Sunday, December 30, 2007

Benazir Bhutto, a foreboding feeling

Several days have passed since the assassination of Pakistani opposition party leader Benazir Bhutto, and things are still tense, see this Reuters story . I can't remember in my life a feeling of foreboding like I do right now. On September 11, 2001, it all happened so fast, and was over before anyone really realized what had happened. The subsequent attacks by US forces happened in such a manner that it seemed that swift victory was the only option, despite Cheney and Rumsfeld having prior knowledge this wasn't the case. The riots in Paris in 2005 seemed angry and violent, but only on a local scope.

Today, I feel as if there are serious problems that may arise out of this. It feels as if we are on the cusp of a momentous day, only without Hari Seldon to wheel out of the vault to gentle guide us on our way. Vladimir Putin has amassed an enormous amount of power in Russia, Pakistan's dictator's chief rival was assassinated, the President of the bastion of freedom that is America has pushed executive power to all new heights, allowing him to spy on his populace, torture at will, and suspend constitutional rights. Other countries, like China, are still tyrannical, leading the world in executions. Iran is trying to gain nuclear capabilities, and Saudi Arabia is a human rights nightmare of unimaginable proportions. And I haven't even mentioned Africa yet, or global warming.

Never before has the presidential election in America meant so much, in the backdrop of all that is going on. I think this all means a great deal more than gay marriage, or pushing your religious agenda on the country.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Madeupical: Avauntular

We all enjoy words that are madeupical . When visiting with my aunt over Christmas, I realized that while we have the excellent Avuncular , we need the female equivalent, to express roughly the same sentiment, except adding in a certain degree of femininity. So, I'm pushing for Avauntular to enter the English lexicon. There are a couple of google hits already, with people who had a similar idea. If you have an aunt, describe her with this word. If you are a teenage girl, and your older sibling has a child, mention how you don't yet feel avauntular. Be creative.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays?

Much has been written about the War on Christmas, started by Oliver Cromwell and reported by Papa Bear. Honestly, it's a load of crap. How would a Christian feel if they had "Happy Hanukkah" shoved down their throats and giant menorahs decorating public lands? They would feel outraged, and demand a stop to it.

To me, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, good food, lots of gifts, going out in the snow, seeing those I haven't seen in many months, and generally having good times. Whether it be Hanukkah, Christmas, Festivus, or any other of the numerous holidays celebrated at this time of year, it is what it is, a Winter Solstice holiday, celebrating the ending of one year and the beginning of another. Everyone should be happy we live in a culture where we can take off work, practice gluttony, and give gifts away, because it could be a lot worse. So what if people don't say "Merry Christmas" on the street?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Ape's view of evolution

Enough is Enough: A Thinking Ape’s Critique of Trans-Simianism

This is a hilarious view of evolution from an ape's perspective. Obviously the logical fallacies are rampant, not the least of which is the idea that the evolution chimpanzees was directed towards humanity, but obviously is was all in jest. It does a great job of lampooning many of the straw man arguments put forth by those who oppose evolutionary theory.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Bacon Flowchart , is an inspired piece of art. Bacon, of course, is the pinnacle of the food pyramid, directly above french fries. Don't let the size fool you, it's fairly simply chart to read, start in the top left and work your way through. The pants joke rang true, since I was once a member of a charity group called "Don't you hate pants?"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon

Today is the Second Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon , on the 11th anniversary on the great mans death.

Carl Sagan was a great scientist, but I'll always know him best for his magnificent writing. "The Demon Haunted World", which is THE Skeptical Bible, "Cosmos", utterly brilliant, "Billions and Billions", "The Dragons of Eden", "Broca's Brain", an excellent collection of essays, among others.

His books are still as moving as they were when he wrote them, decades ago. I've often said that the day Mario Kart comes out for Wii, I'll buy the console, and the day that Cosmos comes out in HD-DVD or bluray, I'll buy a player.

Isaac Asimov was "The Great Explainer", probably the greatest, but Sagan could, in a way that no one can, convey such a sense of wonder at the sheer majesty of the Cosmos. Cosmos means order, and better than anyone he provided order to the vastness of space and human existence.

When Neill deGrasse Tyson is compared to Carl Sagan, it is the greatest possible complement one can pay a scientist, a science writer, a writer, and a human being.

Dropping the APM bomb on Computers

Brad (last name unknown), a College Football analyst on ESPN radio's the Sports Bash was discussing Hawaii's chance of being in the top 12 of the BCS standings. He said, "I don't think the voters in the polls are disrespecting Hawaii, if anything it's the computer polls that are disrespecting them, if a computer can disrespect a team".

No Brad, a computer can't disrespect someone. That computer is actually a computer model which was designed by a person, probably a statistician, to describe how good teams are. This anthropomorphism* is troubling, because it reveals a complete misunderstanding of what is going on. There aren't some evil computers out to get Hawaii. A statistician came up with a model which calculated that teams who have lost games against good opponents are better than teams which consistently beat poor opponents.

There are certainly flaws with computer models. Computers may not take into account all the factors that voters can, but they are able to ignore factors that human voters take into account, like the "feel good" story of a small conference team Hawaii. These stories, however intriguing they are, are correctly ignored by computers, an objective ranking source.

Computers aren't that difficult to understand. All you have to do is ask, and any of us CS majors will wax eloquently, something CS majors usually aren't that good at. Please, know what you're talking about before going on national radio and spouting nonsense.

*: Dropping the APM bomb refers to gratuitous use of the word anthropomorphic, especially to make yourself or your writings sound smarter. I employed this technique on a college paper, but it didn't seem to help my grade.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Texas teacher firing over Education

Who'd have thought that evolution was so controversial that a woman was FIRED for forwarding an email about a lecture about it. The battle in my current home state is coming, and as a citizen and voter, I'm going to need to start steeling myself for the eventuality that things are going to get bad before they get better.

Monday, December 17, 2007


w00t is the Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year, a slightly less prestigious award than the Wordie Word of the Year . Now, my first reaction was WTF, is this from 5 years ago? This is an old word, and if it has increased in popularity, I haven't heard it. I guess it has gotten popular among the kids, which is funny, because years ago it was popular among the kids who are know my age or a bit older.

I have read several etymological theories for the phrase, but none were particularly convincing. Given it's status as an internet word, one should be able to trace the first usage, to USENET, a bbs, somewhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Debunking Media Myths

Seeing as it is Christmas time, I thought I'd talk about the old story that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally Rudolph the Big-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph, in the 1940's was a common Jewish name. Jews, stereotypically possessing big noses and media power, were not well liked at the time, and considered Communist sympathizers. The idea that a Jewish Reindeer, using his big nose to guide the way, was to have been made into a popular children's character, increasing the overall popularity of Jewish people, and forever ending the stereotypes that plagued them. Of course, this is completely made up, by me, last night.

The View, Epicurus, and Idiocy

This news article from the New York Post describes a conversation that occured on the view. Joy Behar mentioned my favorite philosopher Epicurus , who was pretty much in line with my favorite Founding Father, Thomas Paine. Epicurus was probably one of the first Deists, at least that's what he proclaimed, proclaiming otherwise at the time would probably have been bad for his health.

Sherri Shepherd, the dumb one, claimed that Christianity predated Epicurus, the Greeks, and the Romans. When Whoopi Goldberg, that fountain of sanity, attempted to correct her, she said that "Jesus came first". Let's not mention the fact the Bible says otherwise, or history, or you know, everything ever written. Sherri doesn't believe in evolution either, and she's not sure whether the Earth is flat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Presidential Debate on Science

There is a growing movement for a Presidential Debate on Science . There are so many political issues involving science that are important to us all. The spread of diseases, like avian flu (which would require evolution to effect humans), birth control, climate change, space exploration, all of these things require knowledge of science. Bill Clinton was a well educated man, who prided himself on being well read. George Bush scoffs at the "reality based community", who use "facts", to back up their scientific "theories". As we move towards the future, technology will play an increasing role in American life, even more than it does today, and understanding those technologies is an essential attribute in any leader.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Apex of Miracles

Restless Leg Syndrome, scourge of the masses, is truly the most awful disease of modern times. Luckily, we have a new drug to cure what ails us, Mirapex! Side effects include Weight Gain, and of course, Weight Loss. Side effects include difficult sleeping as well as narcolepsy. And I swear, I couldn't make this up, Hallucinations, Compulsive Gambling, and Hypersexuality. One might say that the cure is worse than the disease, or that punishment does not fit the crime, but this has to be the craziest thing I have ever seen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Need to buy a Christmas gift for a loved one? How about some Uranium Ore . Check out the "Customers who viewed this also viewed" section for some other funny Amazon stuff.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Canadian Fur Council says Fur is good for the environment

The Canadian Fur Council says that real fur is more environmentally sound than synthetic, because fake fur uses petrochemicals which causes pollution and contributes to global warming.

First I must say that I love it when crazy environmentalists battle with big corporations pretending to be crazy environmentalists, who may actually have a case. Next I must say that the logic here is terrible! Just because A is better than B doesn't mean that you can't do neither. Using all natural clothing, made from hemp, would be better than either. This is really just a way for rich people to feel better about themselves.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

$235,000 worth of Guinness Stolen

Will this make the book of records?

Bender's Big Score (New Futurama!)

That's right, after years of waiting, we've finally gotten new Futurama! I bought this DVD today and it was fabulous. There were a ton of in jokes, things you couldn't possibly have gotten unless you were a hardcore fan, but they were hard to notice, and didn't detract from the overall experience. It started kind of slow, similar to how the first new Family Guy after they were renewed made fun of their canceling. The initial spamming stuff wasn't so funny either, but it got better quickly. The animation was incredible as always, with some amazing space battles. All of the characters appeared, Scruffy, Zapp, Al Gore, Dr. John Zoidberg, everyone. The ending was classic Futurama, funny, sad, bittersweet, displaying the moving emotional endings only a bunch of nerds could provide.