute good and evil. Robert Jordan manages to use this element in a way that I find believable. Most authors don't. I'm not sure what the difference is... I have a guess. In LWW, it's made clear that evil is an aberration (especially if you read The Magician's Nephew first) in the world. In the Wheel of Time, it is not, precisely. "Good and evil are the woof and weave of the Pattern." People can try to be good yet wind up serving the purposes of evil, and vice versa. I don't like simplifications of good v. evil. They make no logical sense, especially if either side is allowed to "win."

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In the News

While tons of people are screaming "Vietnam!" here's someone quietly saying "Afghanistan." This is well worth reading.

And in the weird yet disturbing category, North Korea doesn't want tourist in South Korea visiting tunnels the North dug, planning to use them to infiltrate the south.

A strange game. I feel like I'm missing something here...

And today is Banned Book Day. Here's a list of the most frequently challenged book from 1990-2000. Sad to say, I have only read 7 of them and seen a movie based on one other. Some of them aren't surprising (references to sex and homosexuality). Some of them are insane.

This one surprised me. It seems there's some data showing that strong belief in God tends to make societies have lower life expectancies and (possibly) higher murder rates, at Pharyngula. I don't see much on the homicide graph. It looks fairly flat with two outliers. The life expectancy graph is another story. Bear in mind that association does not imply causation, but I wonder what the confounding variables might be... The comments have some good links to original materials and commentaries on the study.

Also from Pharyngula: A case of evolution correctly predicting the number of mutations in DNA.

A clarification from Juan Cole on an article advocating withdrawal from Iraq: "I should clarify that as several diarists noted, I do believe that the US has a duty to manage the withdrawal so as not to provoke a massive civil war. I suspect that can be done with a combination of continued training and arming of the new Iraqi army and air power. For those who say there is not way to prevent massive civil war and a million dead, I'd just suggest that that level of fatalism is not helpful or necessary or even perhaps moral. American liberals tend to believe that no form of military force is ever useful, which is rather an odd belief for non-pacifists and in light of the obvious usefulness it has had on a number of occasions in dealing with fascists, thugs and other people who use force and need to be opposed with force."

A suggestion that we could trap CO2 and store it to keep it out of the atmosphere.

A discussion of whether global warming played a role in Katrina. Answer? A definite maybe.

An interesting analysis of anti-gay hypocracy. Pity he didn't get anyone quoting Leviticus at him.

And a book that objects to politicians (mostly republican) treating science as something to spin and twist.

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25 September 2005

Benjamin Lo

Well, I survived Ben Lo's taiji workshop (he was complaining about students who made shirts that declared as much, worrying that it would drive other potential students away:-). I got a lot more out of it this year than I did last year. Last year, my legs were in so much pain that I had very little room to absorb any actual information. This year, I got a different level of corrections (and more corrections; I was closer to the front, where he could see me more easily). I did NOT hear "bend hip joint" directed my way very often. I did hear "you got to sink LOWER," and yesterday that was feasible. Today, it was semifeasible, but then I would rise up without even realizing it. My legs had declared a rebellion.

Anyway, I find it interesting that Ben Lo is a Christian (no clue what denomination). He's from China originally, and went with Cheng man Ching to Taiwan (I think; possibly Ben Lo was already in Taiwan). Benjamin is not his birth name; it's likely that it's the name he took at baptism. I had been assuming it was a matter of convenience: something that Americans could pronounce easily. *shrugs* But I started reflecting on the people I know who do taiji regularly. Two Taoists (including me); two protestants; one Mormon; a Tibetan Buddhist; two Jews; a lapsed agnostic. I suspect a large number of Bataan's students are also Buddhist, but I don't know that for certain (Bataan teaches at the Naropa institute, which was founded by Buddhists). I've been told that Cheng man Ching was roughly 70% Confucianist and 30% Taoist. It's interesting to see that much diversity in such a small sample. I do feel obligated to point out that the principles of Taiji are largely based on Taoist thought, yet the principles of traditional Chinese teaching are largely based on Confucianist thought.

Anyway, what did I learn at the workshop? Well, I learned that I can sink farther than I realized was possible (in some places, at least), and that my legs are a heckuva lot stronger than they were a year ago. I also learned that I have a bad tendency to lean when my legs get tired (I got no corrections for leaning yesterday; today was another story entirely). More importantly, I got a huge dose of humble pie. You need that every so often in taiji, or you start thinking you're better than you are. At least, I need it every so often, and Don tells me the same thing. (Oh, and we DID cover the second third of the form; we even talked some about the LAST third. :-)

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24 September 2005

Taiji Workshop

I'll be out of town until Sunday night or afternoon (depending on how well my legs hold up). There's a Ben Lo workshop down in Logan, supposedly focusing on the second third of the form. How to explain the significance to non-taijiplayers... Well, my teacher has several times gone to private lessons and specifically asked to work on the last third of the form. They say, "Sure, ok, but let's go through it from the beginning once." So Don starts going through the form. "No, no, gotta stop ya; can't let that go." They never get to the last third. Also, Cheng man Ching died before he gave the final word on how the last third should be done. He had gone through the first and second thirds in great detail, so most students do them pretty much the same. But since he never finished the last third, there are lots of variations in it. So we'll see if Ben Lo actually lets us work on the second third, or if he stops us in disgust during the first third. :-)

I'll have my cell phone with me if anyone needs to get a hold of me, but it will probably be turned off during the workshop itself.

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23 September 2005

My Disney Alter Ego

Apparently, I'm secretly Peter Pan:

You scored as Peter Pan. Your alter ego is Peter Pan. You are a child at heart. Anything you believe is possible, and you never want to grow up.

Peter Pan






The Beast


Sleeping Beauty






Donald Duck


Cruella De Ville


Snow White


Which Disney Character is your Alter Ego?
created with QuizFarm.com

Of the listed choices, I'd say that's the most accurate. :-)

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22 September 2005

Alphabetic Rings

First, a note that my DSL was dead most of yesterday. We managed to resuscitate it this morning. The tech I talked to last night was not very helpful, for two reasons: (1) Her English was poor; I had trouble understanding her and she had trouble understanding me; (2) She didn't know much more than I did (or she was incapable of communicating what she did know, which had the same effect). So this morning I called back. The DSL light had finally gone solid, but the internet light wasn't even blinking. After a few false starts, the tech this morning had me reenter my IP address and other related info, and then it worked just fine. The tech this morning was great. Her English was good, and she clearly knew what she was doing. (Average on Qwest techs? 2 very helpful, 1 moderately helpful, 1 not at all helpful) So I'm back up and running now.

Since my DSL was dead for the night, I actually watched a new tv show last night. E-Ring. So far as I know, this is a new show. It was interesting, but cliche-ridden. Let's count the cliches:
1. New guy reminds the old crew of their original ideals
2. New guy has to play fast and loose with the rules
3. Old guys start out completely intractable, but then mellow
4. Made sure the operative in danger was female, scared, and crying
5. There's always one total jerk in the "old guys" faction, shut down either by the new guy or by a more compassionate old guy
6. Rescue in the nick of time (right before a Chinese satellite passed overhead)

There were probably others, but those were the obvious ones (note that I missed the first ten minutes or so). Now, I have no clue how the pentagon actually works, but they got stuff moving awfully quickly for a huge bureaucracy. Maybe that is sometimes possible, but it seemed unrealistic. It didn't help that blaring, patriotic music kept booming while we saw six signatures applied on whatever document authorized the rescue mission. And as soon as they got the microchip from the operative, they were able to load it in and read it and conclude "Yes! The Chinese DO have a stealth sub!" It seems a bit of a stretch that a military sub would have a machine to read a CIA microchip, especially since the sub was mainly chosen because it was already near the extraction point. Maybe that was covered at the beginning; I don't know. It seems less likely that a moment's glance at the plans would confirm stealth technology. A more subdued, "Commander, this could definitely be stealth techonology. See here and here?" would have been more believable than the sudden certainty. An expert in sub design would need to analyze the plans to be sure.

It was an interesting show, so I might watch it again if I'm bored on a Wednesday night. I hope that it gets away from the more obvious cliches, however. Parts of it felt so much like a parody, I was half-expecting to see a Weird-Al video when they pulled the info off the chip.

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21 September 2005


I had an interesting experience while meditating this morning. On some level I was trying to get back to that feeling of my mind encompassing the universe that I had once in a dream. Then some part of me remembered that trying is bad, and the words "do or do not; there is no try" started floating around in my head. As soon as they did, I felt something start to rotate. I helped it along, rotating it through ninety degrees, and came very close to the feeling in my dream. It wasn't quite the same; I think there must be another axis of rotation somewhere in there.

Back in normal, waking consciousness, I wonder what the axes represent. There's certainly no physical axis such as the one I found in my mind. So somehow I'm moving perpendicularly to all the regular, physical dimensions. *sighs* And now I've probably analyzed it to the point that I'll never find the axis again. Ah well. Such is life.

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18 September 2005

War of the Worlds

A very good movie. Tom Cruise remains a good actor on the screen, even if he has become a raving lunatic off the screen.

I like that it focuses just on one family. That was part of what I liked about "Signs" as well, but WoW was much more intense. Also, we got to see bits and pieces of the global picture, instead of only seeing the family's plight.

Now, disaster movies like this are one step away from horror movies. This one was a very small step. One woman commented as she was leaving the theater "Wasn't that scary? I don't think I'll sleep tonight!" I sort of blinked at her and smiled vaguely. I was not frightened during the movie. Wary, perhaps even nervous, but never frightened. Why? Probably because I'm an analyzer. I don't react emotionally to situations; I analyze and plan and predict. I would probably be a good person to have around during a crisis. I would be the one calmly gathering food together while everyone else panicked. Parts of the movie did have an emotional effect on me, but it lasted only until the next crisis. Then it was time to think, so emotions served no purpose. And, yes, this was only a movie, but I have done the same thing in real life situations. I drop into alert mode, and there I stay.

Okay, back to the movie itself. I liked that they kept the original opening and ending. Modernized slightly, but by and large identical to the H.G. Wells book. There was one scene where we saw them take out a tripod (I won't spoil how), and I had to wonder whether it would have worked if the creatures weren't already suffering from that which would eventually defeat them. (Probably no point in avoiding spoilers at this point, but I'll try anyway)

One thing I couldn't help was comparing the destruction depicted in the movie to that wrought by Katrina. Now, Katrina didn't have vaporizing lasers; nor did it have vacuum tubes to suck the fluids out of people; but she destroyed a city nonetheless. And we saw firsthand that some people become violent when all hell breaks loose, as some did in the movie. They did a good job (in the movie) of presenting the difficulties of a rescue effort as well. Do you wait until the last minute, putting everyone at risk, or do you take off with what you've got and hope you can save those already in? Similar decisions were likely made with Katrina, and, sadly, it was human beings firing on rescue vehicles. *sighs*

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Post Modern WHAT?

I ran across a quiz to tell me what kind of postmodernist I was. Now, I don't really consider myself a postmodernist, but the quiz was rather amusing. Here are my results:

You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the
postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
articles for breakfast. You positively live
for theory. It really doesn't matter what
kind, as long as the words are big and the
paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

There's an "adults only" warning before you can take the quiz, but that is likely because it has some suggestive questions. There was nothing there that I found offensive, however. Just...odd. As long as you have a sense of humor, you aren't likely to be offended either.

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17 September 2005

Taji Matrix of Food

I had an odd thought on the way back from Idaho Falls today. Presumably, everyone knows the premise of the Matrix: human beings trapped in cocoons and used as a power source, experiencing an artificial reality in their minds. Okay, find, but what about food and weight gain?

See, the bodies of the people in the Matrix never consume food. Presumably their cocoon provides nutrients. So far so good, but is there a feedback system with how much they eat/exercise in the Matrix? It seems unlikely. Most likely, the machines calculate the ideal amount of nutrients to provide to keep the person's body at maximum energy production. So the person's real body never gains weight. What about their virtual body? If they eat a lot of virtual food and don't exercise, will the virtual body get fat, or is the virtual body a direct reflection of the real body and thus never changing? The movie suggests that the virtual body is identical to the real one.
With that in mind, the current obesity epidemic would indicate that we are definitely NOT in the Matrix. :-)

And on the way to Idaho Falls, Melissa and I saw a UFO. That is, we saw something flying around in the air, but weren't sure what it was. Most likely, it was a helicopter. It swooped around rather erratically and seemed capable of hovering in one place. Then it disappeared into a cloud. All we really saw was a shiny speck moving around in the clouds until it disappeared. Hence, it was a UFO. :-)

I seem to be going in random order, but I met Don's new taiji student this morning. He came last week (when I stayed home to sleep), and I heard about him later from Mark. His form needs quite a bit of work, but his push hands is surprisingly good. He has a very, very, stable stance. He said he'd been doing taiji for 10 years, but for the last 5 he hasn't had any instruction. For the non-taiji players, most people fall into weird/bad habits and errors when they don't get correction for a while. That's not to say that everyone's form is the same, but there are 10 fundamental principles we follow (from the Yang family) plus five more that Cheng man Ching added on for his version of the form. Without correction, people tend to lose one or more of the principles. (I might post them at some point, but not now)

Now, in general, they say you should practice taiji twice a day. That is, at minimum, do the form once in the morning and once in the evening. As lousy as I was feeling last week, I didn't do that. Not even close. My body was telling me "no" and I tend to listen when my body says that, especially since most of the time, taiji makes my body feel better. The funny thing is that this morning, I did not feel like I had done myself any damage by not practicing much this week. In fact, I found myself approaching it with a better center. I have found that an occasional, short break sometimes helps me advance, and I'm not sure why. *shrugs*

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15 September 2005


Well, a few things of note for today.

Overheard conversation: "It's not like money's a problem. I mean, my parents pay for everything."

I'm wearing my tie-dyed socks (again; lazy me). A student said she had a pair just like them. I found mine in Colorado (organic cotton, no less). Apparently she found hers in Eugene, Oregon. However, if I ever get around to tie-dying the rest of my white socks, no one will have any quite like them! Mua-ha-ha-ha-hahhhhhh!

And on the way to my evening office hour, I was driving down 12th when an older guy just walked out into the street. He stayed in the opposite lane, but I thought he might go straight in front of me. He stood in the middle of the lane, raised a camera and took a picture of the end of the street (including a pick up in that lane headed toward him). Then he turned around and took a picture of the opposite end of the street, turned again and walked back to the sidewalk. I found this rather odd.

And I almost forgot. As I was walking back to my car this afternoon, I cut through a parking lot. There was a red SUV. It pulsated in my vision, like a heart beating. Presumably, it was a pulse in my eye affecting my vision, but it looked like the SUV was literally pulsating.

ADDENDUM: As usual after getting finished with teaching, I went over to my parents' house. My mom's got Camerata practice in Tuesday and church choir on Thursday, so she hasn't been there lately. It's been me, Dad, and Ji'e'toh. I had a feeling I shouldn't go tonight, but went anyway. Nothing obviously bad happened, but my dad's tone of voice... I don't know if I would have preferred to slink away or hurt him, but I was not happy. What I actually did was smile and maintain a normal frame of voice. See, I borrowed his shop-vac a month or so ago. He wants it back. Fine. It's his. His tone of voice said he resented loaning it out in the first place. I have decided that I will never, ever, ask to borrow anything of his again. Nor will I ask for his help, barring a desperate situation. Now, here's the worst part. Things got better for a while, once he'd gotten distracted from the vacuum. As I left, I promised to return it tomorrow. The ugly tone of voice returned, as did a sense of negative energy. I have seen him a lot worse, but I have never seen him shift back and forth like that.

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News and Rambling

I've spent most of the last couple of days giving and grading tests. I've got the first batch graded (statistics) and now have two sets of algebra tests to grade. My evening students might get their tests back tonight, or they might get them next week. *shrugs*

My cold got over the acute phase this weekend, when I could just sleep whenever I felt like it. It's not completely gone, but I no longer have a fever and my head doesn't feel like it's going to explode. (Incidentally, the brown rice "granola" bars I found brought the fever down almost instantly; I discovered this summer that eating them makes me cold, so I figured it might work on a fever. It did.)

Not much else happening with me. Here's an article that claims preserving the environment is cost effective. I'd like to see more detail on how they're figuring this, but it's a slap in the face to all the quickie profiteers, so I hope it's correct. And here's one about a guy making fuel from dead cats. Now, I object to killing cats specifically for fuel, but given how many get euthanized at shelters each year, why not recycle them? And in Australia, where cats are a major threat to their native species, it would be perfect. (For the record, I love cats. But once they're dead, they're dead.) It would be nice to see a cost comparison with, say, bio-diesel. All but one or two articles agree that bio-diesel is cost-effective. The ones that didn't were sponsored, big surprise, by oil companies. Slight conflict of interest there.

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12 September 2005

Environmental News

Found a few interesting pieces in my daily news sites. The first is about controlling nuisance animals. Now, I have an environmental bent (or I wouldn't be reading news on "Environmental Network News") but I think this article misses some big points. Bears that get into garbage are only a step away from getting violent towards humans. Starlings reproduce like mad and are a non-native pest (it would be nice to find a dissipative poison for them, though). As many people as we've got right now, there will be conflict with wild species. And there isn't enough wilderness to relocate them all. So some are going to be killed when they run into conflicts. The answer is not to stop killing problem animals, but to stop expanding into their habitat. All urban boundaries should be fixed, as they are. No expansion. We should be building up, not out. Every time I see a wild patch in Pocatello taken over by bulldozers, I want to scream. We've taken too much already.

The second article is more positive, about sustainable harvests. I try to buy organic where I can, but a lot of the foods I use are not available organic, or are so expensive as to be out of reach. The idea of moderation, sustainability, is brilliant. I hope that this moves forward, and I look forward to seeing "sustainable" on labels near the "organic" sections. :-)

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10 September 2005


Out of respect for Aunt Bee, I have chosen not to post this as a comment on her blog.

The first, and most important point, for anyone who feels evolution contradicts their beliefs (whether Christian, Hindu, or whatever) is that before you start trying to find scientific evidence to corroborate your position, you need to understand exactly what evolution says and doesn't say. If you do not, you risk making yourself look like an idiot. It's like deciding to invade Iraq without bothering to get a decent map first. See, there are a lot of Creationist sites and books that say "Look at this!" and triumphantly declare that they've shown evolution is false. Evolutionists look at the same info and either say "So?" or "Geez, they're all idiots," simply because the Creationists have no clue what it is they're actually attacking.

The second point, is why does it matter? Science says one thing. Your beliefs say another. So what? In latching onto science itself to support your faith, you are undermining your own beliefs and indicating to an outside observer that you know your position is weak without science to back it up. If your beliefs are true to you, it should not matter that science disagrees, nor should it matter that your children learn both viewpoints. There are plenty of things that I've experienced that science would dismiss as coincidence or meaningless. I know better. I have no need to vindicate my experiences with science. I am not that insecure.

The third point, is that Creationists are not doing science, even when they try. Before you go all litig on me, let me explain. Scientists are presented with evidence. The evidence suggests a hypothesis. Scientists gather more data to test that hypothesis and either confirm, reject, or modify it. Creationists look at data and try to force it to a preconceived mold. If it does not fit the mold, they reject the data, not the hypothesis. This is not science. Scientists "follow the evidence," as Grissom would say. Creationists try to beat it into submission. (I will be the first to admit that scientists have been guilty of this as well, but at least they have other scientists who can catch that. I have yet to see any Creationists debunk each other. AiG's complaints about Carl Baugh are as near to criticism as Creationists get of each other. See Religious Tolerance for an example of refusal to admit even glaring mistakes.)

The fourth point, is that Creationists don't actually seem to care whether the science they present to people is valid or not. It is more important to them that people believe that it is valid. This is not science. This isn't even pseudoscience. This is garbage.

Now, anyone reading this who is a Creationist is undoubtedly at least annoyed with me, if not angry. And I'm sure you have lots of arguments to show that Creationists are actually doing science. If you can find one not on the Index to Creationist Claims, I'll be very surprised. AiG has one that I haven't seen addressed directly on Talk-Origins, but enough mass to actually create an event horizon around the earth would have left some mark in the record.

I think it is very, very revealing that talk-origins links to nearly every major Creationist site, yet NO Creationist sites link back to it. This does not indicate any openness to dialogue. Science requires dialogue, feedback, and criticism. More importantly, it requires a grounding in the actual subject matter. AiG is the only site I've seen that indicates some Creationist arguments have been discredited. Thus it is the only site I consider even remotely scientific.

As for the trilobyte/sandal issue, that's on talk-origins as well: The Meister Print. This is (of course) not conclusive proof. There is no such thing as conclusive proof beyond observing the event for ourselves.

I can think of lots of other things to say, but I think the last point I need to make is that evolution is not an isolated "theory" of science. It is supported by physics, geology, astronomy, biology, and a host of others that I know little about. Data from disparate disciplines agrees on many critical points that Creationists attack (including the age of the earth). So in attacking evolution, you're attacking all of science. You're attacking the science that allows me to type this missive and allows you to read it and get angry with me. You're attacking the science that allows us to make medicines to treat diseases. You're attacking the science that allows us to blow Iraqis to smithereens with the touch of a button. No one requires you to believe all the conclusions of science to be a good citizen, though. As for me, the trees tell me their memories go back millions of years. And while I am perfectly serious about that, I would never, ever claim that was a scientifically valid reason for anything.

If you don't like the talk-origins scientific bias, look through the evolution material at Religious Tolerance. Just search for evolution and you'll find plenty. They try to be neutral as much as possible, however they are also the source of this little gem:

"A conflict based on the number of fossils observed:

Creation scientists teach that the fossil remains of land animals which have been found trapped in the many rock layers were all actually alive at the time of Noah's flood. These few generations of animals all drowned. Some turned into fossils and were trapped in the layers of sedimentary rock which were laid down during the 150 days of the flood.

With our present knowledge, it appears impossible to harmonize this belief with the actual number of fossils in existence.

Robert Schadewald wrote: "Robert E. Sloan, a paleontologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied the Karroo Formation [in Africa]. He asserts that the animals fossilized there range from the size of a small lizard to the size of a cow, with the average animal perhaps the size of a fox. A minute's work with a calculator shows that, if the 800 billion animals in the Karoo formation could be resurrected, there would be twenty-one of them for every acre of land on earth." 1 That is, if all of the fossils of animals in the Karroo Formation had been alive at one time, were drowned during the flood of Noah, and ended up evenly spaced around the entire land surface of the earth, there would be 21 animals per acre. 2 A very conservative estimate is that there are about 100 fossils elsewhere on earth for each fossil in the Karroo Formation in Africa. Thus, assuming that all of these animals were evenly distributed, there would have been over 2,100 living animals per acre of land - "ranging from tiny shrews to immense dinosaurs" when the flood hit. This is clearly impossible.

To make the creation science story even more unlikely, only a small percentage of animals ever form fossils when they die. Assuming that 1 of each 1,000 land animals is fossilized, (an outrageously high number) then there would have been about 50 land animals per square feet of land wandering around at the time of Noah. The Earth would have been packed "wall-to-wall" with creatures. Animals would have been stacked on other animals to form multiple layers. Even if, as many creation scientists believe, the land area on earth Earth was much greater than it is today -- that is, closer to 100% than to 25% -- the number of animals alive at the time of Noah would have had to be enormous -- massively beyond the ability of the Earth to support.

To make the creation science story even more unlikely, animals could not be evenly distributed around the entire land mass. This means that the piles of animals covering some areas would be even deeper.

Scientists have concluded that the world's fossils came from millions of generations of animal life spread out over many hundreds of millions of years. Since all of the fossils were formed over a very long interval, then only a very tiny fraction of the animals would have been alive at any one time. The Earth could and did accommodate them all."

To my mind, the only way for Creationist views to be correct is if God deliberately planted false evidence in His Creation. This is also known as the "lying God" hypothesis, and that sums up my opinion of it. *sighs and wonders when the flamethrowers will hit*

ADDENDUM: I put a more philosophical view on my Taoist blog. Note that the only absolute in Taoism is that there are no absolutes. :-)

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07 September 2005

All animal show hosts are insane.

Example 1: Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Ummm... Enough said.

Example 2: Jeff Corwin. Makes toads do yoda impressions and pretends to eat poison dart frogs. Also tends to play his own insane cousin and run from himself. Sometimes amusing, sometimes...just...weird. Quote from tonight's episode as Jeff is talking to his camera crew and using a stick to handle a large rattlesnake: "Guys, you might want to get back unless you want him in your lap."

Example 3: Ruud of Bugging with Ruud. Tonight he looked at dangerous bugs in Australia. Any ant species that he encountered was encouraged to climb on him and bite him. One species (weaver ant) sprayed formic acid in his eyes. He rather regretted the very last ant (I forget the name, but it was a type of bull ant and the largest ant in Australia, getting to be over an inch long). He yelped at each bite, and was in tears even after he'd gotten them all off. On the bright side, he used an aboriginal herb to make it hurt less (some sort of fern). Then he said something like, "Oh, much better," looking very relieved. "Now it just feels like an ordinary bee sting." On the bright side, he did not encourage venomous spiders to bite him, but was rather cavlier in handling them (including the notorious Sydney funnel web).

Any I've missed?

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In the news...

First bit, I seem to have acquired a cold. This is quite annoying. So far it's in the sore throat and muddled head stage. I just ate two cloves of raw garlic (potent antiviral and antibacterial) in the hopes of heading it off. If you've never eaten raw garlic, try it. It's an experience. I like hot foods, but I don't care for the burning in my mouth, throat, and ears from raw garlic. If there is no improvement by tonight, I plan to eat two more raw cloves of garlic.

Second bit, there's a grass that they may be able to use as a replacement for fossil fuels. I thought this was pretty cool. The cynical side of me wonders whether Bush will make it illegal.

Third bit, this comic is quite entertaining.

The last (and longest) bit comes from Direct NIC, maintained by a former member of the Special Forces who's holding out in New Orleans. This one just cracked me up:
"6:14 am
Last Night
Sometime around midnight, a squad of 82nd Airborne guys accompanied by a US Marshall busted into our Data Center with their M4-A1s to investigate the lights and movement. Personally, I know they were just bored -- there's no way they honestly thought there was some kind of threat up here just yards away from several huge military and police presences. Anyway, they came up and demanded to account for us all. That means they told Donny, who was still up, to come wake up Crys and me in the side closet room type area where we sleep. I could hear Donny telling them that I was exSpecial Forces as he came to get me. He stuck his head in and explained the situation while I made Crys get up and get dressed. We came out and I gave the Marshall a sheepish look which said was this really enough fun for to relieve your boredom? He kind of knew they shouldn't be up here -- I think it was Crystal's being here which really made him snap out of it. He began apologizing and I could tell the yound soldiers with him were really shy about having seen Crystal come out too.

But I didn't let them all off that easily. "Hey, I understand. I know you guys are just doing your job." He kept apologizing. Then I put them to work. "So wait, how did you get up here anyway? We locked this building down....

The Marshall claimed that one of the emergency exits -- the one on the Lafayette Square side had been open. I knew this was bullshit. For one thing, Sig and I tied down and concealed that door. It would have taken a group of guys to open it. For another Lafayette Square is to the south of our building. The only lights visisble are from Poydras to the north. Am I to believe that they bypassed the obvious entrances (also locked down) to look for one they didn't even know existed and it just happened to be open?

No, they searched for a way in, and by the time they got around back and found the emergency exit, they were ready to break in, so they did.

"Wait, we secured that exit. That means that this building might have other people in it," I told them.

They all knew what was coming next. If it was their job to check on lights and movement to look for people who didn't belong there....

I asked them to sweep the building for us.

And they did. All 27 floors of it with no elevators.

If you want to play soldier with me, I will make you play it a lot longer than you had in mind.

Crystal and I went back to bed secure in the knowledge that a US Marshall and a squad from the 82nd Airborne cleared 27 floors and the roof of our temporary residence. And then they secured the door they must have spent 45 minutes breaking into.

Most restful sleep I've had all week.

Good morning, world."

Now, if only I had slept that well... :-D

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05 September 2005

Fishing and Smithing

Well, I didn't wind up making turkey stew. Why? Because it would have been $10 for enough turkey, whereas I could get more frozen tuna for about $6. So I made fish stew, a first for me. I put a red bell pepper and an orange one in, along with a bunch of radishes, a bok choy, two sweet potatoes, a turnip, and some brown rice. Bok choy, btw, is kind of like a cross between cabbage and celery in both appearance and taste. It's actually pretty good, but I suspect I'm going to get tired of it before it's gone. If so, I'll try to freeze it for emergency meals later on. This is the first time I can remember not putting garlic into a stew...but it just didn't sound good with the fish. Funny, but I hated tuna while I was growing up, but we never had anything but the canned variety. A year or two ago I tried a tuna filet and discovered that it actually tastes good when it hasn't been ruined by canning.

And last night I went to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith. It's a lot of fun. Not very plausible in places (how do agencies that go around shooting up residential neighborhoods expect to remain secret?!??!?), but still a ton of fun. I think my favorite conversation is when they're hashing out their marital problems in the middle of a high-speed chase. "We're gonna have to redo every conversation we ever had!" Or when their captive asks, "Who are you people?" Hilarious. (Random related thought: if James Bond really existed, he'd be the worst spy in the world, because he draws too much attention to himself. He'd make an excellent decoy, however. :-)

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Things to Ponder...

Click for a harsh political cartoon, that makes a good point yet completely misses another. Since the point is clear, I'll address the miss. We lost a whole lot of infrastructure down in the south, especially oil-producing/refining infrastructure. You think gas prices are bad now? Wait until we start running out. Pre-Katrina production exceeded the max at most facilities, and prices were still going up due to the high demand (morons who don't need SUV's but think they're cool, anyone?). Now we've lost a whole lot of our capacity. If we don't take steps to reduce consumption, things will get worse. Fine, I despise Bush. But that is one of his rare USEFUL messages. Think about it: an oil baron asking people to reduce oil consumption. Wow! He might not be as brainless as I thought!

And just because the comments/discussion is interesting, here is a largely atheist response to Katrina. If you get disgusted by the flagrant anti-religious attitudes, keep reading. A moderate steps up to point out that (1)most of the aid is coming from religious organizations (2)the religious nuts tend to be more vocal and stand out, (3)it is possible to be religious without being a lunatic (that may be a separate comment from the first). Having been on both sides of the atheist/god debate at different points in my life, I can relate to most of the comments. At one time, I had an unhealthy helping of antitheism in my system, and many of the comments on that site illustrate my prior attitudes perfectly. What happened to me? Well, I stepped out of the system entirely (I might post more about this on my other blog at some point; it's already gone off-topic here).

Just some final thoughts. There are some (many?) things that the hardcore atheists and antitheists just don't get. They don't understand how people can praise God that they are alive and not condemn Him for the destruction. This tells me that they are too attached to the past. They cannot let go of what has come before and embrace what is now. The past is dead, and the future never comes. Now is all we have. Now, in this moment, people have survived. Now, in this moment, they are being rescued, evacuated, relocated. That is something to be thankful for.

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04 September 2005

Toothpaste, band-aids, and clippers

I just got back from helping the local Methodist Church pack care packages for Katrina refugees. FYI if you happen to be involved in a similar effort, the things we ran out of the most quickly were toothpaste, band-aids, and clippers. So buy lots of those. Next I think was towels. We had tons of combs and washcloths left over. For my part, I also made a $50 donation to the Red Cross (after which my mom told me I should have donated to UMCOR, because they don't take stuff out for administrative costs; I would want to do research before believing her). At any rate, as the only person carrying a pocket knife, I mostly cut tags off of towels and washcloths. Most of the towels were in bunches, so they HAD to be cut apart, and it seemed best to cut the tags off the singletons as well. My other contribution was to suggest using the leftover grocery bags to keep the clothespins together (someone had gone to search for ziplocs, but the grocery bags were already there).

It seemed strange to me that nearly everyone there was elderly, probably retired. There were only about five younger adults (including me and my mom), and a few gradeschool-age kids. Now, if my mom hadn't mentioned it to me, I wouldn't even have known about it, but as soon as I heard I wanted to help. And surely the church members aren't 75% retirees. Something's off there. It might be as simple as Sunday school not officially starting back up again yet, so people weren't there to hear the announcement. *shrugs* Or maybe it's because of Labor Day weekend. Who knows. Whatever the reason, it struck me as odd.

Addendum: Here's another source for info directly from New Orleans: Survival of New Orleans

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Local Happenings

On a more local front, I had an odd experience yesterday. I was at Fred Meyer, looking for inspiration for what kind of stew to make this week (I'm thinking turkey), when a woman came up to me and began telling me about how she'd had to put her dog down the day before. She was acting like I was someone she knew, but I'd never seen her before in my life. She was an inch or two taller than I am, with dark brown hair to the middle of her back. It hung loose around her shoulders like a cloak. Her face was slightly rounded, with a round nose. When she spoke, I saw that her teeth were very crooked. The bottom row almost formed a wave, and the top row managed to match it so that the teeth closed evenly. She had that soft, almost childish voice that some women adopt (the gods alone know why). I listened while she poured out the story of her dog (her baby) who always went whitewater rafting with them. The day before she "went bad," someone had asked them if she was a puppy. "No. She's ten years old." On Friday, the dog had cried all night, and couldn't even stand on her own. So they decided it was time.

It was a sad story, but I honestly don't know why she decided to tell me. I listened, nodded, and made encouraging noises. When I thought she had finished, I slowly made my way away from her and told her to take care. I suppose she was hurting and just needed someone to talk to. She did show me a picture of the dog (a beautiful husky; almost looked like a wolf), so presumably she realized I wasn't someone she knew. I'm honestly not sure.

On a happier front, I finally got the cords sorted out on my computer desk. The desk has wheels on it (handy for a manic furniture rearranger like me), but the cords kept getting caught in the wheels. So I put a cord "pocket" across the back, attached a velcro fastener, and got out a lot of twist ties. Now the only cords that hang off of it are the phone cord (for the DSL) and two USB extension cords (so I don't have to pull out the desk to plug stuff into the back). These are easier to manage than the dozen or so cords that hung off in a tangle before. Also, the desk is currently very near a heat vent, and many of the cords were practically lying on it. Okay for summer, but not good when winter hits (*ponders how much her heating bills are going to be this winter; considers relying on electric room heaters*). Now all those cords are hung neatly out of the way. My only concern is that the velcro strip might tear free of the staple. If it does, I will need to find a better way to attach it. It's not actually supporting weight, so I think it will be okay, but I don't know for sure.

Oh, one more thing to report that I found interesting. At taiji practice yesterday, we did the form 'no hands'. That is, we went through the form doing only the foot movements, steps, etc, but without moving the hands. I have done this at least once before, and I was very confused then. I was much less confused this time. But there were two things we could do with our hands. One was to "embrace the tree," i.e. have them at shoulder height, arms rounded, like we were hugging a tree. Mark and I did that through the first two rounds. I got a nice energy flow through my hands. It was nice. The other thing was to rest them on the lower dan tian (uh, basically just below the bellybutton). Don asked us to switch up, so we tried the dan tian position. That was...interesting. I got a huge energy build-up in my torso, and started sweating. I think that with the arms up in the air, they act as radiators; with them clasped at the dan tian, the energy has nowhere to go, so it just builds and builds. We did the 'no hands' routine several more times with the hands at the dan tian; I got hotter and hotter each time.

When we compared notes afterward, Mark observed that it was easier to sink with the hands at the dan tian than with them hugging the tree. I shared my energy observations, and Don said he got the same thing. If Melissa and James made any comments, I can't remember them now. I just find it interesting (and odd) that I'm the most proficient of us (students) at picking up on the energy flows. I have no clue why that is.

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Worth Reading

This is from the Times Picayune: a New Orleans newspaper that has managed to keep running (at least on the web) through Katrina's aftermath. This article is from a print edition they managed to put out:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

A word of advice for ALL politicians in future: don't make claims that contradict LIVE NEWS REPORTS that anyone can see.

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02 September 2005

Dreaming a Movie. Again.

I seem to have come in on the tail end of this one. There were a bunch of people hiking up a dry, barren path in the mountains. One of them was Harrison Ford wearing the Russian uniform from K-19. Red rock all around. Lots of the rocks had deeper red lines on them, sometimes almost forming patterns. I remember one that looked like an 'A'. I also remember trying to figure out where they'd shot the movie, since I thought I might have been there (if I have, it's probably southern Utah or Colorado; dry and red). As they reach a flat area that is surrounded by rock, they all start celebrating and hugging. Apparently this is their safe refuge from...something. The camera pans out, and there's this huge, off-white...spherical...creature climbing the path. My first thought is that this is what they've been running from, but they're not afraid of it. I have a vague thought: "Oh yeah; he's played by John Candy." When the camera pans back, I'm no longer watching the movie. I'm in it. And I decide I'm fed up with...whatever drove the people up the mountain. Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" starts playing in the background but some of the words are different. As best as I can reconstruct:
It's my life
And here's the situation
I'm tired of this habituation.
I'm just gonna fight while I'm alive

I'm not sure about the fourth line, but the others are close. While this plays, I start marching back (down?) the path we'd all come up, only somehow it's going uphill again (uphill both ways!). Fibonacci joins me, wearing one of the really fancy-dress Marine uniforms. While we're still marching, my alarm goes off.

The refugees are probably due to thoughts about Katrina. Not really sure about the rest.

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01 September 2005

Not much to report

I found out that I do work 5 hours in the math lab once it opens (next week, I think), so I got those set up. Not too bad; I filled in the gap between Real Analysis and Taiji with three of them (could have done four, but I wanted to get up to Reed Gym a bit early), and added an hour before my office hour on T/Th (aka T/R). It's been a while since I've had to work there... last time, my stats students all figured out when I was there and showed up en masse.

It looks like they're planning to fill Holt Arena's parking lot with a bunch of huge equipment. Again. It's very annoying when they fill up all the free parking up there. Also, the construction on 15th has made it rather difficult to GET to the Holt Arena parking lot. I'm actually considering walking on MWF, and not just due to parking lot and construction problems. The price of gas is due to shoot through the roof. It's going for $5-6 a gallon down South (one news source commented that the offshore oil rigs weren't just damaged: they were GONE; and several refineries are either flooded or dead), and it's sure to come up plenty here. Besides, I could use the exercise. My weight started creeping up over the summer, and while I think it's partially muscle (my quads have gotten a lot stronger), some of it is also fat, so it's time to buckle down.

As far as the tragedy down south... All I can say is...wow. It's easy to forget how powerful nature can be. If you want current info on what's going on down there, this is a good place to start.

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