Friday, October 5, 2007

Justice vs. strict constructionism

My response to this:
The constitution is not an end, it is a means. As a means, it has several ends. One of its stated ends is to ‘establish justice’. Rights are not granted by the constitution, but some are recognized by it explicitly.
If the constitution fails to bring justice, or to recognize a right, the courts still have a responsibility to be just, because justice is the goal, not legalism.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Do not Question!!!

Measured Against Reality has a post on meaningless questions, questions that are unanswerable because they are poorly formed. Like 'What is outside of the universe?'.

He uses a lot of examples from the debate over evolution and the big bang. When people disagree on a complex subject, they often challenge the other side with questions. They find something that the theory doesn't seem to explain. Sometimes it's a good challenge, sometimes it has an answer, and sometimes it's gibberish.

The problem is that such questions don't have a place in rational discourse, at all.

When you make an argument, you start with premises, follow a logical pattern, and reach a conclusion. If your premises are true and your logic valid, then your conclusion must be true.
For someone to attack your claim, they should make an argument that one or more of your premises are false, or that your logic is invalid. Their argument should also have premises and logic, and be subject to the same style of attack.

Challenge questions sidestep all that. They attack a conclusion without attacking the premises or logic that lead up to it. They make an argument, but make it difficult to criticize by obscuring its implied premises, which may be gibberish. It is this easy and hard to counter attack that makes them popular rhetoric, but bad argument.

Questions for clarification or knowledge are fine. I am only against questions used to attack structured arguments.

We should not ask 'Well then who did Cain marry?'. It provides no premises, and disproves nothing. We should make assertions about who would have been available for Cain, and those assertions can be rationally discussed.

Conversely, we should not answer challenge questions, whether they are meaningful or not. We should put it upon the challenger to make a good argument against our premises or logic. We have no obligation to be sniped at, and if our arguments are good, then theirs will fall flat.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Thwarted Creation Myth

"Rolos are one of the seven perfect candies God created at the beginning of the world."

"That's stupid, I remember when Rolos came out."

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Do not Fear the Gods

In my research on Epicurus, I found this
The Epicurean Blog: This same double-standard operates when Dawkins links creed and behavior. If religion in practice fueled the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the sectarian wars of the 15th and 16th centuries would not atheism in practice be responsible for the 20th Century European charnel houses created by Hitler and Stalin? Orr criticizes the distinctions that Dawkins cites to avoid that conclusion, differences that Dawkins will not allow when considering religion.
I responded:
Dawkins does not link Hitler's and Stalin's atrocities to atheism because his premise is that atheism is not a false belief. We should not believe Christianity because it is false, and we should not be respectfully deferential to it because it is dangerous.

If we assume that a person with no false beliefs would commit no such atrocities, and that atheism is true, then we must attribute atrocious actions of atheists to other, false beliefs they hold. I don't know what distinctions Orr criticized, but truth is the one that matters.

That an idea is dangerous is not an argument that it is false, but that a idea is dangerous and false is an argument that it should be confronted.

He didn't write a book about the tooth fairy because belief in the tooth fairy hasn't shown itself to be very dangerous.

-A new fan of Epicurus

Saturday, June 23, 2007

This is How Network Neutrality Should Be Framed

The Register: "'That's absolutely what you are asking for!' he shouted to counter-shots of 'no!' and 'there is no market place!', referring to the fact a handful of phone and cable companies control the lion share of broadband internet access and service in the US."

At every step, present the telecom carriers with the dictate: As long as you are getting access to the public space to run your lines, we as citizens have a right to those lines under reasonable terms.

This pushes the debate into an area that they dare not risk, their special government privileges. I would be happy to allow packet shaping if it meant I could run my own fiber down the street, but that's not going to happen.

They are not part of a market, and cannot possibly be in a true market, as long as we are giving them special permission to exist. Neither the telephone or cable companies would survive long if we didn't give them their monopolies on the infrastructure. Never let them forget that they owe us.

If you can, hint at it in every paragraph. They will fold.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Power of Negative Thinking

This Article from Slate introduces a book called Never Saw It Coming as a counterpoint to The Secret. It appears to be a book about the need for contingency planning, and what happens when you don't look at and prepare for possible disasters.
This interests me in particular because it touches on the wider themes of how to establish policy, prevent intelligence failures, and how to think in general.

I need a wishlist.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The design of a cat dish

Imagine a food and water dish with a port to screw in a water bottle. The bottle refills the water dish whenever the water level drops below the mouth of the bottle. To refill the bottle, you have to turn the dish upside down, which would cause any leftover food to spill out. The solution is to keep the food dish as a separate item, a detachable bowl that nests into a cavity next to the water dish. It keeps all the functionality of independent items, but appears as a single unit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It came.

I got a tube in the mail today, inside was my print of Minus 37. Woohoo! It's signed on the back! I looked at it and it is awesome, but I put it back into the tube until I can get it framed.

Moment of Humor

I am watching Red Eye on Fox news at 2 in the morning. They are talking about the palestinian Mickey Mouse teaching Muslim expansion. The host questions whether such a silly figure teaching hate can be taken seriously. A guest responds, and she is identified on screen as a Playboy centerfold.

This is why I don't watch Fox News.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Anarchy, Equality, Humility, Charity, Community

Five Qualities

Anarchy is the natural and optimal state. We have no authority over one another, and we owe no one. Controlling influences rob people of their will. Without rulers, you develop a knowledge of:
No one is better or worse than anyone else. We are all in this together. When you know that your worth is the same no matter who you are, what you believe, or what you've done, you are led to:
Arrogance and Pride are invariably harmful. The Humility that is required to develop friendship also provides:
A willingness to give what you have for the benefit of all, charity is a recognition of the true nature of property. When charity is extended without discrimination, you create:
People can only come together as one when they choose to not consider their differences important. Living united, a community is commanded by only:

Entered into problogger's Top 5 writing project.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Movie reviews

I've had a recent uptick in the number of new movies I've been watching. I'll do quick reviews in bulk:

TMNT - This is everything I'd hoped it would be. I feel like I've found something that was missing in my life. This is how the Turtles are supposed to be. Not cartoons, and definitely not rubber suits. If the turtles weren't ingrained into your mind as a child, you can probably pass.

300 - Good Action, Lots of controversy. I thought Xerxes represented Christ/Christianity.

Epic Movie - This was just a mistake. Not good, not even by stupid parody movie standards. Six full seconds of entertainment.

Eragon - Good, cute dragons. Star Wars rip off. I know it's all meta myth but this is ridiculous. I could see someone redubbing the audio from either movie into the other and the result still being perfectly watchable, perhaps even better.

Children of Men - Very Good. A bit slow in the beginning, but worth it for the character development.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Arrogant and Rude

I try to be outgoing in social situations because other people would benefit immensely from my understanding and insight, other people want to hear what I have to say!

No, I didn't say it, but my personality test said I should. But what does that even mean? If the test is based on self reporting of what I think of myself and what I think others think about me, then isn't it still me saying that about myself? Or is the test actually smart enough to filter out people who just think their opinions are awesome from people who are actually insightful?
On the one hand it seems to have reached this conclusion because I don't tend to jump on other people's so-called flaws, but maybe it just doesn't expect a narcissist to showcase their awesomeness by being forgiving. How can I take seriously an analysis that offers no explanation whatsoever of why I am "somewhat shy and reserved at times"?

Friday, April 13, 2007

The network is the computer

Matt Posted This criticism of YouOS that I think misses some key points of why YouOS and it's Open Source competition eyeOS are important and useful. Matt complains about adding two layers of abstraction between the application and the user, but he misses another that make all the difference. Web based operating systems also add the network layer between the system and the end user.

That is the key appeal of Web apps in general, they are accessible from any browser. Networked OS's are as old as UNIX, but networked Gui's usually depend on software that is not universally installed. EyeOS/YouOS is not competing with Windows as a platform, it's competing with with Windows plus Windows Terminal Services plus having a compatible client plus praying it works plus vendor lock in. In that context Web based applications are a clear winner in most cases, and have been for a while.

Another thing I think Matt misses is that these OS's are not tied to JavaScript for anything other than basic window operations. Application back ends run on the server, can be written in any language, and can run at native speeds. If an app needs more graphical power, the front end can use Flash or Java and still tie into the API's for file access. There will be a network bottleneck, but that's inevitable for any remote access solution. Matt is right that JavaScript wasn't made for systems programming, but the only part of Web OS's that is strictly tied to JavaScript is lightweight user interface programming, which is exactly what JavaScript was designed for.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Vista is Shit

Windows Vista is the worst version of Windows I have ever used. I've had it for about a week now and that's about enough.
This is the most powerful computer I've ever owned, and it is crawling. Even after I cleared out the bloatware it came with, it stalls for seconds at a time. Video playback stutters whenever the mouse cursor goes over the video.
There have been some improvements, but most of those are basic things that should have been fixed years ago.

I tried it, I gave it a fair hearing. Now I'm shopping for a flavor of Linux to install.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It takes a village to keep a marriage together

Chris Rock on the Late Show said something like: "If you're married, you've been in therapy. There's no way you're going to keep that together naturally. It takes a village to keep a marriage together."

This is the perfect way to frame so many discussions on child rearing, family values, and society in general.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Thomas Troy viral

Thomas Troy showed up sunday at the open mic night I frequent. This is a neat attempt at viral marketing, I keep telling myself I need to do a project like this. He has created a distinctive image and is trying to make himself famous in 30 days. It is extra neat because I saw him in person, so I'll get some nostalgia value if he succeeds. He played the guitar in an amazing way, and he had funny lyrics. Afterwards 'someone' came with a camera, asked what we thought of 'the guy in the tie and glasses', and gave us his card.
I was a fan of one red paperclip, the million dollar homepage, and similar projects. I like the idea of building up from nearly nothing, probably because that's what I've got. The question is: What kind of an event do I want to build? I saw Thomas Troy play music, but I don't know if he is trying for a music career. I don't have a problem with being famous for becoming famous for the sake of fame, but playing a guitar in sunglasses is not my style either.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Character Building

61. Write a story in which, during several conversations, two people create a fictional character. You can have them argue about the character; you can have them in harmonious agreement. The character need not be at the center of the story, but he should be involved with the plot.

"I'm not sure if he should be a boy or a girl."

"He should be a girl, obviously."

"Shut up, you know what I mean. I don't know what kind of a vibe I want between the captain and the engineer.

"If the engineer is a guy, you can have him be the one engaged to the Science Officer."

"No, she's engaged to someone from her planet. Anything closer would screw up the dynamic between her and the captain."

"So just move that story to the engineer and the science officer, and make the captain a chick."

"No, the captain has to be a guy, for the Kirk effect."

"You're going for the Kirk effect?"

"Oh yeah, that's half the story. The strong male lead seducing every hot female minor character, but always putting the ship first."

"Well...If you don't want him to alienate every female crew member, he could have a strict rule against dating subordinates."

"Hmm, and that would just add to the tension with he S.O. It's forbidden for both of them."

"Yep, and you can pick your other characters without concern for Mr. Sexypants."

"The thing is, I can see some good story between the captain and the woman who runs the ship. "

"Then make her a woman for now, and if you don't want it later, then make her a lesbian. "

"A lesbian mechanic...That could work."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Proposal on Public Proposals

All public marriage proposals ought to be accepted, just out of politeness, even if the askee doesn't want to marry the asker.

You can imagine how devestating it would feel to go through all the trouble of arranging a public proposal, a magic moment, only to be rejected. In front of witnesses. It is something that would haunt you for the rest of your life. You certainly couldn't go back to the returant again.
It is far more compassionate to say 'Yes!', smile, and let the asker have their moment. Then later, even the next day, you can express rervations. 'Cold feet' and 'going so fast' are good phrases to remember.
If you still want to consider a future together, find a reason to set a late date. If you really think you want a future together, be honest.
If you were having fun, but were put off by the unexpected seriousness, then ask for a lot of space to gather your thoughts. Just don't take too long in breaking things off entirely.

What you should not do is be honest at the moment you are entrusted with someone's potential public shame and humiliation. That brutality should not be visited upon those whose crime is adoring you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


You too can have a webcomic
xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Simple art.
dinosaur comics - Philosophy, science and sexiness. Very simple art.

Giant In The Playground
Two comics about fantasy gaming:
Order of the stick
Erfworld:The Battle for Gobwin Knob

Inverloch - Mostly standard setting with Wizards, Elves, and, these other things...
Earthsong - Innovative setting, all manner of races, most notably planets and stars.

Gone with the Blastwave - Postapocalytic humor in a pointless war.
Something Positive
Buttercup Festival - This is dark in a bizarre, funny way. Sadly it hasn't been updated in a while.
Sinfest - God, Satan, Drugs, Sex, Books

This is an amazing and beautiful webcomic done in watercolors.
I was introduced to it with Minus 37, which changes meaning somewhat once you understand what the story is really about.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I was inspired by a fan to start writing my fictional blog Xenobiology again. I've let it go for the past three months, and worse, my last post made it look like I was stopping. In fact, it is going to be a novel length story when it's done, and that will take years. I started it thinking it would be a continuous serial with no major climax, but now I have a definite epic journey in mind, and I want to finish it. (Though even then it will be open-ended. There's always room for sequels.)

Xenobiology is a science fiction story about an andriod xenobiolgy professor. He started out as property, and has gained his freedom. It is written in real-time, which means covering up a three month gap in writing forced me to alter the plot slightly. It is also interactive; it is literally the Professor's personal blog, and he will respond to comments. I've been in character for over a year.

The next step is to have him get out of the system he is in now, get some traveling companions, and begin the main adventure.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Funhouse Mirror

90. Write a self portrait in which some aspect of yourself is wildly exaggerated.

James woke up, almost, but he got up in any case. A string of drool briefly connected his mouth to the arm of the sofa as he rose.
It couldn't be very late, the party was still going strong. He was just out for a few minutes. He had been talking with someone on the couch, some woman, when he passed out. He could remember asking her if she was shaved, but he didn't know how the conversation went from there.
James staggered gently accross the room, as always keeping his focus firmly focussed on keeping his cup firmly level, never mind that it was empty. It was the principle of the thing, if he could keep his cup level, then he could justify filling it again, at least to himself.

Monday, January 8, 2007

God was in the can

I stayed out with friends till 2:30am talking about theology, free will, morality, religion, consciousness, and philosophy in general. It was a very good conversation and we covered a lot of ground.
It started when an evangelist got on stage for open mic night at the coffeehouse. His first analogy was to compare religions to life jackets. He actually had a variety of life jackets on stage. Apparently when we get on a boat, it is our responsibility to make sure our life jacket isn't fake. Also, Jesus is made of foam.
Next he displayed a large tin can. I think it was a can of pineapples. He said that a human couldn't get into the can, but that that wasn't something to be ashamed of because we weren't designed for that. Then he said God was in the can, and I think the can itself represented sin. Jesus was the can opener.
We were not doing a good job at containing our disbelief, and after his set he came and talked with us. It's a very friendly coffeehouse, so this isn't unusual. I was used to talking to evangelists because I did it almost every week last summer, so I got tired of him pretty fast. CJ kept talking to him till closing time. We were on a roll when we left, so we ended up going to Denny's. I said they should put us far away from people, they asked if we were going to be loud and obnoxious and I said no, but I think that was a mistake.
They put us in a corner, but later in the night two men ended up seated in the booth next to us. They overheard us talking about logic at some point, and joined in briefly. It was cool to make a completely random connection over philosophy and computers.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Monty Hall Problem

You are on the game show Let's Make a Deal. There are three brightly colored doors labeled 1,2 and 3. Behind one of them is a brand new car, and you will win the car if you pick that door.You are standing next to the host, Monty Hall. He asks you to pick a door, and tells you that after you pick your door, he will open one of the other doors to show that it is empty, and give you the opportunity to switch your choice to the remaining closed door, or stik with your original choice. You pick door number 2, Monty opens up door number 3.

Is it better to switch to door number 1, or stick with number 2?
The result is counterintuitive, so most people answer this question incorrectly.


It is always better to switch. The most common initial response is that there is no benefit either way. The assumption is that since there are two doors, and the car could be behind either, the odds are even.

This is a mistake because it ignores the extra information gained from the opening of the empty door. In most cases (2/3 of the time) your initial choice will be an empty door, that means that the door Monty opens is the other empty door, and the door you would switch to will have the car behind it. Only 1/3 of the time will you lose by switching to the other door, if you happen to have picked the car in the first place.

The odds would be fifty-fifty, except that by opening one of the two unchosen doors, the show gives you a little extra information about the unchosen doors. Before the game starts, you know each door has a 1/3 probability of having a car. When you learn one of two unchosen doors does not contain the car, its share of probability is transferred to the remaining unchosen door. The probability of your initial choice remains unchanged at 1/3. Because it was not subject to being revealed, no information could be gained about it.

Monday, January 1, 2007


So you see, this Robot, it is sixty stories tall.
It has lasers, and missiles.
It can fly. It is indestructible.
It has cargo pods that can holds smaller attack vehicles.

It's just awesome.