Thursday, December 13, 2007


I wanted to drop everyone a quick note to let them know that the move to coming along well. Natalie is here and helping with the last minute arrangements. My last day of work was today (apparently, they'll miss me) but I already have at least one interview set up and don't expect to have any trouble finding work (knock on laminar surface). I'll be picking up the truck on Saturday, packing it on Sunday with the help of friends, doing a final clean up on Monday, and heading out on Tuesday morning which will, hopefully, mean that I'll be in my new home by next Friday.

In the meanwhile, if you've been wondering what was up with that whispered sequence at the end of Lost in Translation, someone's taken the effort to digitally process it to extract the dialog. Obviously, don't watch the clip if you prefer the mystery.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

See You Next Year

Well, it looks DSL is still not an option, some I've going to be off the grid until I move.

I'll be back by the start of 2008. Until then, enjoy the holidays.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Singing the ISP Blues

It now seems likely that the ISP that serviced my apartment complex has gone out of business (all of their contact numbers have been disconnected). The complex is trying to get Qwest to install a DSL access point which will, supposedly, be done this week. Mind you, I'm a bit skeptical given that the I was initially told that the line would be in place by today.

Unfortunately, I can't afford to keep going to hotpoints and I'm not comfortable blogging from work so I'm going to have to put the blog on hold until this situation is resolved. At the very worst, that's going to mean that I'll be back by January since, by that point, I'll have moved to a new complex.

I apologize for this and I will post updates as I get them.

Unstructured Eversion

Ever since I made,my very first Möbius strip at the age of eleven, I've been deeply fascinated by topology.

This video talks about everting a sphere which means turning it inside out. There's a number of critical rules that have to be followed, which the video covers very nicely using some very nice CGI and easy to understand step-by-step walk-through.

Be warned, the video is about 25 minutes long.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Unstructured Visualization

Munterbund Graph

It may very well say something about me that one of my favorite books is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward R. Tufte, which is an (in my opinion) absolutely fascinating discussion of the right way and the wrong way to create visualizations of raw data.

The visualization of data is a bridge between the world of raw information and our minds. It's a kind of map for the mind and a good one can bring that information to life in a way that simple numbers and statistics can not.

Minard MapConsider Minard's map of Napolean's march to Russia. The width of the lines indicates the size of Napolean's forces. Look at the way it shrinks and note the temperature scale on the bottom. You can practically feel the frostbitten bleeding of his troops.

The internet has created new challenges to visualizing data but it's also given up new tools. Here is a collection of some of the most ambitious and innovative attempts to visualize data. My feeling is that some are better than others and that a number of them seem to actively get in the way but all of them are very creative and fascinating.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

More Hello Kitty

Stormtrooper Kitty

I found a couple of Hello Kitty spoof pictures. I particularly like the storm trooper one, depicted above.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Please Stand By

Technical Difficulties GraphicMy ISP has been offline for a week and no one seems to be able to tell me why it's down or when it will be back (calls to the tech support number go straight to a busy signal and emails don't get responded to).

I've been publishing posts, out of the queue, from work but, obviously, that's not something that I want to keep doing on a regular basis. My current employer is fairly relaxed about how I use my time but, even so, there are limits that I'd rather not push.

The bottom line is that if you see don't see many posts in the near future please don't think that it's because I'm losing interest in the blog or that I've run out of content. Quite the contrary: I've got a backlog of articles that would easily carry me for several months even if I were to suffer a bone-crushing case of writer's block. Any outages will be the strict result of technical difficulties.

I'm working on trying to see if I can get Comcast to install a cable modem (this is more difficult than you might think due to the way my apartment complex likes to manage their affairs). I'm also seeing if Qwest can hook me up to DSL (not very likely because I'm just beyond the radius of the nearest access point). I'm even considering dial-up options. In the meanwhile, my online time is going to be very limited and most of the time that I can snatch from work and hotpoints is necessarily going to need to be dedicated to taking care of more important matters such as my upcoming move to California.

Please believe me when I say that this is intensely frustrating to me. I've put quite a lot of effort into rebooting the blog and it really sucks to have have it crash against this sort of technical and institutional incompetence and, worse, to have so little power to be able to do anything about it. I hope that all of you will bear with me.

Unstructured Bunker Busting

Bunker Buster

This is from a flash animation wherein the Union of Concerned Scientists argue that, while a "bunker busting" nuclear bomb seems like an intuitive solution to the problem of deep enemy bunkers, they are, in reality, much less effective then one would think (especially when you factor in the environmental consequences).

It should be noted that the U.O.C.S. is a partisan organization that is opposed to nuclear weapons on principle; however, I have never once found them using bad science in their arguments.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Outing of Gandalf

GandalfNEW YORK — Hobbit author J.R.R. Tolkien served up a bombshell Friday evening during a reading at Carnegie Hall, telling a crowd of fans from throughout the United States that Gandalf, the wise Wizard who is Bilbo's mentor and sometimes companion, is Jewish.

"I always saw Gandalf as Jewish," Tolkien said in answer to a fan's question about whether the wizard had ever found Christ.

The crowd of about 2,000 hardcore Hobbit fans, who had won tickets through a nationwide drawing, exploded in screams and applause at the news. Tolkien, moments later joked, "Oh my God, the fan fiction now!"

Reaction to the announcement has been mixed. Jewish advocacy groups have celebrated the announcement.

"Oh course he's Jewish," exclaimed Seth Rabinowitz, head of the Jewish fan club Middle-Israel, "Just think about it. He's a wise old man who is extremely learned and who is both spiritual and deeply moral. Clearly, Gandalf is intended to be a rabbi."

Others have expressed the opinion that this revelation seems to be arbitrary and that it detracts from the book.

"I don't care that Tolkien wants him to be a Jew, but is it necessary to make this public? What does it add to the book," asked Marie Donovan, a mother of four. "Now whenever I read the book to my kids the whole story is going to be tainted by this unnecessary detail. Was it really necessary for Tolkien to use Gandalf to make some sort of social statement?"

Conservative groups, who have been leery of the fantastic elements of the book from the start, stated that this was proof that the books had a subversive political agenda. When asked about the controversy, Adolf Rummer, head of the Family for Families Council, exclaimed, "[Gandalf] spends his time with physical degenerates while looking for gold: what a surprise that he's Jewish! I think that Christian parents have a right to shield their children from this sort of propaganda and that it's immensely irresponsible for Tolkien to use his work to advance a Jewish agenda."

Tolkien has expressed surprise and dismay at the reaction to the revelation. "It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could be Jewish," he was quoted as saying. He insists that, since Gandalf is his creation, he is the one who will have the final word on all matters concerning the grey wizard, including his religious orientation.

10 Dirty Little Secrets about Information Technology

As a long-time IT drone, I've often been bemused by the fact that it's a career that can be both paradisaical and hellish, often at the same time. Most IT workers I've met wouldn't dream about leaving it but it can also be immensely stressful. Given that, the following list really speaks to me.

10) The pay in IT is good compared to many other professions, but since they pay you well, they often think they own you

Although the pay for IT professionals is not as great as it was before the dot-com flameout and the IT backlash in 2001-2002, IT workers still make very good money compared to many other professions (at least the ones that require only an associate’s or bachelor’s degree). And there is every reason to believe that IT pros will continue to be in demand in the coming decades, as technology continues to play a growing role in business and society. However, because IT professionals can be so expensive, some companies treat IT pros like they own them. If you have to answer a tech call at 9:00 PM because someone is working late, you hear, “That’s just part of the job.” If you need to work six hours on a Saturday to deploy a software update to avoid downtime during business hours, you get, “There’s no comp time for that since you’re on salary. That’s why we pay you the big bucks!”

9) It will be your fault when users make silly errors

Some users will angrily snap at you when they are frustrated. They will yell, “What’s wrong with this thing?” or “This computer is NOT working!” or (my personal favorite), “What did you do to the computers?” In fact, the problem is that they accidentally deleted the Internet Explorer icon from the desktop, or unplugged the mouse from the back of the computer with their foot, or spilled their coffee on the keyboard.

8) You will go from goat to hero and back again multiple times within any given day

When you miraculously fix something that had been keeping multiple employees from being able to work for the past 10 minutes — and they don’t realize how simple the fix really was — you will become the hero of the moment and everyone’s favorite employee. But they will conveniently forget about your hero anointment a few hours later when they have trouble printing because of a network slowdown — you will be enemy No. 1 at that moment. But if you show users a handy little Microsoft Outlook trick before the end of the day, you’ll soon return to hero status.

7) Certifications won’t always help you become a better technologist, but they can help you land a better job or a pay raise

Headhunters and human resources departments love IT certifications. They make it easy to match up job candidates with job openings. They also make it easy for HR to screen candidates. You’ll hear a lot of veteran IT pros whine about techies who were hired based on certifications but who don’t have the experience to effectively do the job. They are often right. That has happened in plenty of places. But the fact is that certifications open up your career options. They show that you are organized and ambitious and have a desire to educate yourself and expand your skills. If you are an experienced IT pro and have certifications to match your experience, you will find yourself to be extremely marketable. Tech certifications are simply a way to prove your baseline knowledge and to market yourself as a professional. However, most of them are not a good indicator of how good you will be at the job.

6) Your nontechnical co-workers will use you as personal tech support for their home PCs

Your co-workers (in addition to your friends, family, and neighbors) will view you as their personal tech support department for their home PCs and home networks. They will e-mail you, call you, and/or stop by your office to talk about how to deal with the virus that took over their home PC or the wireless router that stopped working after the last power outage and to ask you how to put their photos and videos on the Web so their grandparents in Iowa can view them. Some of them might even ask you if they can bring their home PC to the office for you to fix it. The polite ones will offer to pay you, but some of them will just hope or expect you can help them for free. Helping these folks can be very rewarding, but you have to be careful about where to draw the line and know when to decline.

5) Vendors and consultants will take all the credit when things work well and will blame you when things go wrong

Working with IT consultants is an important part of the job and can be one of the more challenging things to manage. Consultants bring niche expertise to help you deploy specialized systems, and when everything works right, it’s a great partnership. But you have to be careful. When things go wrong, some consultants will try to push the blame off on you by arguing that their solution works great everywhere else so it must be a problem with the local IT infrastructure. Conversely, when a project is wildly successful, there are consultants who will try to take all of the credit and ignore the substantial work you did to customize and implement the solution for your company.

4) You’ll spend far more time babysitting old technologies than implementing new ones

One of the most attractive things about working in IT is the idea that we’ll get to play with the latest cutting edge technologies. However, that’s not usually the case in most IT jobs. The truth is that IT professionals typically spend far more time maintaining, babysitting, and nursing established technologies than implementing new ones. Even IT consultants, who work with more of the latest and greatest technologies, still tend to work primarily with established, proven solutions rather than the real cutting edge stuff.

3) Veteran IT professionals are often the biggest roadblock to implementing new technologies

A lot of companies could implement more cutting edge stuff than they do. There are plenty of times when upgrading or replacing software or infrastructure can potentially save money and/or increase productivity and profitability. However, it’s often the case that one of the largest roadblocks to migrating to new technologies is not budget constraints or management objections; it’s the veteran techies in the IT department. Once they have something up and running, they are reluctant to change it. This can be a good thing because their jobs depend on keeping the infrastructure stable, but they also use that as an excuse to not spend the time to learn new things or stretch themselves in new directions. They get lazy, complacent, and self-satisfied.

2) Some IT professionals deploy technologies that do more to consolidate their own power than to help the business

Another subtle but blameworthy thing that some IT professionals do is select and implement technologies based on how well those technologies make the business dependent on the IT pros to run them, rather than which ones are truly best for the business itself. For example, IT pros might select a solution that requires specialized skills to maintain instead of a more turnkey solution. Or an IT manager might have more of a Linux/UNIX background and so chooses a Linux-based solution over a Windows solution, even though the Windows solution is a better business decision (or, vice versa, a Windows admin might bypass a Linux-based appliance, for example). There are often excuses and justifications given for this type of behavior, but most of them are disingenuous.

1) IT pros frequently use jargon to confuse nontechnical business managers and hide the fact that they screwed up

All IT pros — even the very best — screw things up once in a while. This is a profession where a lot is at stake and the systems that are being managed are complex and often difficult to integrate. However, not all IT pros are good at admitting when they make a mistake. Many of them take advantage of the fact that business managers (and even some high-level technical managers) don’t have a good understanding of technology, and so the techies will use jargon to confuse them (and cover up the truth) when explaining why a problem or an outage occurred. For example, to tell a business manager why a financial application went down for three hours, the techie might say, “We had a blue screen of death on the SQL Server that runs that app. Damn Microsoft!” What the techie would fail to mention was that the BSOD was caused by a driver update he applied to the server without first testing it on a staging machine.

Attribution unknown.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How to Survive a Zombie Attack

Some timely advice on surviving the next zombie apocalypse from the fine folks at Common Craft.

More good advice can be found at the Zombie Survival and Defense Wiki.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Roxanne, Don't Put on the Redshirt Tonight...

Redshirt Deaths

Anyone with the least bit of geek in their blood knows that the reason you're given a red shirt, if your a member of the starship Enterprise, is because it's easier for the ship's laundry to disguise the bloodstains. This factoid has become so well known, in fact, that it has become a cliché.

True geekery looks beyond the cliché. True geekery analyzes the data, which is precisely what The Inside Track has done. Their report tells us, for instance, that if you happen to be a redshirt, your odds for survival improve immensely if you can manage to get the captain laid.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Unstructured Jack O' Lanterns


We're approaching Halloween here in the United States which, in the traditions of our culture, is the time of year when we sell our souls to Satan and ritually sacrifice our least wanted children.

One part of the pagan festivities involves the carving of pumpkins (known as Jack O' Lanterns by way of a vaguely menacing threat to the Irish that we'll carve them, too, if they get uppity).

Here's a gallery of some especially cool carvings that are well beyond your ability to manage. Pumpkins carved by real people generally look like they've been hacked at by some sort of savant weasel. If you suffer delusions of competence, here's a site that promises to turn you into an actual pumpkin artist.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Top 10 Excuses for Not Turning in Math Homework

Equations10. It's Isaac Newton's birthday.
9. I couldn't decide whether i is the square root of -1 or i are the square root of -1.
8. I accidently divided by 0 and my paper burst into flames.
7. It's stuck inside a Klein bottle.
6. I could only get arbitrarily close to my textbook.
5. I had too much π and got sick.
4. Someone already published it, so I didn't bother to write it up.
3. A four-dimensional dog ate it.
2. I have a solar calculator and it was cloudy.
1. There wasn't enough room to write it in the margin.

Attribution unknown. Photo by dullhunk.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tricky English

I've seen this in a number of places and, sadly, haven't been able to identity the author of it. That said, it's a very clever set of examples for why English is such a tricky and difficult language for non-native speakers to learn.

We polish Polish furniture.

He could lead if he got the lead out.

A farm can produce produce.

The dump was so full, it had to refuse refuse.

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.

The present is a good time to present the present.

At the Army base, a bass was painted on a bass drum.

A dove dove into the bushes.

I didn’t object to the object.

The insurance for the invalid was invalid.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

The two were too close to the door to close it.

The buck does funny things when does are present.

They sent a sewer down to stitch a tear in the sewer line.

To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

After a number of Novocain injections, my lips got number.

I shed a tear over a tear in my shirt.

I had to subject the subject to a number of tests.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friends?

I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Unstructured Wildfire

California Wildfires from ISS

This is a photograph of the recent wildfires in Southern California taken from the International Space Station. Click here for a larger image.

NASA also have a rather cool satellite picture.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Grand Central

I'm on the beta for, which is a Google-owned business that has a service where they give you a central phone number which can then dial multiple phones (i.e. work, cell, home, etc) according to various criteria (family, friends, etc) and which also has an online voice mail system.

I have up to ten invites that I can hand out to the beta. If you are interested in checking it out, email me a request and I'll send you an invite.

First come, first serve.

Unstructured Phallic Symbol

Phallic Sign

I snapped this sign and logo on a building near my office.

Sometimes a phallic symbol is just a phallic symbol... even if it is a bit stunted.

Stupid Microsoft Trick: Word

Here's something to do if you have a copy of Microsoft Word and you're feeling bored.

Open up a new Word document and type:

=rand (200, 98)

and then press return.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Etiquette Training

The evolution of etiquette... Japanese style.



Rodentologists have confirmed
That mice have religion

Pipsqueak polytheists
Who pray for warmth and food
For clean nests and large litters

And to be delivered from the Snapping Thing
that breaks their backs

The gods are mostly mousy beings:
Bead-eyed, bewhiskered,
Soft and wise

But at the apex of their pantheon
Sits a Cat whose name
Is Judgement

Mouse photo courtest of Sean Dreilinger

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Polly Wants a UL Rating

Here's the real reason that pirates had parrots.

An Alphabetic History

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I would I could give proper attribution to this animated history of the alphabet. Unfortunately, I've seen it in a number of places and none of them seem to be the origin. Given that, I wanted to make sure that you folks had a chance to see it as well.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Unstructured Duchamp

Bicycle WheelMarcel Duchamp was one of the pioneers of the Dada movement, which was an artistic movement that strove to transcend conventional notions of art, via absurdist rejections of the norm, which pushed the boundaries of what was and was not art.

Duchamp is perhaps best remembered for the abstract Nude Descending a Staircase but my personal favorite is Bicycle Wheel (pictured to the right).

(I'm also amused by the title of his mustachioed Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q., which, in French, basically sounds like "She is hot in the ass").

Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp is an excellent interactive timeline of his work.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unstructured Web Design

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As someone who's done enough amateur web design, I have nothing but respect for people who actually do it for a living.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Unstructured Outing

Old and busted: Snape kills Dumbledore.

New hotness: Dumbledore is gay.

Unstructured Violin

A very cool duet for violin and turntable.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Unstructured Hand Shadows

Turkey Hand Shadow

I was never very good at hand shadows. Perhaps if I had had access to the Ashley's Shadows site, I could have spent hours distracting myself from my lonely, lonely geek childhood.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unstructured Globes

Globe Picture

WorldProcessor is a site that neatly converges two of my interests: maps and creative visualizations.

The site features a collection of large pictures of globes. Some of the globes -- as the one, above, which depicts national debts as literal mountains -- convey information while others, such as a transparent globe with a goldfish in it, are more whimsical.

Sadly, some of the graphics on the site are broken (I wonder what the "Chernobyl Cloud" globe looked like) but the overall site is still worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Run Away!

There is a mythology to hacking. The public's idea of what a hacker is comes from a mixture of bad movie stereotypes and alarmist news reports. In the mind of the average person, a hacker can destroy your credit rating and steal your bank account merely by thinking hard. Given this, it's not surprising that many people are afraid of hackers.

To be sure, there are hackers who do bad things but, in truth, your average hacker is simply someone who is a) technologically savvy and b) deeping interested in understanding how things work. Hackers love to take apart systems and security systems are a favorite of hackers simply because they pose the best challenges.

In truth, most hackers aren't malicious and the the bulk of the danger on the internet isn't from hackers. Right now, the biggest online threat that the average person faces is identity theft, but most identity thieves rely on fairly low-tech cons (such as phishing for information) that require a level of skill that any decent hacker would consider to be beneath him.

Those hackers that are into thievery are usually more interested in bigger targets such as sensitive corporate data; however, your average hacker would rather be employed by security firms than risking their freedom by breaking federal laws.

Be that as it may, the media loves a story that can scare their audience and what's more scary to a technologically illiterate viewer than an entire convention of hackers? Thus, Dateline NBC decided to send an undercover agent to DEFCON 2007.

DEFCON is a convention of hackers. It should be emphasized that this isn't some sort of secret convention. DEFCON is well publicized and the organizers offer press badges to any reporting who would like to cover the event. It is also no secret that federal agents like to attend, too... so that they can talk to the attendees and learn what sort of cutting edge security risks have been exposed by them.

Dateline wasn't satisfied with this. They were sure that if they send a reporter in with a hidden camera, they'd be able to get some of the attendees to say things that were incriminating (or, at the very least, "scary"). Now the thing about hackers is that they aren't stupid. These are very smart people who think very hard about security. They aren't the sort of folks who are going to be fooled by weak attempts to sneak a camera into their convention.

Naturally, the organizers figured out what was going on and decided to have a bit of fun. They announced a contest to "spot the undercover reporter". The goal was simply to show her than her antics weren't going to be tolerated. They gave the audience the option of having her escorted out or of giving her a press pass so that should could continue to report on the convention, only without any illusions that she was going to trick anyone into exposing themselves. The audience opted to have her escorted out but, even then, the organizers said that she could return once she had obtained a press pass. She quickly exited the hall, followed by about a hundred and fifty people videotaping her and mocking her.

I want to be clear about this: I think that undercover investigation has a legitimate place in journalism and I've been dismayed by the fact that the courts have decided that corporations can claim violations of their right to privacy when reporters use hidden cameras in their investigations. However, at the same time, I think that sensationalism hurts the cause of legitimate journalism. Dateline wasn't trying to expose a legitimate threat to the public; they were trying to appeal to the technophobia of their audience. As such, I am glad that the tables were turned, especially given that the only damage that was done to the reporter was a bit of public embarrassment (and, to be sure, I think that the people following her and taunting her were being more than a bit childish).

Here is a video of the incident.



The engine of the world
Has seized up

We've had to pull the planet
Of to the side of its orbit

We've called the mechanic
But he's backed up, right now

There's been some kind of mash up
Out in the Oort

So sit back and relax
Have a smoke, or a toke
(If that's your thing)

The planet isn't going to be going
Anywhere today

Engine photo courtesy of "macwagen"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Google Earth Oddities

Parked JetGoogle Earth is one of those killer apps that you just can't put down. The first thing you do with it, of course, is to find your home and then other places that are significant to you, such as your old high school. Eventually, though, you find yourself just wandering the globe as a virtual eye-in-the-sky tourist looking for interesting things and oddities.

This is a slide show of some of the more curious things that people have found including a jet fighter that's apparently been parked in a residential neighborhood, a really huge bunny rabbit, and a picture of Oprah Winfrey embossed into a corn field.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Unstructured Monads


In theology, a monad is part of a theory of God pertaining to the unity of the deity with the natural world.

In ancient philosophy, a monad was a hypothesized unit of matter that was a precursor the the concept of the atom.

In mathematics, monads refer to a type of "functor" used in Category Theory.

The concept of monads also shows up in computer science.

It was thus, with some puzzlement, that Natalie and I contemplated a sign advertising "frozlemonad". What sort of monad is a frozle monad? It sounds like something that the Frobozz Applied Theology Company might have been working on.

Eventually we surmized that the sign was actually advertising frozen lemonade.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Unstructured Twirling

DancerI'm always on the look out for cool optical illusions. I was forwarded a link to article which features a spinning silhouette of a dancer.

The article claims that the figure indicates whether you are right or left brain dominant depending on whether you see her spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise. I'm skeptical of the scientific accuracy of that but the illusion is, never the less, very interesting.

I initially saw her spinning clockwise and had a very hard time convincing my brain to perceive her spinning the other way. I found that once my mind saw it as a three dimensional figure, it was very hard to do the usual sort of left/right flip that is typical of these illusions. In my case, the trick is to concentrate on the shadow of her foot which is my easier to flip around.

Thanks to Sarah Fry for the article link.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Unstructured Surrealism

Surreal Painting

A common complaint about representational art is that it lacks creativity whereas a common complaint about abstract art is that it's so abstract that it can mask a simple lack of technical skill.

My own position is that Surrealism neatly straddles the divide. A surrealist must demonstrate the technical proficiency of representationalism while transcending the bounds of mere photographic duplication. A good surrealist must be creative as well as expressive.

Here is a lovely collection of some very beautiful surrealist art.

Friday, October 12, 2007


When I first saw this video I was positive that it had to be a clever hoax but, I'll be damned, the Pistol Shrimp really does exist!

And here's a link to the science behind it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pants Runner

You've probably come across the Star Wars gag where you substitute one word of dialog with the word pants. I decided to see what I could do with my personal favorite SF movie: Blade Runner.

"They don't advertise for pants in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop. Ex-pants runner."

"You look down and see pants, Leon. They're crawling toward you.."

"Fiery the pants fell. Deep thunder rolled around their shores... burning with the fires of Orc."

"Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about your pants."

"I just do pants... just pants.... You Nexus, huh? I design your pants."

"Gosh, you've really got some nice pants here."

"I don't know why he saved my pants. Maybe in those last moments he loved pants more than he ever had before. Not just his pants, anybody's pants, my pants."

"Quite an experience to live in pants, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave."

"Do you like our pants?"
"They're artificial? "
"Of course they are."
"Must be expensive."

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Pants on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched pants glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."

"Pants are like any other machine - they're either a benefit or a hazard. If they're a benefit, it's not my problem."

"Must get lonely here, J.F."
"Not really. I make friends. They're pants. My friends are pants. I make them. It's a hobby."

"I've done... questionable things."
"Nothing the god of pants wouldn't let you in heaven for."

"Did you get your precious pants?"
"Someone was there."

"We're not pants, Sebastian, we're physical."

"Christ, Deckard. You look almost as bad as those pants you left on the sidewalk."

"This announcement is brought to you by the Shimato Dominguez Corporation - helping America into the new pants."

Thanks to IMDB for the quotes.

Ten Reasons to Oppose Gay Marriage

  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.
  4. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn't changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can't marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  5. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears' 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.
  6. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.
  7. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  8. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That's why we have only one religion in America.
  9. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.
  10. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven't adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

Attribution unknown.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Do not try this at home, kids.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Uber-Geek Song of the Interval

Frosty the photon
Escaped from a black hole,
Then he used his spin
To find his kin,
Near the ends of a dipole.
Frosty the photon
With momentum h-bar-k
Though he had the right
To be known as light,
He was called a gamma ray.

The Breakfast of the Gods

Breakfast of the Gods

The primary function of a commercial mascot is fairly base: sell product. And yet, a given mascot can take on a life of its own; a life that transcends the merely corporate to become part of the larger culture.

The cartoon cereal mascots are certainly part of that broader cultural heritage. As we grew up, exposed to the antics of Snap, Crackle and Pop, Tony the Tiger, Cap'n Crunch, et al, we find ourselves wondering about the lives the characters lead when they aren't shilling astonishingly anti-nutritious food that's always "part of a balanced breakfast" (by which they mean that it's next to the parts that are actually good for you).

The Breakfast of the Gods
web comic offers one interpretation of that. In the story, the characters take on a much more mature role. Count Chochula is an actual vampire, and quite evil. Cap'n Crunch is seen as a wise and benevolent leader who has to make difficult choices. Super Sugar Bear is a creature haunted by the demons of his own addiction.

This isn't to say that the story is without whimsy or, more importantly, respect for its source material. This isn't the kind of story that simply tramples on our childhood memories in order to be edgy and "mature". Rather, the story takes the ideas of the characters at face value and deepens them in order to tell a story that is genuinely engaging and often poignant.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Unstructured 3-Day Vacation

Natalie decided to surprise me and fly out here for her birthday (a fact that she managed to accomplish with immense amounts of stealthy and conspiratorial planning with my co-workers). Given that she's out here, I'm going to be taking the next three days off from blogging.

Enjoy your weekend and, if you're lucky enough to be a government employee, enjoy your 3-day holiday.

The Muppet Show

YouTube is a curious thing: it's a 21st century technology that allows us to instantly and effortlessly feed our nostalgia for the 20th century.

Enjoy this intro to The Muppet Show.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Unstructured Prognostication

Futurology is a suckers game. The reason for this is that history is a turbulent system that doesn't lend itself to prediction; however, every so often you'll come across a prediction that seems eerily prescient in retrospect. Even though the shotgun nature of prognostication guarantees that will always be a few hits and some spectacularly close near misses, it's difficult to not feel a shiver when you come across one that turned out to be on or near the mark.

Paul Otlet was a Belgian who lived in the first half of the 20th Century. He was a scholar of the theory of knowledge and information. Among his ideas was something that he called the "radiated library". As you can see from this clip, from a documentary about him, his ideas is very much akin to the modern web (although his concept was based on a far more centralized paradigm and relied on humans to do the information searches).

At the time that Otlet was developing his theories, they garnered a reasonable amount of attention. Sadly, Otlet's work was truncated by the second world war and fell into obscurity thereafter in part, ironically, because they appeared antiquated by post-war developments in information theory and computer science.

Unstructured Furoshiki

FuroshikiI have always sucked when it's come to trend spotting. I started sipping Chai about a month after the entire population of Omaha, Nebraska had fallen in love with it. I was the guy who learned about Doom from Dateline NBC. I started saying "All your base are belong to us" right about the time when most people were ready to cockpunch the next mofo who injected the meme into a conversation.

Given this, you should regard any pop-culture prognostication from me with a hefty grain of salt. That said, if I had to make a guess, furoshiki seems like it could be a contender.

Strictly speaking, furoshiki is a Japanese term for a special kind of cloth used to wrap up various objects. More informally, it's the technique used to wrap the objects. As you can see from the chart, below, there's a lot of techniques. Although I'm not sure if you'll ever get the good folks in Branson to take it up, I can see this sort of thing appealing to Upper Eastsiders who are started to get bored by Feng Shui, especially given that there's an environmentally friendly pitch to using furoshiki over disposable materials.

Furoshiki techniques

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Morning Cup of Snark

The Today is That Day website has a list of "8 Tips on How to Get Out of Bed even When You Don’t Want To". Here are the tips along with my take on them.

1) Give yourself a mental command before you go to sleep.

That seems a bit too authoritarian for my tastes. How about a politely worded mental suggestion?

2) Think of your one definite burning desire as soon as you wake up.

That would be more sleep. Am I missing something?

3) Smile

I'm not sure that baring my teeth in anger at the morning light really qualifies as a smile, but I'll see what I can do.

4) Think of your "want to do" list.

Number 1: Hit the Snooze Alarm
Number 2: Sleep
Number 3: See Number 1

5) Think of the benefits that come from getting up and getting your day started.

Any task with the word "think" in it, before I've had my morning coffee, is a phenomenological oxymoron.

6) Plan your first "reward".

Fifteen more minutes under the covers. Thank you, may I have another?

7) Make a commitment to other people a part of your morning routine.

I hereby commit that I shan't snap my girlfriend's head off first thing in the morning. This is best accomplished by the judicious deployment of the snooze alarm.

8) Put yourself on a schedule that is non-negotiable.

Trust me, getting a few more minutes of sleep is highly non-negotiable. I'll be sure to pencil it in.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Unstructured Ahmadinejad

This is wrong on so many levels.

Circuit Snacks

Circuit Board Snack

The next time you're planning to throw a party for some Electrical Engineers (and really, who can party like a double-E?), you might want to think about making snacks in the shape of circuitry.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Unstructured Garfield

Random Garfield Strip

Some very clever guy noticed that Garfield comics are just about as funny as they normally would be if you just took a bunch of panels and slapped them together at random.

Here's a utility where you can see the results for yourself.

Unstructured Gorey

C is for Clara who wasted away

My first exposure to the art of Edward Gorey was in the old animated introduction to the P.B.S. series Mystery. He's got a very distinctive, and macabre, style of line art that's impossible to mistake for anyone else's.

I especially like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, which is a sort of grim alphabet featuring various tykes dying alphabetically of various situations and conditions.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unstructured Invisibility

Someone has developed a cool new technology that allows you to imprint images on fabrics or other surfaces that only show up on digital cameras.

It is just a matter of time before someone figures out a way to completely abuse this.

(Props to Rob Berry for forwarding me this link)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The "History" of Science

A rather snarky "history" of science.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Fermi Paradox: Further Reading

Paradigm's Lost CoverThere are a lot of good books dealing, in whole or part, with
the overall subject of the search for extraterrestrial
intelligence (the very acronym of SETI) and speculations on
possibilities of success or failure. As such, this particular
listing is merely a sub-sampling of the books that are available
and should not be treated as anything close to a complete listing
of works.

The Aliens are Among Us Hypothesis

Communion CoverPerhaps the most controversial of all the proposed solutions
to the Fermi Paradox, this hypothesis has generated enough books,
pro and con, to fill several libraries. As such, any sampling of
books is going to be, by necessity, a non-representative sample.
That said, on the pro side, one can find such books as:
Demo Haunted World CoverOn the Con side, one can find such books as:
The Apocalyptic Hypothesis

Cosmos CoverThis particular hypothesis is found, as a reoccurring theme, in much of Carl Sagan's works. Perhaps the best (cautionary) example can be found in Cosmos.

Isaac Asimov also dealt with the theme of world-threatening futures in A Choice of Catastrophes : The Disasters That Threaten Our World. Unfortunately, this book is hard to find, but well worth reading if you can find a copy.

The Chariots of the Gods Hypothesis

Like the Aliens are Among us Hypothesis, this hypothesis has been a source of extreme controversy ever since Erich von Daniken published the eponymous Chariots of the Gods. He has since expanded upon the original theme in The Eyes of the Sphinx : The Newest Evidence of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Egypt.

Chariots of the Gods CoverRebuttals to von Daniken's theories can be found in such works
as Crash Go the Chariots, by Clifford Wilson, and The Space-Gods Revealed : A Close Look at the Theories of Erich Von Daniken by Ronald Story, both of which are somewhat hard to come by. PBS's Nova science series also did a critical report on von Daniken's theories in the 5th season episode The Case of the Ancient Astronauts. Unfortunately, this video is not available for sale from their online store, but a transcript of it can be ordered, for a nominal fee, from WGBH Audience and Member Services at (617) 492-2777, Ext. 5400.

The Dangerous Neighbors Hypothesis

The Forge of God CoverCharles Pellegrino is the primary architect of the DNH. In his opinion, the potential development of relativistic missiles using antimatter drives makes this a very real possibility. He deals with these themes extensively (and technically) in his two works of fiction, Flying to Valhalla and The Killing Star, which are both, unfortunately, currently out of print. Greg Bear also offers a fictional overview of this perspective, using even more esoteric technologies, in The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars.

The First Come, First Serve Hypothesis

Physics of Immortality CoverThis particular hypothesis has received a lot of popularity in recent years, but it remains the brain child of Frank Tippler who first formulated it as part of his eschatological Omega Point Hypothesis in The Physics of Immortality.

A discussion of the Anthropic Principle, which is a major component of the First Come, First Serve hypothesis, can also be found in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow and Frank Tippler. A more technical (and expensive) treatment of the Anthropic Principle can be found in The Anthropic Principle : Proceedings of the Second Venice Conference on Cosmology and Philosophy.

The Stay at Home Hypothesis III (a.k.a., The Lotus Eater Hypothesis)

Although this particular example doesn't use virtual reality per our conventional understanding, Greg Bear's Blood Music offers, perhaps, the best fictional treatment of this particular hypothesis. While this title is out of print, I've found that most used book resources have available copies of it.

The Transcendent Hypothesis

Great Mambo Chicken CoverThe concept of the Singularity is very popular in the Extropian movement, although not all Extropians agree with this particular interpretation of the singularity. For a good overview of transhumanism (which is a superset of the Extropian movement), I would recommend Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition : Science Slightly over the Edge, by Ed Regis, as well as The Extropian Home Page.

The science fiction writer Vernor Vinge has been the primary advocate of the idea of the technological singularity as transcendent event. This idea was a central plot point in his novel Marooned in Real Time which is, unfortunately, currently out of print but, again, well worth searching for. Critiques of Vinge's concept of the Singularity can be found here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Your Exceedingly Geeky Joke of the Interval

How many Lojbanists does it take to change a broken light bulb?

Two. One to decide what to change it into and another to find a bulb that emits broken light.

Extra geek cred to the first person to get the joke.
Super-extra geek cred to the first person to translate the joke into Lojban.

Science Tattoos

Fossil Skull

It would seem that even scientists aren't above putting a little ink in their skin. Carl Zimmer, who is the owner of The Loom science blog (as well as the author of several very good pop-sci books), asked if any scientists, in his audience, had tattoos. The response was so overwhelming that he created this very cool Flikr collection of the tattoos.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Unstructured Space Dive

Space Jump

What you see here is an artists conception of an experimental emergency reentry suit, that's actually on the drawing boards, which is supposed to give astronauts a last ditch option for returning to earth if their vehicle is incapacitated. The idea is that they literally do a high dive from orbit into atmosphere.

If Richard Branson is really serious about promoting space tourism, he ought to market this as the next extreme sport.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Fermi Paradox: Conclusion

Ever since our species came to realize that other species could be out there, we have had a driving curiosity to know whether they are out there. An initial sense of optimism, where many people thought that our own solar system would be full of intelligent life, has crashed into the real world. The solar system not only lacks intelligent life, but it seems to lack any life other than our own, potential Martian fossils and speculations for life in the Europan ocean notwithstanding. SETI, likewise, has failed to turn up a single unambiguous signal from the stars.

Very Large ArrayMany people are still optimistic that other intelligences may exist that are able and willing to communicate with us, but against the very real silence and emptiness that we have encountered, Fermi's profoundly simple question has become a very pertinent one to those holding such hopes. The fact that it may only be possible to gain a definitive answer to the question by actually going out into the galaxy and making a comprehensive search hasn't prevented us from suggesting answers. Indeed, as such proposed solutions to the Dangerous Neighbors, the Apocalyptic, and the Lotus Eater Hypotheses show, such speculations may be pertinent not only to our curiosity but to our future as a species.

So we wait, and we ponder, and we listen with keen ears for the faintest indication that we may not be alone in the universe. As Carl Sagan stated on numerous occasions, any answer to that question is one that is well worth knowing.

Monday, September 24, 2007



The papers had no words today,
And the news was done in mime.
All the squires sang in silence,
While the thirteenth hour chimed.

The knights went off to Nowhere
To explore that distant land.
Everyone was much impressed
When they returned with empty hands.

We distilled all the whispers
Into a drink and drank
A silent toast in honor of
The artist that drew a blank.

If the papers have words tomorrow,
I wonder what they'll say
About all the many things
That were never done today.

Intermission photo courtesy of "alumroot"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Fermi Paradox: The Transcendent Hypothesis

Warning: SingularityThe Transcendent Hypothesis argues that technological development is exponential and that such development eventually leads to a period of asymptotic development with culminates with a technological "Singularity" at the asymptote. The TH suggests that when a species reaches this singularity, it "transcends", meaning that it either moves to another plane of being inaccessible to us (e.g., to another dimension), or that it becomes something so utterly alien that pre-singularity cultures are incapable of recognize it, much less comprehending it.

Critics of the TH complain that it is so utterly speculative as to be worthless. Even if we grant the notion that civilizations eventually reach some sort of technological singularity, the notion that they "transcend" is spiritual mumbo-jumbo thinly disguised by a science-fictional gloss. Lacking an actual mechanism to support the notion that civilizations can "transcend", it ought to be dismissed out of hand. Supporters of the TH contend that the notion of a singularity is firmly ground in real-world extrapolation and that the notion of transcendence is nothing more than a restatement of Clarke's Third Law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". As such, any attempt to deal with the Fermi Paradox from a level of our own technological development is simply naive and we should expect advanced civilizations to be fundamentally incomprehensible.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Hyphen Goes Through a Bad Period

XKCD Hyphen Comic

This just in: the short version of the Oxford English Dictionary is dropping the hyphen from some 16,000 compound words due to a number of factors, not least of which is the influence of the internet on written communication ("oh noes!") but also because people find them to be confusing and designers aren't fond of them either.

Fortunately, there's still a place for some hyphenation in those cases where the lack would generate an ambiguous construct (the article notes that there is a difference between a party that has twenty-odd people and a party that has twenty odd people -- namely that I'm much more likely to be attending the latter).

Comic courtesy of XKCD; used without permission

The Fermi Paradox: The Stay at Home Hypothesis III (a.k.a., The Lotus Eater Hypothesis)

Lotus FlowerThe third SAHH suggests that, as species discover and develop virtual reality simulations, they eventually become so immersed in the simulations that they lose all interest in the external world. In such a scenario, the period between the development of radio communications and the rudiments of space travel, and the development of addictively immersive virtual realities is so short as to preclude the development of interstellar travel. Likewise, the potential period of communication would be so short as to make it unlikely that we would intercept a communication from another species before they turned permanently inward.

Critics argue that it is unjustifiably pessimistic to suppose that any species would choose to live in simulated worlds to the exclusion of the real world and that, even if we suppose that some might, it's unreasonable to suppose that all species would be so prone. Supporters of the third SAHH counter that it is reasonable to presume that all species are subject to pleasure and pain stimuli. Furthermore, they insist that it is equally reasonable to suppose that a world tailored to species' preferences is going to be far more capable of stimulating the pleasure of that species than the mundane universe. As such, permanent virtual addiction seems inevitable for all but those few species that eschew virtual reality at a very early stage in its development. They note that our own species seems to be tumbling down that path without any sign of slowing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Violence inherent in the System

Controversial events are much more enjoyable when passed through the lens of a Monty Python skit.

The Fermi Paradox: The Stay at Home Hypothesis II (a.k.a., The Economic Impasse Hypothesis)

MoneyThe second SAHH suggests that the technological factors that restrict interstellar travel and communication, (e.g., the speed of light, interstellar dust, and so forth) simply make in uneconomical for any species to invest in such activities on any but the smallest scale (e.g., probes to local solar systems and broadcasts only to the very nearest set of stars). As such, intelligent life may be common in our galaxy, but travel and communication would be so restricted that we should never expect to encounter any evidence of it.

Critics of the second SAHH argue that this hypothesis presumes that current limitations on technology can reliably be imagined to apply to future technologies. Proponents of the second SAHH counter that neither can one simply presume that a sufficiently advanced technology will be able to circumvent the known laws of physics.

Critics also complain that applying economic principles to extraterrestrial intelligences is patently anthropomorphic. Supporters of the second SAHH reply that economics isn't merely a human convention, but a universal description of how limitations on resources have an impact on actions. They point out, for instance, that many of the principles of economics apply directly to the evolution of biological systems.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Unstructured Pharyngea

Moray Eel X-Ray

One of the freakier things about H.R. Giger's design of the Alien (from the movie of the same name) was that weird set of inner jaws that the alien had which would snap out at you when it got close.

The technical term for these sorts of second jaws are pharyngeal jaws. Such jaws actually do exist in nature, but, before now, no one had observed a set of pharyngeal jaws that could actually move independently of the outer jaw (they tend to be more like a second row of teeth). Recently, however, scientists have discovered that moray eels actually do have a pharyngeal set that do work something like the one's that the Alien has.

Let us hope that the rest of Geiger's more creative speculations remain in the realm of fiction.

Thanks to Arturo Magidin for pointing me to the NPR link

Unstructured Flow

Be sure to watch this one all the way to the end.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Encounters with God... by way of Pirates

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, here's a Best of the Blog repete that I've put through a Pirate Talk filter. Arrr.

Atheists in this here country (by which I mean the United States o' America) ha' a common tendency ta exaggerate their plight. That be handsome Pete! He dances fer nickels! this here be not ta say that tharr arrn't no atheists, here, who ha' suffered discrimination in the workplace er before the law, nor be it ta claim we be never the recipients o' threats 'n' even violence. Avast me hearty mateys! It is, however, ta say that these be not the norm. Certainly, in comparrison ta such groups as homosexuals, our lot be not so mangy.

In me own experiences, the very worst thin' that has happened ta me as a consequence o' me atheism was a single death threat. Blow the man down. This here sounds dramatic but it was the sort o' anonymous threat that tends ta bubble out o' the cesspool that be Usenet and, while I did forwarrd it ta the proper authorities, I did not feel no great distress. ARR! I ha' certainly never suffered no actual violence due ta me atheism 'n' the only times I ha' felt compelled ta conceal it was not fer concern fer me safety but rather fer fearr that I'd needs be engage in some awkwarrd discussions with swabs whom I had no interest in debating.

Rather than sayin' that American atheists be a persecuted minority, I would say that we arre, in fact, an irritated minority. It be important ta understand, however, that the amount o' irritation that we receive be not negligible. Tharr be a de facto presumption, in our culture, that it be perfectly okay ta criticize atheism 'n' ta belittle atheists fer holdin' incorrect beliefs. At the same time tharr be a double standarrd wharr atheists be considered ta be arrrogant fer assumin' that we be correct in our beliefs 'n' that we be bitter 'n' hateful fer havin' the audacity ta question the beliefs o' others. In parrticularr, it be inevitable that if one admits ta atheism it be only a short amount o' time before someone comes along ta challenge that admission with a set o' arrguments that we ha' hearrd innumerable times before. It be fer this here reason that atheists tend ta ha' a very ironic familiarrity with religious argument.

Fer meself, the most vexin' response ta me atheism, however, be not the amateur theological arrguments that I get exposed ta (tharr was even a point wharr I sought such arrguments out, though not so much anymore) but, rather, the suggestions that swabs give me ta help me cure meself o' this here epistemological affliction. ARR! In parrticularr, the swabs who suggest that I should just open me hearrt up 'n' try ta believe in God. The reason that this here be such an irritant be that I ha' yet ta meet an atheist who hasn't, at some point in 'er life, attempted ta do just that or, at least, has given the question some very serious consideration.

Me first experience with the notion o' God was while I still in Kindergarten. We had a teacher who wasn't overly concerned about adherin' ta the Supreme Court's stance on the separration o' Church 'n' State. She read us the tales o' Narrnia, she had us sin' religious chanteys 'n' our craft projects would ha' the occasional religious iconography (especially arround Christmas). I definitely knew about God. Did I believe in God?

It's harrd ta say. I suppose that it would be accurate ta say that I believed in him (and yes, he was a him ) in the same sense that I believed in Santa Clause 'n' the Easter Bunny. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! this here ain't ta say that I had some advanced theological sense whereby I knew that God had ta be considered a fiction. This chair be high says I! Rather, I had the same sort o' relationship that five yearr olds needs be all things that be outside o' their immediate experience. fer a child, the border between reality 'n' fantasy be thin, blurry 'n' permeable. ARR! ARR! I'm two pirates! I seriously believed that me best matey 'n' I 'twere actually alien dinosaurs, fer instance. ARR! ARR! I'm two pirates! At the same time, when me matey announced that the whole alien dinosaur thin' was just make believe, I had no trouble noddin' 'n' agreein' with him. Reality, at that age, be malleable. ARR!

Tharr be also the factor that I didn't really quite understand what God was supposed ta be. That be handsome Pete! He dances fer nickels! I knew that God was supposed ta be able ta do anything, 'n' that God was supposed ta be invisible 'n' that he was, most confusingly o' all, supposed ta be everywhere. Blow the man down. Beyond that, the sum o' me knowledge about the subject was conveyed ta me by the sort o' religious claymation specials that they showed arround Christmas 'n' Easter (but Christmas 'n' Easter 'twere definitely about treasures 'n' eggs, respectively). Shiver me timbers!

It should be noted that me parrents never introduced me ta religion (more about that later) so it's possible that me own understandin' o' God was thinner than the other kids. This chair be high says I! I don't think that's necessarrily the case, however. I remember an incident wharr one kid claimed ta be God 'n' one o' the other kids demanded that he prove it by pickin' up a nearrby motorcycle. ARR! ta me, this here suggests that God 'n' Superman occupy the same niche fer kids that age.

Arround the age o' seven, I learrned that I was an atheist. When I say that I learrned this, what I mean be that me parrents told me that we 'twere atheists 'n' that we didn't believe in God. ARR! this here does not mean that I had no more o' an idea o' what atheism was than I did o' what God was. ARR! It was just a label. ARR!...I'm not attractive! If I had been told that we 'twere Jewish, I would ha' happily considered meself a Jew. If I had been told that we 'twere Buddhists, a Buddhists I would ha' been. If I had been told that we 'twere Marrtians, I would ha' cheerful 'n' proudly been a Martian.

Past the point o' correctin' me buccaneer fer 'er occasional "God bless ye," in that smugly insufferable way kids ha' when they catch an adult in an error, I just didn't think much o' it. That be handsome Pete! He dances fer nickels! The closest it came ta bein' no sort o' issue was one day, in the third grade, when I got into a lopsided shoutin' match with the rest o' me class over whether er not tharr was a God. ARR! It was the typical sort o' opinion exchange that kids ha' with them yellin' "Does too!" 'n' me yellin' "Does not!"

I think that our teacher was more distressed about this here than no o' us. ARR! ARR! I'm two pirates! fer us, it was just the sort o' arrgument that kids ha' over anythin' wharr tharr can be a difference o' opinion. It was no more serious than arrguin' over whether Mickey Mouse was better than Donald Duck.

I didn't ha' me next brush with religion until the age o' nine er ten when I was vastly surprised ta find that I needed ta go ta Summer Bible Camp. Blow the man down. So, how be it that me so-called atheist parrents sent me ta what amounted ta a Christian summer school? Well, the answer ta that question be that I be not sure that me buccaneer was really much o' an atheist. ARR!...I'm not attractive! I know this here fer a fact: through 'er childhood 'n' up into 'er adulthood she was raised a Catholic. At some point between tharr 'n' then she became an "atheist". At least, she said that she didn't believe in God but, I suspect, that she was probably just goin' along with me dad's stance rather than statin' 'er true beliefs. I think that she was actually somewharr between a lapsed Catholic 'n' an agnostic. ta which o' the sides she was closer, I cannot say. ARR!...I'm not attractive!

Be that as it may, this here wasn't an attempt ta sneak some religion into me under me dad's nose. 'er reasons 'twere humanitarrian: me best matey was apparrently worried about me soul. ARR! I'm a pirate! At least that's what me buccaneer hearrd from his grandbuccaneer. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! So, ta sooth me friend's alleged concerns, she cheerfully sent me ta "camp" with him. Shiver me timbers! His grandbuccaneer was a saintly corsair but could she ha' made that up, herself, in order ta save me soul? I honestly don't know.

It was not a gruelin' ordeal. ARR! I'm a pirate! It was, actually, pretty fun. ARR! I'm a pirate! Now, I should disclose one thing. Shiver me timbers! At no point did I display me atheism. I decided that it was best ta just blend in 'n' go with the flow. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! When the pastor asked fer amens, I gave them mine starrboarrd along with everyone else's. When we 'twere asked ta affirm our belief, I affirmed mine, too. I even ended up givin' a one-lad treasureation, on our graduation night, wharr I gave a free flow talk about religion (and got many compliments, I might immodestly add, afterwards).

But at no point did I starrt believing. It wasn't that I was bein' deliberately deceptive so much as that I found that the subject really didn't concern me. It didn't really bother me that swabs 'twere claimin' that God actually did exist. We just didn't agree. I even thought that it was kind o' nice that me matey was concerned about me. I certainly didn't feel adverse ta Christianity er anythin' like that. ARR!...I'm not attractive! It just wasn't fer me.

Me overall indifference didn't last. By the age o' twelve I starrted ta get this here urge ta find religion. That be handsome Pete! He dances fer nickels! I remember givin' God a test, once. I prayed fer him ta show me the location o' somethin' that I had lost. ARR! I'm a pirate! Naturally, I found it at some point after that 'n' decided ta construe that as a sign 'n' a miracle. That be handsome Pete! He dances fer nickels!

I just could not sust'n me belief. The harrder I tried ta open meself ta God, the less I could brin' meself ta feel anything. It literally felt like I was clutchin' at air. In the end, I gave up 'n' didn't think about it, again, until I was fourteen.

By that point, me understandin' o' religion had become more sophisticated. ARR! I'm a pirate! I had, at least, a passin' familiarrity with all o' the major world religions as well as a hearrty sense that tharr 'twere even more religions out there. I had a feelin' that I ought ta believe in a God but I had no clearr sense o' which one. Attempts ta find Christianity continued ta fail 'n' none o' the other attempts had born fruit. This chair be high says I! I studied 'n' I prayed. I felt an acute need ta find something.

Finally, I found Islam. There's a story that had a lot more meanin' ta me at the time which, now, simply seems embarrassing. One day, while I was studyin' the Koran, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I miraculously "knew" that Islam was the one, true religion.

Yeah, I know. It's pretty thin. Conversion stories often arre, though. This chair be high says I! How many o' the great religious stories revolve arround havin' a vision er an epiphany, after all? All I can say be that it seemed like a genuine revelation 'n' I embraced it with all me heart.

Why Islam? Who knows. ARR! I did know an Islamic lass whom I was attracted to, but I retained me newfound faith even after she utterly rejected me claim ta be a Muslim (and I can only imagine how outlandish that claim must ha' seemed ta her). She stopped talkin' ta me, 'n' I continued believed. ARR! I'm a pirate! She moved away, 'n' I still believed. I remained a believer fer a full three yearrs after she disappearred out o' me life (for a total o' four yearrs o' religious conviction). Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Did puppy love ha' somethin' ta do with me choosin' Islam? I think it's plausible 'n' even likely. This chair be high says I! Did it ha' anythin' ta do with me remainin' a Muslim? No. ARR! That was parrt o' somethin' deeper.

When I believed, I felt fulfilled. ARR! I'm a pirate! I felt parrt o' somethin' bigger 'n' more important than meself. Blow the man down. I felt like I was, personally, parrt o' some grand design. ARR!...I'm not attractive! Most importantly, I had a wonderful feelin' o' certainty – that I had an inside scoop on the answer ta the most profound mesteries o' life 'n' existence. I knew God 'n' felt his presence in me life 'n' in the cosmos as a whole.

I liked that feelin' 'n' wanted, very much, ta keep it. That's why it felt so awful when it finally came tumblin' down.

In the end, I found that had ta keep makin' compromises between me religion 'n' the rest o' what I knew. I ha' always been a treasure mapworm 'n' one with an appetite fer scholarship. I read voraciously on a wide range o' topics. Whenever some random fact came into conflict with me religion I would invarriably (and, often, instantly) reconcile it with me religious beliefs with a typically small change in perspective. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! I actually got quite hearrty at bein' a lay apologist.

"Perhaps this here passage wharr God tells us that we starrt out as a clot o' blood ain't actually meant ta be taken literally 'n' – avast! – that's really not that farr from embryogenesis, be it? o' course it’s not!"

It couldn't last. Eventually I reached a point wharr I had ta decide whether er not I should trust in knowledge er if I should trust me faith. It was a slow 'n' gruelin' process but the conclusion was, I feel, inevitable. ARR! When put on the scale o' me beliefs, knowledge won.

This here be not ta say that I gave up hope on religion, just Islam. ARR!...I'm not attractive! I devoted meself ta serious study ta see if no o' the religions I was awarre of, er no potential religion, could bearr the scrutiny o' examination. ARR! ARR! I'm two pirates! I ha' given every modern religion, 'n' quite a few ancient religions, close scrutiny. ARR! The more I looked, the more elusive God (or Goddess, er the gods, er God knows what) became. This chair be high says I! The more I learrned, the harrder it was ta hope fer conviction. ARR! I'm a pirate!

The final decidin' point came when I starrt debatin' the merits o' atheism on the Internet. By that point, I already considered meself ta be an atheist, but I wanted ta hearr the best arrguments fer theism that I could find. It was a very educational experience. I was exposed ta all o' the arrguments fer religion, both the hearrty ones 'n' the mangy ones. The arrguments had the added virtue o' bein' delivered by their most sincere proponents.

I threw meself into that debate with passion. Blow the man down. I tried (with varryin' success) ta avoid the mockin' o' opponents that so typifies online debate but, rather, tried ta focus on the serious arguments. ARR!...I'm not attractive! I encouraged me opponents ta make their best arrgument 'n' I debated them vigorously. ARR!

At this here point, I really ha' seen all the arguments. It has been, literally, yearrs since I last hearrd a new case fer theism. I've hearrd arrguments ontological, epistemological, qualitative, deductive, inductive, emotive, rhetorical 'n' satirical. Avast me hearty mateys! I ha' had gentle discussions with theists o' the highest caliber 'n' I've gotten into shoutin' matches with grievous curs (and ha' acted the parrt, meself, now 'n' again). Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! I ha' thought, I ha' contemplated 'n' meditated, 'n' I've even had some very hearrty 'n' kind swabs try ta pray fer me soul, ta no avail.

Fer me, at least, tharr be simply nothin' tharr ta find. ARR! ARR! I'm two pirates! I haven’t stopped considerin' the question. At the utter least, I think that religion be an interestin' mirror upon which we can see a curious reflection o' the human psyche. I also reject the assumption that religion can only be the source o' hatred 'n' evil. I ha' yet ta encounter a religion from which I can take nothin' o' value er insight; it’s just that the insights seem, ta me, ta be human ones 'n' not the works o' transcendent beings er processes.

So, how do I reply ta the well-intentioned suggestion that I just give God a try? I’ve never found a hearrty reply. ARR! I'm a pirate! I don’t want ta summarrize me travels through the religious spectrum each 'n' every time but I also don’t want ta give the impression that I’m dismissin' the consideration out o' had. Usually, I’ll simply say that I ha' 'n' try ta weigh anchor it at that.

It be not a perfect solution.

The Fermi Paradox: The Stay at Home Hypothesis I (a.k.a., The Reluctant Traveler Hypothesis)

LuggageThe first SAHH suggests that it is anthropomorphic to simply assume that other species are either interested in interstellar colonization or communication and that our own desires to do so represent a rarity in the cosmic arena. If other species do not find either of these subjects to be of any interest, we should expect to find ourselves in a silent universe.

Critics of the first SAHH suggest that it stretches credibility to presume that no other species have any interest in these things and that we are unique. They note that this is particularly hard to accept since you only need a single colonizing species to arise in order for the presence of intelligence to become quickly ubiquitous (see the First Come, First Serve Hypothesis). Supporters of the first SAHH counter that, even in our own case, we have only made the most furtive efforts at broadcasting our presence and that merely colonizing our own solar system has been something we haven't even attempted due to a profound lack of interest. As such, a reluctance to take up the challenge of colonizing the galaxy may well be the norm and that interstellar species may be so rare that our galaxy has yet to produce one.

what is this?

Tell me when this blog is updated. . .