Saturday, March 31, 2007

Conversational Snippet: 2007 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Edition

While watching UF deliver another beat down to UCLA the camera scanned the crowd and stopped on Jim Tressel.

My wife: "Hey, isn't that Ohio State's football coach?"

Me: "Yeah. He's there to tell Thad Matta how to take it like a man."

Here's an interesting idea....

While my wife and mother were discovering a treasure trove [sic] of 1970s era family portraits, a little birdie called me to tell an interesting idea. The ultimate BloggingHeads TV opponent for Ann Althouse is ... Rosie O'Donnell! An idea so evil I just had to post it....

[Post to be edited and updated later...Maybe....]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Count Every Vote! (Unless it's in Florida....)

The Florida House of Representatives has passed a bill that would move the date of the Florida Presidential primary to January 29th, a full week before California's new date of February 5th. The Florida Senate is considering similar legislation. The reason is that we want our votes to count, damnit!

Senators of both parties have stated support for an earlier primary. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, the Senate sponsor of a primary bill, said the state would benefit by forcing presidential candidates to cater to state interests on issues such as windstorm insurance just as they cozy up to Iowa farmers on ethanol.

"The only leverage that we're going to have with the presidential candidates is when they come to Florida and campaign here, and not just campaign for our money. They're going to have to campaign for what's important to Florida," Ring said.
However, Florida's efforts to make itself relevant to the presidential nomination process will meet resistance.
Aside from a few exceptions such as Iowa and New Hampshire, states that hold primaries to select delegates before Feb. 5 lose half their allotment of delegates to the national nominating convention. And Democratic Party rules say candidates can be penalized for campaigning in a state that picks its delegates before Feb. 5 -- by being forced to forfeit the delegates won in that state.

"States can move wherever they want, but there are automatic sanctions," Democratic National Committee spokesman Luis Miranda said. "We will enforce the rules." [emphasis added]
In other words, if Florida tries to become relevant to the process, the Democratic party will take away our right to vote! This, friends, is comedy gold! (To be fair, the Republican Party has similar sanctions in mind. But everyone already knows the Republicans don't give a damn about vote totals in Florida.)

However, if they take away our right to vote the net effect will be the status quo, because Florida hasn't mattered in the primary process in decades.
It has been more than three decades since Florida mattered in picking presidential candidates. Other states have moved up their primaries, and more attention has been going to earlier states. In the past few campaigns, the party's nominees have been effectively decided before Florida's March primary.
So March is too late, January is too early, and February is too crowded. Regardless of when we hold our primary, we're just not going to count. Situation nominal!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Comment Madness!

Update: I have found much better foil board video, and some great footage of the Hiller Flying Platform.

Amba had a post this morning where she asked:

What do you think it means? Don't look it up! Guess, or make it up. Put it in the comments. Then you can go here.
I had a rather elaborate answer. But unfortunately, the number of links embedded in my comment triggered her spam filter, so I can't post it there. So, without further ado, here is my answer:
Pogonotomy is a field of study (combining physics and game theory) dedicated to the game Pog.

Alternately, it is the study of unstable devices of locomotion, such as this, or this, or this. (Slightly more about the last item here.)

My favorite type of such travel is the Hiller Flying Platform, seen here. (I highly recommend reading the linked stuff from the Wiki.) I keep thinking that the same tech used in Segway might help with the flying platform concept, but I'm probably over thinking the issue.
Now I'm going to attempt to find some video footage of the Hiller Flying Platform in action.

(Found it!

The HFP was the coolest invention ever until this came along. Here's some excellent footage of foilboarding, from the movie Step Into Liquid.

Monday, March 19, 2007

But enough about Congress....


Study Finds One-Third in D.C. Illiterate
Okay, who DIDN'T think of Congress when they saw the headline?

Still, this story isn't a shocking example of our failed educational system. It's simply a side-effect of our current immigration policy, or lack thereof:
The growing number of Hispanic and Ethiopian immigrants who aren't proficient in English contributed to the city's high functional illiteracy level, which translated to 170,000 people, said Connie Spinner, director of the State Education Agency. The report says the district's functional illiteracy rate is 36 percent and the nation's 21 percent.

This is how science works....

Science isn't a set of facts, or even a sets of theories and hypotheses. Science is a process devoted to uncovering the rules that govern the universe. Unfortunately, the complexity of the universe means that we must resort to models of how the universe behaves, using the incomplete language of mathematics. If those models are to have any value, they must allow us to make predictions that are falsifiable, and which will hopefully provide useful approximations of reality.

Sometimes a model comes along that holds up for a long time. Newton's theory of gravitation was such a model. For over 200 years Newtonian gravity proved sufficient to our needs. But better instrumentation led to a crisis towards the end on the Nineteenth Century: Newton's theory no longer held up in all cases. Eventually, Einstein resolved these problems, and in the process cast Newtonian gravity from the summit.

The point isn't that Newton was wrong and Einstein was right. After all, both merely(!) provided approximations of reality using mathematical models. The point is that we keep working towards a better understanding of our universe. Theories build upon themselves, and often contain the seeds of their own destruction. Without using Newton's work and the work derived from it, Einstein could have never overthrown Newton's conception of a clockwork universe.

But just because science is supposed to work this way doesn't mean that it always does work this way. We humans are imperfect beings, and social beings. Our nature leads us to form groups and cliques. Scientists are no more immune from this sort of behavior than socialites and frat boys. Fortunately, scientists have reality to cut through the bullshit and expose our flaws. The universe is a harsh taskmaster, and doesn't take crap from anyone. Eventually, the truth will out.

Today, in a fine combination of cliquish behavior, political pandering, and mass media propagandizing, one scientific theory has come to completely dominate the public consciousness: Man-Made Global Warming. The ascendancy of Man-Made Global Warming in the public consciousness is virtually complete, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences having awarded its highest honor to the biggest political proponent of this theory.

And the theory must be true! After all, we are globally experiencing the warmest winter on record:

NOAA Report: El Nino, Global Warming Contribute to Warmest Winter on Record

WASHINGTON (AP) -- This winter was the warmest on record worldwide, the government said Thursday in the latest worrisome report focusing on changing climate.
The report comes just over a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming is very likely caused by human actions and is so severe it will continue for centuries.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combined land and ocean temperatures for December through February were 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the period since record keeping began in 1880.

The report said that during the past century, global temperatures have increased at about 0.11 degrees per decade. But that increase has been three times larger since 1976, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reported.
The evidence seems irrefutable. The measurements are precise. The measurements may well be meaningless.
The entire debate about global warming is a mirage. The concept of ‘global temperature’ is thermodynamically as well as mathematically an impossibility, says professor at The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Bjarne Andresen who has analyzed this hot topic in collaboration with professors Christopher Essex from University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick from University of Guelph, both Ontario, Canada.

It is generally assumed that the atmosphere and the oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years. The reason for this point of view is an upward trend in the curve of measurements of the so-called ‘global temperature’. This is the temperature obtained by collecting measurements of air temperatures at a large number of measuring stations around the Globe, weighing them according to the area they represent, and then calculating the yearly average according to the usual method of adding all values and dividing by the number of points.

Average without meaning

"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth", Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".
The article goes on to give two seperate methods of calculating an average, and concludes with this:
These are but two examples of ways to calculate averages. They are all equally correct, but one needs a solid physical reason to choose one above another. Depending on the averaging method used, the same set of measured data can simultaneously show an upward trend and a downward trend in average temperature. Thus claims of disaster may be a consequence of which averaging method has been used, the researchers point out.

What Bjarne Andresen and his coworkers emphasize is that physical arguments are needed to decide whether one averaging method or another is needed to calculate an average which is relevant to describe the state of Earth. [emphasis added]
This article is based upon what is no doubt a much heavier article called "Does a Global Temperature Exist?" in the Journal of Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics. My point here isn't to say that global warming doesn't exist, or to say that humans aren't playing a significant role. My point is that it isn't as straightforward and "accepted" as some blowhard politicians and scientists who have a vested interest in this theory being true would have everyone believe. Not only is the theory in doubt (as all theories are in doubt), but some of the fundamental tools used for measuring the trends can be legitimately questioned.

Decisions on energy policy and pollution standards are essentially political in nature. That is well and good, and appropriate. But let's not pretend that these decisions will wholly be based on science when the science hasn't been conclusively proven. And please keep the evangelism to a minimum: it is inappropriate in the realm of science, and most unwelcome.

Oh yeah, Baby! That's the stuff!

Classy, Ohio State, classy!

As I wrote at Pastor Jeff's blog:

As a UF grad, I can only say "Ohio State, you finally found a Gator you can beat! Too bad you can only beat a Gator that's made out of styrofoam...."

Really, I hadn't realized it was THREE times in about seven weeks. I really hope we don't face them in the NCAA Men's Basketball Finals. If we beat up on them again, the Civil Rights Commision will investigate it as a hate crime.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Are you kidding me?

Is Ohio State ALWAYS this over-rated? They may win the game in OT, but they certainly didn't deserve to be a #1 seed. Wait, that sounds familiar....

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thirteen years ago today...

My wife and I went out on our first, and she insists only, date. We have many happy memories of that date, but I will keep them for the two of us.

The Best Comic Strip About Mathematics Ever....

Of course, TRex & company at Dinosaur Comics are the culprits.

Call & Response


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

But wait! There's more!

My wife reads my last two posts and brings the snark. Responding to this she writes:

Going on an expedition to the North Pole in winter is just about as smart as having a global warming concert in Antartica in, well, winter:

"Environmental activists led by former Vice President Al Gore announced plans Thursday for a 24-hour pop concert across seven continents in July to mobilize action to stop global warming."

Responding to my comments in the second post that Algore had created a witch hunt atmosphere, she wrote:
"...witch hunt atmosphere..."

That can't be good for global warming.
Yep, and burning witches at the stake will no doubt contribute to Algore's carbon footprint. Perhaps he can purchase some offsets from bio-friendly energy sources.

AND! I forgot to mention something from the NYT's article. The article includes this line:
[Algore wrote in his email response to the NYTimes] that after 30 years of trying to communicate the dangers of global warming, “I think that I’m finally getting a little better at it.”
Algore's been trying to communicate the dangers of Global Warming since 1977? WTF? I thought he was inventing the internet that decade. Also, weren't we all worried about freezing our tookuses off in a new ice age back then?

More Bwaaaaahahahaha!

I've been making changes since I first hit publish. If this is the first time you've seen this bit, read it again. Dang, now I've made a few more changes.

First I gave you this, and now for some related Algore goodness! The New York Times deflates the Algore hype machine just a little bit:

Hollywood has a thing for [Algore] and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of [Algore]’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.
Algore, shading the evidence to suit his point of view, and perhaps his political interests? Say it ain't so! No, really, say it. Say it!
[Algore], in an e-mail exchange about the critics, said his work made “the most important and salient points” about climate change, if not “some nuances and distinctions” scientists might want. “The degree of scientific consensus on global warming has never been stronger,” he said, adding, “I am trying to communicate the essence of it in the lay language that I understand.”
Okay, perhaps if Algore only understands it in 'lay language', his understanding of the literature may not be as good as claimed. Anyway...
Although Mr. Gore is not a scientist, he does rely heavily on the authority of science in “An Inconvenient Truth,” which is why scientists are sensitive to its details and claims.
Sure, NOW. Where the hell was this concern before Algore was appointed the Patron Saint of Mother Earth, Lord Protector of Gaia? Still, better late than never.

The article makes the point that it isn't only right-wingers and oil industry hacks who have concerns, but I'll actually let you read that for yourself. Still, there are a few things I would like to point out.

My favorite bit is this:
[Algore] clearly has supporters among leading scientists, who commend his popularizations and call his science basically sound. [emphasis added]
Geophysicist: "So, did you say the words correctly this time?"

Algore: "Yeah ... basically....."
[The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that studies global warming] estimated that the world’s seas in this century would rise a maximum of 23 inches — down from earlier estimates. [Algore], citing no particular time frame, envisions rises of up to 20 feet and depicts parts of New York, Florida and other heavily populated areas as sinking beneath the waves, implying, at least visually, that inundation is imminent.
Stagehand: "Algore gave me a PowerPoint presentation that said 20 feet. Now, whether or not he knows the difference between feet and inches is not my problem. I do what I'm told."

Geophysicist: "But you're not as confused as him are you. I mean, it's not your job to be as confused as Algore."

Later in the story:
In his e-mail message, [Algore] defended his work as fundamentally accurate. “Of course,” he said, “there will always be questions around the edges of the science, and we have to rely upon the scientific community to continue to ask and to challenge and to answer those questions.”
Yes, and perhaps letting the scientists actually ask questions and conduct research without creating a witch hunt atmosphere would be a good thing.
Other critics have zeroed in on Mr. Gore’s claim that the energy industry ran a “disinformation campaign” that produced false discord on global warming. The truth, he said, was that virtually all unbiased scientists agreed that humans were the main culprits. But Benny J. Peiser, a social anthropologist in Britain who runs the Cambridge-Conference Network, or CCNet, an Internet newsletter on climate change and natural disasters, challenged the claim of scientific consensus with examples of pointed disagreement.

“Hardly a week goes by,” Dr. Peiser said, “without a new research paper that questions part or even some basics of climate change theory,” including some reports that offer alternatives to human activity for global warming....

Getting personal, [Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University] mocked [Algore]’s assertion that scientists agreed on global warming except those industry had corrupted. “I’ve never been paid a nickel by an oil company,” Dr. Easterbrook told [hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America]. “And I’m not a Republican.”
Perhaps if Algore wants to help out with the scientific process, he can stop the ad hominem attacks on scientific dissenters and learn more than "the lay language that [he] understand[s]."


Fun with news!

First we have this:

Frostbite ends Bancroft-Arnesen trek

By PATRICK CONDON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Mar 12, 5:28 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS - A North Pole expedition meant to bring attention to global warming was called off after one of the explorers got frostbite. The explorers, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen, on Saturday called off what was intended to be a 530-mile trek across the Arctic Ocean after Arnesen suffered frostbite in three of her toes, and extreme cold temperatures drained the batteries in some of their electronic equipment.

"Ann said losing toes and going forward at all costs was never part of the journey," said Ann Atwood, who helped organize the expedition.

On Monday, the pair was at Canada's Ward Hunt Island, awaiting a plane to take them to Resolute, Canada, where they were to return to Minneapolis later this week.
They may end up in Resolute, but they certainly don't belong there!
Then there was the cold — quite a bit colder, Atwood said, then [sic] Bancroft and Arnesen had expected. One night they measured the temperature inside their tent at 58 degrees below zero, and outside temperatures were exceeding 100 below zero at times, Atwood said.

"My first reaction when they called to say there were calling it off was that they just sounded really, really cold," Atwood said.

She said Bancroft and Arnesen were applying hot water bottles to Arnesen's foot every night, but had to wake up periodically because the bottles froze. [emphasis added]
But what about the children? What are we going to tell the children?!
The explorers had planned to call in regular updates to school groups by satellite phone, and had planned online posts with photographic evidence of global warming.
Well, the students would have learned something from this trip if they had continued, but perhaps not the 'correct' thing.
In contrast to Bancroft's 1986 trek across the Arctic with fellow Minnesota explorer Will Steger, this time she and Arnesen were prepared to don body suits and swim through areas where polar ice has melted.
Atwood said there was some irony that a trip to call attention to global warming was scuttled in part by extreme cold temperatures.
Ya think?!
"They were experiencing temperatures that weren't expected with global warming," Atwood said. "But one of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability."
Because who would expected cold tempatures on a polar ice cap? That was completely unpredicatable! (Less snarkily, do these people really think that the weather wasn't variable before Global Warming?)

Sunday, March 11, 2007


My wife has found a new hobby. One particularly cool feature is the Author Cloud. Here's our (incomplete) cloud. Morison dominates at the moment, but Shakespeare and others will get large bumps as we get to other bookcases.

Update: (from a comment left at my wife's blog) Final tally for the weekend: 801 books catalogued. It looks like we will probably finish around 1400 books, before getting to the four boxes. Honestly, that surprises me because I thought we would have had many more than that....

Stupid Sign of the Week

I saw a rather stupid sign in front of a vocational school yesterday. It read:

CPR en Espanol!
Sign Up Today!

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Announcer Man: "Muhammad Salah, you've just helped finance a terror campaign to bomb Israel and kill the Jews. What are you going to do now?"

Muhammad Salah: "I'm going to Disney World!"

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A new blog ...

... from a new blogger, near and dear to my heart. Give it a look, and give her her some encouragement. Or else....

Update: Guys, the idea was for you to offer encouragement over on her blog.

For future reference...

This looks interesting.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Another reason I love Dinosaur Comics...

Because it's the only comic strip extant that would use the word "instantiation", much less the phrase "instantiation of the gesture"....