Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

Scott Adams, in his continuing experiment in the lack of reading comprehension in the average American, discusses a great example of cognitive dissonance combined with poor logic. His readers responded as expected: with a complete lack of understanding of the point he was trying to make. Worse, Daily Kos joined in, once again demonstrating that popularity and intelligence seem to have an inverse relationship. Scott writes in a follow-up post:
But here’s the most interesting part. My blog on how Bill Maher and his panelists misunderstood Lomborg has caused a new round of cognitive dissonance. I have now been labeled a supporter of Lomborg’s arguments simply because I said I understood what he said on a TV show. Check this out. It’s somewhat jaw-dropping:
And then Daily Kos and its readers voted. People wonder why I no longer bother. Nothing good can come of universal suffrage when you consider that the vast bulk of intelligence is concentrated in 20% of the population.

The End of an Era?

I have to give Fred credit; he was able to continue caring much longer than I was. For most of human history, Fate ruled. Then the enlightenment gave man Free Will. I'm not sure I concur unless it is the free will over trivia. We complain endlessly about the moral defectives in Congress, the White House, our state legislatures, and our city and county governments. Yet we do nothing. We do worse than nothing; we send the same moral defectives back, essentially rewarding them for their moral defectiveness. Maybe that is because we cannot do otherwise.

A few parting thoughts from Fred:
People write columns in the (faint) hope of changing things. No, a web site will not alter the majestic course of the planets in their orbits. It was once possible, however, to believe that enough people hollering in the electronic town hall that is the web might push things in a desired direction. In the past, this has worked—not cleanly, nor quickly, nor quite as the senior-civics texts said. But it has sort of worked.

Now it doesn’t. Today the United States is politically and socially constipated. Nothing moves, or at least not in a desirable direction. Crooks, frauds, revivalists, the over-empowered under-brained, believers and mouth-breathers and unabashed lunatics—all of these have so firmly gummed up the gears that improvement founders. Someone seems to have poured glue into the political kaleidoscope. Little point exists in curmudgeing at the bastards....

A train wreck once started goes to completion....

The abolitions of the Bill of Rights, the ever increasing surveillance, the diminished recourse of citizens against the government.... The government keeps records of the books you read in the airport.....

People grow ever more docile, accustomed to intimidation, to searches without cause. Several writers of my acquaintance no longer question federal policy. They are afraid.

And we are going to see this show through to the end. In a dismal way it is funnier than Oprah.....

The country is shot. So what else is new?
Indeed. Thank you, Fred, for your many years in the trenches.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The New Definition of Poor

This is a description of a typical poor, uninsured family in the United States that qualifies for taxpayer-funded health insurance:

Annual income of $56,000
A pool
Cable TV
Internet access
A daughter in private school

Gee, I'm getting all choked up.

What Language Will be Spoken on the First Lunar Base?

Probably not English. I could have been, but we decided to throw away the chance to leap decades ahead of the rest of the world.


I suppose we can amuse ourselves by beating up on Arabs.

Hat Trick for Scott Adams

Scott Adams like to stir people up and make them insult him for saying things that he provably did not say. His latest round starts here (rated R for the sort of language common in any Jr. High locker room) with some very probing questions about our perceptions of both ourselves as a nation, as well as others. As is typical, his comments quickly filled up with people screeching at him for saying things he did not say. He posted a clarification which simply increased the screech volume, which is typical as well as entertaining. His third post posited a new disease to explain the twisted logic the majority of people use to reach an opinion on everything from soda to the President. I think it's safe to assume what his comments look like.

As Scott says, "And then they voted." Maybe universal suffrage wasn't such a great idea after all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pray the Can Opener Doesn't Break

Debbie is in Hawaii all week which means I'm on my own. Scary. I always have the cafe as a backup, but I spent most of my available cash on a iPod Nano 8 Gb in black. It's one of the new ones that do videos. I haven't tried that yet, but I did shove my favorites list onto it last night so I had something to listen to in the foundry today.

So I'm all set with music even if it means I starve to death. At least my corpse will be rockin' out (insert bad "Beethoven decomposing" joke here) when Debbie finds me rotting on the floor.

Priorities, man.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rated R for Strong Language

Not this post, but this link which shows one of the big dangers of automated and/or idiomatic translations made by people with no working knowledge of one of the languages involved. Some of the links in the article are worth a chuckle as well. Note that the oddly-placed questions marks are embedded Chinese characters that your browser/operating system don't know what to do with.

"Bu Bye" and "Hello"

Well, it looks like Salon has buried Camille Paglia somewhere on the site I don't have the patience to dig out. I suspect that she is back in the subscriber area. I refuse to pay Salon to read nothing on their site other than Paglia's once-a-month column. So she is gone (again; I think this is add/remove cycle number three or four) and has been replaced with the Bad Astronomy Blog, (Thanks Matt!!) written by another fellow traveler who enjoys beating on Fred Phelps and Kent Hovind when he isn't blogging cool astronomy stuff.

[Update: A reader has shown me how to find Camille Paglia; she is back on the list of links.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not Quite a Replicator...

... but I still think this may have some sort of impact on manufacturing. People complain about what cheap Chinese labor has done to wages in the US, but I have this feeling that they ain't seen nothing yet. Please note that the price for one of these is exactly the same price my employer paid for a Xerox 300 dpi laser printer in 1987. Staples has an HP 1200 dpi laser for $200. That's in 20-year-inflated 2007 dollars. In non-inflated 1987 dollars that's like $75.

Homework: project the same price/capability price curve for 3-D printers and speculate on just how much we will be buying at a store in 20 years.

Those Wacky Brits!

Don't they know there is no reason to panic? Bank runs are so 19th century. Everyone knows that it's impossible for a nation's banking system to collapse. Come on, people! The government promises everything is OK. Besides, even if those Brits, who everyone knows are a little sketchy when it comes to money, can't keep it together, we Americans are just peachy!

Hey Sis!!

Wow. Almost a week without a post. I didn't realize how long it had been. I've been occupied off line ripping through some books. Since my last post, I finished up Joseph Cambell's The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology , read Wil Wheaton's Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek, and read Rob the Bouncer's Clublife, so it's not like I've just been goofing off. I also received my knife and chisels for my Japanese carving (new hobby that has nothing to do with the internet), so I've been playing with those as well.

Anyway, the reason I started this post was this (click on the image to get a readable version):

For some reason, I started having flash-backs from my childhood.

Travel update

Sedona was gorgeous. The pictures do not do it justice....the reds were so much colorful. We did not have enough time to visit and tour all we wanted to here. The construction also slowed things down. We did hit a couple gallery areas -- very surprised in one place to see "life size" penguins. They were so cute! (except for the price) We found alot of things we would love to have if 1) we had the money to buy them and 2) had the space to put them to show them off. There was this one moving tall shelving thingy that was interesting. I told Ric we couldn't get it cuz I would get motion sick watching it or seeing it out of the corner of my eye. It was in constant motion. We will be visiting Sedona again and again I'm sure.

Disneyland. Wow --- this AAA FAM trip was fast and furious. We arrived late Friday night -- did dinner and some of us checked out some of Downtown Disney. We started Saturday morning bright and early with a working breakfast at 7am and toured and learned and toured more all three Disney hotels and both theme parks and some of Downtown Disney. We had a bit of "free time" that night from 8p until the parks closed. Got lost trying to find the ride I wanted to do -- gave up and went to Disneyland Park to watch the fireworks. Did some shopping in Downtown Disney and got back to the room around midnite. Next morning -- character breakfast with the critters at Chip N Dales, pack things up and hit the road for the LONG drive home. I did learn alot, but not enough to be really comfortable selling Disneyland yet. So....Ric and I are going to take a long weekend and go there in November. I should be getting free one pay park passes for both of us for two days, so we need to find a cheap hotel and will drive over.

Bright and early this Sunday morning I will be flying to Hawaii for another AAA FAM trip. This will be another fast and furious trip..... 3 islands in 6 nights. I get to visit Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii. I wish we were seeing Kauai. Oh well ... there is another trip for Ric and I sometime.

And if we didn't mention --- in April/May Ric and I will be flying over to Italy to do a cruise/tour. We do a 5 nt Italy pkg (Venice, Florence, and Rome) and then a 12nt Greek Isle/Med cruise. Our cruise has a stop in Egypt also.

Can't wait to see what is around the corner next for traveling!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Phinally; Photos!!

Get it? Phinally; Photos? Eh? Eh? See? Living here with all these right-brained artsy types is rubbing off! I'm just so edgy and hip!


Anyway, I know it isn't Sunday. It ain't even Monday. But hey; at least it's still 2007.

Our Sedona road trip is here.

I added the last couple rainbows I got pictures of to the Monsoon 2007 set. For a few weeks, they were a daily thing, but the monsoons seem to be blowing out now.

And just for Jen:


These are mostly harmless; they just like to get tangled up in people's hair.

Long week so far in the foundry; Monday I was assigned 102's which are a bit of a problem bell, but I've done them before, so I wasn't too concerned going in. Then my first mold split in half when I took the flask off. OK, still no need to panic. Then my second mold split in half. OK; panic!! I switched to a different flask and made a few changes in how I was packing the sand. Somehow, I got everything out on time. At least the majority of the bells turned out. Tuesday, I was on the grinder in the morning and did assembly all afternoon. Today I was doing 101's, which just love to boil under the best of circumstances, and having a rookie molding them with too-wet sand ain't nothing like "best." My entire first heat boiled: 100% failure. I shoveled an entire pile of dry sand into my molding sand and started packing the cores (the part that makes the inside of the bell) so light they nearly crumbled when I pulled the pattern off. That seemed to do the trick. I still lost 5 of the twelve bells in my second heat; I was on tail with the boss man as usual, but for some reason, we were like a couple chimps out there, slopping bronze all over the place. We scored a direct hit on three cores, which as I mentioned were already pretty fragile, double-streamed the bronze on one, and had an interruption in the stream on another. Bottom line; seven out of 24. Not good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

We've Gone Mad

If this is the best use of law enforcement resources that a cop can come up with, then I think it's time to start laying them off.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Long Random Post

This is going to be another one of those long, rambling posts.

Still there?

OK, but don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm still working in the foundry, although after the last week I wonder why. We had some sand problems, namely too much water in the sand. That causes the bronze to boil when we pour it in the mold, which is dangerous for the guys on the shank because liquid bronze is flying up in the air and landing on feet, head, hands, etc. It also wrecks the bell. For the four-day week, I molded 40 135's, 16 103's, and 24 101's. The 135 bells survive boiling better than most, but I was still only able to save 15 or so. Only one of my 103's came out, and 7 of my 101's. Friday, the foundry staff started throwing massive amounts of dry sand into the pile we mold from, so we saved most of the second pour, otherwise, I wouldn't even have that much to show for three days of molding. Everyone is getting very frustrated. I'm doing a lot of experimenting, so I don't mind throwing my ugly bells back in the melt, so it isn't as bad for me as everyone else. It was hot and dry this weekend, so we'll see if things go a little better.

Jerry Pournelle has become embroiled in a nasty little fight over a writer's right to control his life's work. As one would expect of someone of Jerry's stature, it seems he will prevail in all this. Unfortunately, the Electronic Frontier Foundation seems to have chosen to side with a commercial web site whose business model consists of showing ads to people lured to the site by free electronic copies from well-known authors who were not aware that their work was being used in this way. Doctorow managed to make a complete ass of himself through all this (nothing new there), as did the nice folks over at ars technica (again, nothing new there). What surprised me was the EFF jumping to the aide of an organization that was not just illegal, which since DCMA means next to nothing, but also clearly unethical. In any case, you've probably heard bits of the story. Go here for the rest of the story. My view of the entire mess remains the same: Casual, non-commercial copying has always happened and will continue regardless of what any governmental or quasi-governmental organization thinks of it. Further, that casual copying is at worst neutral and probably a net benefit to artists and authors. But doing it for profit clearly steps over a line.

From time to time, I will make some comment that a college education is just an expensive way for your kids to learn how to shotgun beers. Paul Graham runs a company that invests in tech start-ups and, while not going as far as I do, seriously questions the importance of where someone goes to college. Money quotes:
What first set me thinking about this was the new trend of worrying obsessively about what kindergarten your kids go to. It seemed to me this couldn't possibly matter. Either it won't help your kid get into Harvard, or if it does, getting into Harvard won't mean much anymore. And then I thought: how much does it mean even now?
Practically everyone thinks that someone who went to MIT or Harvard or Stanford must be smart. Even people who hate you for it believe it.

But when you think about what it means to have gone to an elite college, how could this be true? We're talking about a decision made by admissions officers—basically, HR people—based on a cursory examination of a huge pile of depressingly similar applications submitted by seventeen year olds. And what do they have to go on? An easily gamed standardized test; a short essay telling you what the kid thinks you want to hear; an interview with a random alum; a high school record that's largely an index of obedience. Who would rely on such a test?

... you can't, without asking them, distinguish people who went to one school from those who went to another three times as far down the US News list.

... how much you learn in college depends a lot more on you than the college. A determined party animal can get through the best school without learning anything. And someone with a real thirst for knowledge will be able to find a few smart people to learn from at a school that isn't prestigious at all.
The unfortunate thing is not just that people are judged by such a superficial test, but that so many judge themselves by it. A lot of people, probably the majority of people in the America, have some amount of insecurity about where, or whether, they went to college. The tragedy of the situation is that by far the greatest liability of not having gone to the college you'd have liked is your own feeling that you're thereby lacking something. Colleges are a bit like exclusive clubs in this respect. There is only one real advantage to being a member of most exclusive clubs: you know you wouldn't be missing much if you weren't. When you're excluded, you can only imagine the advantages of being an insider. But invariably they're larger in your imagination than in real life.
Of course, with more and more students being shoved through college that have no business being there (because, according to the governor of Michigan, every single high school graduate has a right to a college education), having a college degree means much less than it used to. Think of it this way; what if the gov decided to pimp, say, plumbing school the way she is pimping colleges. She could cook up all sorts of statistics about how trained plumbers make great money, which would be true at some gross level. But what happens to the rates a plumber can charge for his time in two years when everyone under the age of 21 is a licensed plumber? Why does anyone think it isn't the same with college degrees?

I've given up on Netflix. I canceled our account on Thursday when I received yet-another unplayable disc. Of course, over the weekend, I've been renting and ripping movies like crazy, and I don't seem to be doing much better at the local Hollywood Video. Friday, I rented four movies; once wasn't playable. Saturday, I went back, traded the bad movie in for a different copy and rented four more. The replacement disc was still bad, but only started skipping in the credits, so I wasn't concerned. But two of the four were also bad. Today, I went back, replaced those two and rented two more. All four are unplayable. I guess I'll just start buying DVD's from Amazon and just give up on the whole video rental thing.

Speaking of tech troubles, our laptop has been acting very strangely today. When we bought it, anti-virus and anti-spyware software was "included" (I was charged for them being installed, even though I didn't ask for them and they were already installed when the laptop came out of the box). As is typical, the license on those were only good for one year, after which I would need to pay money to keep them up to date. The total price was steep (nearly $100 for the two packages) so I went and looked at Microsoft's Live OneCare. It was free for 90 days and $50 per year after that. So I uninstalled what I had (reboot, reboot), installed OneCare (reboot), installed the update to IE that OneCare insisted I needed (reboot), and installed the two security updates to the just-updated IE that OneCare helpfully found for me (reboot, reboot). I let OneCare do its thing (called a Tune-Up) and set up automatic backups, scan everything, defrag the hard drive, etc. In all, about eight hours of my time, most of which was spent reading a book (Joseph Cambell's The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology) while the laptop trundled away at some task. So far, so good. Then today, I was clicking away on the web when everything froze. Not a blue screen; completely and totally locked up. Audio cut off; no response to keyboard or mouse; even the good ol' three-fingered salute had no effect. Power down, power up, get iTunes running again, get back into Firefox, work for about two minutes and BAM! Locked up tight again. Power down, power up; only this time, the machine wouldn't boot. Try a couple more times. No joy. I have seven USB devices plugged into this thing, so I unplugged everything and tried again. Windows came back up like nothing happened. I plugged everything back in and all seems well. Talk about ghosts in the machine....

I have a bunch of pictures, not just of rainbows, but more bug photos, Sedona photos, and other random stuff that has been piling up on the camera. I need to get those off the camera and up on Flickr. I'm shooting for tonight, but I don't know how far I will get. If not today, then definitely tomorrow. Which means I need to knock this off and get busy.


Bu bye.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Netflix Throttling

Today, after receiving my sixth damaged disc from Netflix in the last 60 days (plus two others "lost" in the mail), I sent the following e-mail to Netflix:
Maybe it's just me, but you seem to have a serious problem with your service. You seem to do everything you can to make sure that my "unlimited" account is anything but. (A quick Google search for the phrase "netflix throttling" shows 576 hits including an MSNBC article about your class-action settlement for throttling your customers, so it seems I have some company.)

Lets take a quick stroll through my account history, shall we? In the last 90 days, I have managed only 17 watchable discs ("pathetic is the first word that pops in my mind). In that same 90 days, I have returned 6 damaged discs and had two other discs "lost" in the mail.

Bottom line: my patience has run out. The next bad disc, "lost" disc or significantly delayed check in, you can consider this account canceled.
Anyone like to take any bets this being quickly resolved?

Yea, you're right. That's a sucker's bet if I ever saw one. Fun while it lasted, if you can call this fun.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


How many of you know what roygibv refers to? This is something I learned in school that I remember to this day -- along with dessert is spelled with 2 s's because we always would love 2 helpings of dessert. roygbiv ---- the colors of a rainbow in order -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Wednesday on my way home from a seminar in Phoenix I saw for the first time the biv in a rainbow. Now I couldn't really distinguish the difference in the indigo and violet, but I definitely could see the blue and two more variations. As I got closer to Arcosanti, I had another first -- seeing the complete rainbow -- the whole arc in the sky. I called Ric and told him to run outside to see it -- it was raining where I was, but he said it wasn't raining at Arco yet. He got some pictures -- with our small digital -- it is hard to get the whole arc in one picture. But, he was able to see it himself. By the time I got here, the clouds had rolled in and covered most of the rainbow. The other interesting thing we notice out here with rainbows is the reflection rainbow next to the real one. The colors are a mirror image. I love seeing all the rainbows out here.

Well--- time to get going for my volunteer job at Arco. I'm now working in the bakery for the "lunch rush" on weekends when I've available. Today is my 3rd day. The new manager introduced sandwiches for lunch -- or make it a meal with a canned drink and chips.

After I am done in the bakery and Ric finishes his tour, we are headed to Sedona for the rest of the holiday weekend. We got a place just outside of Sedona "proper" for a great AAA rate for Sunday night. We will tell more later..........................