Monday, December 29, 2008

Magic Republicans

Satire is a powerful thing, but *some* people simply do not get it. I refer specifically to those promoting the “Barack the Magic Negro” song, but this is not a new development. A few years back there were a lot of Chelsea Clinton jokes flying around, trying to make political gain by ridiculing a (then) awkward teenage girl, which I might generously describe as cruel and shameful (let’s skip the less gracious descriptions).

To be fair, and I do try to be fair, it’s not just Republicans who do this. My point is that it gains Republicans nothing to be known as the Party of Cruelty and Shame. Come on Reps, you should not allow your party to be represented in this way, because you can be better than that. If you are really interested in reforming your party, you must be.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Blindsight: What we don't see

80Beats has an interesting post on Blindsight, or how our brains process visual information without our consciously being aware of it.

Now if someone could only figure out Blindwork.

Adventures of the Pink Rabbit

pink rabbit abroad sciencegirlFollow the adventures of Maurice the Pink Rabbit and his lab rat friends. Don't forget to visit Maurice's friend Sciencegirl while you are at it.

After you are done with that, go out for a night on the town (lab?) with Pink Rabbit and Friends at the Disco! :-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Can Opener Massacre

I'm not sure what is more disturbing, that this graphic dismemberment of aluminum cans is actually a bit scary, or that this short film is far better at what it does than any slasher flick - not that I've seen any in 20 years (well maybe Evil Dead?).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from DTA!

It's a tomato ... sort of ... if you use your imagination ... and squint.

Merry Christmas everyone. I am pondering a post on the reciprocity of snow removal, but it just didn't happen today. Perhaps tomorrow, or maybe I'll take a few days off.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guys take on make-up

This is simply too good to pass up. Essential information for XX's in a relationship with an XY, and a good lifeline for those XY's that fail to notice these things.

A Guy’s Take on Makeup: Does It Really Make You Beautiful?

[from Back in Skinny Jeans]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mathematics and Magicians, the Rant Continues

An old friend of mine just wrote in reply my Mathematics and Magicians post yesterday. He couldn’t post his comments directly to the blog site, so he emailed them to me. With his permission, I present it to you here in full (I did add the first two links for reference):

Hey Dan

I read one of your blog entries, and I got so worked up that I furiously banged out a reply. Then the silly thing wouldn't let me post it, probably because it was too long. So I'll just email it to you. You can ignore it or delete it or post it yourself....but at least I will have had my say! And for the record, I'm griping with the
author you cite, not we're on the same side.

Here's my reply to your entry "
Magicians and Mathematicians":

Having worked in the financial arena for about 15 years now, I'm here to tell you that the term "human side of finance" is as big of an oxymoron as "sanitary landfill" or "military intelligence" or "compassionate conservative". If you want that touchy-feely crap, go down the hall to HR and cry them a river. The finance people have work to do, thank you very much.

All businesses which are traded in the public markets exist for one purpose: the pursuit of profit for shareholders. How the "quants" apply their profit mandate to their daily tasks is merely a matter of corporate policy. It's shockingly naive to assume that anyone in a financial capacity would ever "appreciate...the unintended consequences" of their individual actions or even give a hoot for that matter.

Sounds like a bunch of academic rubbish to me. It would also be foolish to subscribe to the notion that this is a relatively new phenomenon (ref. the managers with history degrees – as if to say “back in the good old days”). The Spanish conquistadors directly or indirectly caused the deaths of millions in the pursuit of profit (unbridled imperialism). The Bolsheviks made a naked power grab in the early 20th century and wreaked 70 years of financial, ecological, and social havoc, all under the pretense of making a better life for the masses (rampant socialism/communism). Wall Street capitalists speculated themselves into quite a mess in 1929 (runaway capitalism).

Greed is an intrinsic part of human nature, and unfortunately greed is also part of the group mentality of "quants" which are otherwise known as "people". It seems the article's author is the one who has lost his "human side".

P.S. I resent being identified as a mere "quant", which sounds suspiciously like “quantum”, especially since the definition of THAT word would be even more dehumanizing.

Ahh........I feel better it's back to clearing general ledger errors for me!


I will have to investigate if there is a limit to comment length, but after reading Rick's reply I rather suspect that it was a hardware failure instead (his keyboard probably melted!).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What a nice picture

Just trying out a new feature of Xoopit (, which I just added as a Firefox Add-on. I'm not yet sue that I'm going to like having my Gmail inbox turned into a social networking device. We shall see.

Click image to view

Magicians and Mathematicians

[via Tao of Gaming]
Paul Wilmott writes about Magicians And Mathematicians, and I might have a bone to pick.
Quantitative finance and risk management are not just about the numbers. Numbers play a part, but so does the human side of the business. When analyzing risk it is important to be able to think creatively about scenarios. Unfortunately the training that most quants get seems to actively discourage creativity.
I certainly agree,

This is really a question about whether modern risk managers are capable of thinking beyond maths and formulas. Do they appreciate the human side of finance, the herding behaviour of people, the unintended consequences, what I think of as all the fun stuff. And this is a nice question because it very quickly sorts out different types of thinkers.


Once you start thinking outside the box of mathematical theories the possibilities are endless. And although a knowledge of advanced mathematics is important in modern finance I do rather miss the days when banking was populated by managers with degrees in History and who'd been leaders of the school debating team. A lot of mathematics is no substitute for a little bit of commonsense and an open mind.

How can we get quants and risk managers to think beyond the mathematics? I'm afraid I don't think we can, the way the majority of them are currently educated.

[The emphasis is mine. ]

I'm OK with the part about training the quants to understand these things, and it's somewhat criminal that they were not required to understand these things before being allowed to play in that particular sandbox, thus precipitating a financial meltdown. However, this in no way removes the problem from the "box" of mathematics. It's still math, but it has to be applied in a consistent and conservative way, and founded in a basic knowledge of the subject area. -- And now I'm going to contradict my self -- It is more than math, it is statistics. It was once suggested to me that the difference between math and statistics is the manner of application (of stats), which might fairly be described as an art. A herd of quants well versed in the application of statistics ought to have realized the most obvious error (dependencies among risks).
That there is an essential art to understanding financial markets I do not doubt. It's too bad so many people forgot, or were blinded to that fact by greed.

[UPDATE: The rant continues here!]

Dance Like a Monkey

[via Pharyngula. PZ seems to get all the good stuff first.]

Some of us may also recall an older generation of Monkees ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Years of Study, Moments of Enlightenment.

[from XKCD]

I can think of a few similar experiences, moments of learning that changed my way of thinking.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tomato Cassarole

A collection of leftover stuff I need to get rid of before it goes stale:

Pharyngula -
Get your kids addicted to cephalopods!
Is nothing safe? It appears that calamari may have addictive properties similar to tomatoes!

Science and Math Defeated -
Probability (part one) "Probability is false"
Darn that NotedScholar! He's going to put me put of a job at this rate.

From TED -
Malcolm Gladwell: What we can learn from spaghetti sauce
It's got tomatoes in it, so it must be dangerous too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"that conversation with your child"

Jim Stigl of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes:

Sooner or later you're going to have that conversation with your child, the one about how it all works "down there."

By down there, I mean Illinois.

Children are curious and you can't protect them forever from the harsh realities of life. Maybe the news will be on TV, and they'll turn to you all wide-eyed and say, "What the bleep is a bleeping Blagojevich?"

You need to be prepared. Calmly explain to your child that mommy and daddy love you very much, but there are things that happen to the south of us that are not very nice.

Definitely a Wisconsin perspective - Click through for the full column.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Matter of Intent?

Driving to work last week I listened to part of a discussion of this story on the radio:

UK TV station defends plans to show man's death

LONDON (AP) — A British television channel plans to show a film about an American man who commits assisted suicide at a Swiss clinic, reigniting debate over an issue that strongly divides opinion in Britain. Opponents called the broadcast a ratings-grabbing stunt.

I could not find the program online to listen to it again, so excuse me for doing this off the top of my head. The participate representing the government position argued that (among other things) it was inappropriate to show an "intentional death" on television. This reasoning is just wrong. How can anyone say that a peaceful intentional death is inappropriate when the media is full of so much violent intentional death, either real or fictional? I can think of other reasons to object to this program being broadcast, but this matter of intent is a totally bogus, and not a reason to disallow this program as part of the larger debate on assisted suicide.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blog Thoughts

I've been considering some changes to my blogs for some time, and it's time to write them down. This is going to be stream-of-consciousness stuff mostly, so if you are going to muck about in this with me you might want to take off your shoes and roll up your pants (otherwise you are going to get my messy thoughts all over your clothes).

I had a great time during the election when a good topics were low-hanging fruit, but this also distracted me from my purpose (such as it is) of humorous commentary on science and statistics. This was not intended to be a political blog, but I have come to the realization that some of my topic are politics (ID, among others) so I should admit that politics/opinion will have a large part to play here. ID itself is a topic I'd like to leave behind - except that I'm not quite done with it yet (I have a take on Irreducible Inanity Complexity Inanity, and a Bozo Behe book to bomb) so there will be a few more posts like this. Of course, I'll always be happy to link to others efforts along these lines.

New Topic: I will be starting a series on posts on aging issues. This has become an important personal issue for me over the past few year, and I think I can contribute useful opinion on a personal and professional basis. Expect a few outright rants on this topic too.

I'm considering some chances to the general appearance of the blog; some color adjustments and perhaps a new banner. I have a secret dream of commissioning Phil Foglio to create a banner and associated icons/images for me. That would be WAY cool.

I have created a new email address for the purpose of blog related management and communications; TomatoAddict42 (presumably Tomato Addicts 1 through 41 have already succumbed to the ill effects). I will monitor this new email from my regular Gmail, so this should be a transparent change.
I may start also posting on others blogs as "Tomato Addict". It's not like I really need another online handle, or that I want to conceal my identity, but in order to establish myself as a blogger I think it helps to have a unique identifier (and "Dan" is far from unique).

I'm also hearing really good things about Wordpress, but having just got settled in on Blogger I'm not ready to pick up and move.

There is one final small addition; I've added my Favicon to my post template so it can appear at the end of every post, as I've always intended.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Secrets Revealed

GG is a spoiler! He has revealed the secret to my favorite math trick. He also has one I didn't know, and another I had seen but couldn't recall. Check them out at Skulls in the Stars.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Use this equation 0=NP(20C+B)/75

Use this equation 0=NP(20C+B)/75 to determine if the boobline is too low.
“Following her [Britney Spears] wardrobe malfunction — where she was snapped nearly popping out of a very low-cut dress at her 27th birthday bash, below — scientists, undies experts and mathematicians have been trying to figure out where the decency perimeter lies. And here we can exclusively reveal the formula to work it out.”

Ben Goldacre discusses this equation and other important mathematical findings at Bad Science.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Troubled Waters ... and then a Funny Thing Happened

Noted Scholar gives his take on the merits of Intelligent Design.

It was a rousing good argument back on the blog pages - back when they had blog pages - that started off with comments on an article about Ben Stein's movie and continued on for months in an evolution versus ID free-for-all. Those were truly glory days.

Something surprising happened along the way, amidst the endless argument; I made a friend on the other side. A man of education, intelligence, interest in science, and a deep conviction in his faith. A man with whom I have a very fundamental disagreement on the very basis of science, but one whom I could respect and share an honest conversation. He reminded me that people have a basis for what they believe in, and if you are able to really communicate with them, it is possible to reach common ground. At least you can do this with people who are open and honest, and this man is among the best. We still trade notes and news on a regular basis.

Funny things happen - This post started off as another poke at ID, a boost for a fellow blogger and kindred spirit, and a remembrance of how I got started blogging. Somehow my thoughts were turned to the positive experience I got out of my early evolution/ID discussions, completely off-track from what I had intended to write. That is the nature of blogging I suppose, to share your thoughts, and I'm glad I took the time to share this.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

An Open Letter to Goodreads

Dear Goodreads,

This is getting old. I tried last month to unsubscribe from your newsletter, and still it comes. I am not surprised. I did not sign up for the newsletter either. A close acquaintance signed up (not knowing any better) and Goodreads SPAMMED her entire address book, causing a great deal of grief and embarrassment. Now all these people (and me) continue to receive Goodreads monthly SPAM too; It's the gift that keeps on SPAMMING, and just in time for Christmas.

So, Mr. Goodreads, does this by any chance look familiar?
Do you send unsolicited emails or direct mail?

Goodreads absolutely, positively does not use the emails it collects as a source for unsolicited emails.

It ought to, it's from the Goodread Privacy Policy page. Surely the people at Goodreads have heard the old marketing maxim that if you displease one customer, that customer well tell 11 people, and those 11 people will tell another 4 each, for a total of 45 pissed-off customers. I've seen a few weakly worded posts in response to complaints around the blogosphere, but no real evidence that you are actually changing your Address Book SPAMMING practices, or making any effort to remove any email addresses you previously gathered in this manner.
Your registration pages still guide people into giving you access to their address books, and actually require extra effort (canceling pop-ups AFTER deselecting the check-box) to avoid this to avoid this step. In short, despite your claims that you have improved you practices, there is no evidence of this change.

If Goodreads is serious about changing their ways, and maybe correcting for past wrongs, then they had better get busy.

[Never reveal your email login and password to any program or internet service that you do not absolutely trust, and even then you should be very suspicious. Most certainly do not trust Goodreads to protect your privacy.]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Linking the blatantly funny

I feel low - linking to something everyone already knows about. Then again, Dilbert is buried so deep in the business section that I have barely read it in years. OK, that makes me feel better. Go read Dilbert and have fun!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Probability, Statistics, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Probability, Statistics, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

By Peter Olofsson

Posted November 24, 2008

In the last decades, arguments against Darwinian evolution have become increasingly sophisticated, replacing Creationism by Intelligent Design (ID) and the book of Genesis by biochemistry and mathematics. As arguments claiming to be based in probability and statistics are being used to justify the anti-evolution stance, it may be of interest to readers of Chance to investigate methods and claims of ID theorists.

[See the full article at Talk Reason]

I'd like to give this article more attention, but not today because I'm packing for vacation!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A poorly considered URL

Oh the many joys of word-play:

I am told their new URL has a hyphen in it. [Thanks Scott!]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Internet Anagram Server

For anyone who likes having fun with words, Wordsmith.Org offers this, the original Internet Anagram Server. Enter any short text you like, and the Anagram Server will twist it around and spit out a list of anagram for you to peruse. Some of these can be quite entertaining. Here are a few from their Hall of Fame:

Dormitory = Dirty Room
Dictionary = Indicatory
Elvis = Lives
Listen = Silent
Clint Eastwood = Old West Action
Western Union = No Wire Unsent
Evangelist = Evil's Agent
Postmaster = Stamp Store
The cockroach = Cook, catch her
Desperation = A Rope Ends It
The Morse Code = Here Come Dots
The Great New York Rapid Transit Tunnel = Giant Work in Street, Partly Underneath
Tom Cruise = So I'm Cuter
Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler
A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss = Stroller on Go, Amasses Nothing
The Check is in the Mail = Claim "Heck, I sent it (heh)"
Software = Swear Oft
Christmas tree = Search, Set, Trim
The Earthquakes = That Queer Shake
Barbie doll = I'll bare bod / Babe I'd roll / Liberal bod
Statue of Liberty = Built to Stay Free

Much more, and you can always make your own. Go see!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Goodreads SPAM

I had previously given a mini-rant about Goodreads and their inexcusable SPAMming practices. Today I received the monthly newsletter from them, which I certainly do not recall agreeing to, much less requesting (by habit I never accept these). My curiosity stirred up, I did some minimal research:

From the Goodreads Privacy Policy:
Do you send unsolicited emails or direct mail?

Goodreads absolutely, positively does not use the emails it collects as a source for unsolicited emails.

"Liars" just doesn't seem to cover it. "Liar liar pants ablaze with thermonuclear fire"`is a little closer to the mark. Consider: Does the screen capture below look like an invitation to SPAM everyone in your address book?

[Image from Microformats Wiki, which has a related discussion.]

Can you read the small text at the bottom that reads:
*This feature is entirely optional and is only used to allow you to access your address book. You can select which friends to invite on the next page. We do not store your password.
LIARS! No sooner had an acquaintance signed up than her entire address book was SPAMMED. This being a trusted friend I started to sign up to see what was so interesting. I got suspicious when Goodreads asked for my password. A little internet searching quickly revealed numerous complaints about Goodreads and its practice of address book SPAM. While I also find some indications that Goodreads is working to improve their practices, I remain suspicious. Very suspicious.

Good News: OAUTH may be the answer needed to better protect our privacy.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Makes People Vote Republican?

In my political wanders heading up the the election, I came across a true gem of an article on Edge: WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN?
...the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer.

To briefly summarize: It is an amazingly well written article, it's not going to turn me into a Republican, but it might help me understand their position a little better. Understanding is a good thing, and we could all do with a bit more of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

ID Gets Spanked Again

Zachary Moore, a contributor to Goose The Antithesis write about a recent four-way debate in Fort Worth, Texas.
"The Great Debate," as it was billed, was sponsored by St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas. It featured a four-way roundtable format, with a participant from each quadrant of the atheist/theist and pro-ID/anti-ID axes. I was there along with some fellow members of the North Texas Church of Freethought primarily to see Dr. Lawrence Krauss (atheist/anti-ID) and also, somewhat guiltily, to see Dr. David Berlinski (theist/pro-ID) in action. The field was rounded out by Dr. Denis Alexander (theist/anti-ID) and Dr. Bradley Monton (atheist/pro-ID). The debate was held at the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium, and I would estimate about 1000 people in attendance.
Click through for the full post at Goose The Antithesis

This sort of debate is getting to be a bit predictable, as rational and coherent arguments do well in any rational and coherent discussion, and the ID proponents end up frustrated.

While I'm on the topic, PZ Myers gives anti-evolution arguments based on the second law of thermodynamics a swift kick in the shorts. AND [update] Jason Rosenhouse follows up with a complete depantsing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

High Tech Pranks

Computer pranks are always fun. I used to have great fun with a DOS keyboard macro program that let me remap keys and (ahem) record keystrokes. These trick have never really gone away, in fact there are probably more now that there ever have been before. Here a list The 25 Best High-Tech Pranks - use only on very good friends, or people you will never see again! ;-)

[typo edit: don't use them on people you will ever wee again either]

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Hey, get your hand out of my pocket!"

After seeing someone post on FaceBook this obviously misleading graph ...
[edit: link removed, picture inserted, incomplete sentence left as-is]
...presenting a comparison of McCain and Obama tax plans. I didn't think too much of it at the time. I did, however, post this note on my wall in response to an anti-Obama sermon someone else had posted (No kidding, the present "The Parable of the Talents" as an argument that Obama's tax plan is not biblical!):

Dan Eastwood is fairly certain the world will not come to an end when Obama gets elected, but snickers a bit at the people who whine about it so.

To which a good friend of mine replied:

"I, too, am pretty sure the world won't end... Of course there's a bit of distance between "world ending" and "hey, get your hand out of my pocket!"

I was about to write back something about "hands in pockets" and that hands of taxation are already in everyone's pockets, so I searched "tax plans" for ammunition, and how this article from Freakonomics: Competing Tax Plans: Two Perspectives.

Voila! The same misleading graph appears again, along with two other ways of presenting the same data that look very different, and a nice discusion. A little real information is better than a pointless argument any day. Rather than repost all that here, I urge you to go read the the Freakonimics article, it's short and well worth the effort. Or, if you are ambitious, go read this newly released report by the Tax Policy Center.

And who IS John Galt, anyway? (Thanks Matt!)


Edge has an essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan.

Statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge is the core of knowledge; statistics is what tells you if something is true, false, or merely anecdotal; it is the "logic of science"; it is the instrument of risk-taking; it is the applied tools of epistemology; you can't be a modern intellectual and not think probabilistically—but... let's not be suckers. The problem is much more complicated than it seems to the casual, mechanistic user who picked it up in graduate school. Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let's face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system).
Indeed! Woe unto those who assume all events are independent, and distribution well known. Click through to Edge for more. There is a technical appendix too.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

538 Widget

FiveThirtyEight is now offering a widget to display the most current posts - admittedly a bit late in this election season. I have added it here until the elections are done, after which I will probably remove it, or at least push it down the sidebar.

It really was not my intention to put many political topics on this blog, but with the current election fever it's just hard to avoid. 538 does have some really nice statistical model though, perhaps I can dig into those and post about them when the current fuss is all over.

Aggressive Sales Rant

Is it just me or do others find many sales people becoming more aggressive? I prefer to buy something because I need it not because it was forced on me. I like to make my own choices and decisions. Lately, whether I am out shopping or working at home I find myself being annoyed by sales.

The sales pitches start out innocuous enough. This is your local police and you have always been a supporter of ours. Would you donate to our domestic violence fund? Well, that is a cause I support. Sure. I would be glad to make a donation. Can we put you down for $500 then? Wait a minute, I teach college. I don't have that type of money. How about $20? OK, we will send you a $20 bill in the mail but you may not deduct this off you taxes as a donation. Was I just fleeced?

Then came the endless calls with the robovoice, "This is the Replubican National Committee calling to tell you why you should not vote for Barack Obame." Wait a minute, I am on the no call list and this is my private phone number. Why am I getting 5 or 6 of these calls a day. I am trying to work. I am not going to pay extra money on my telephone bill to make sure who is calling me. I have phone calls I need to answer so I am not going to take my phone off the hook. I guess I have been fleeced again.

Then I went to the mall. Something I avoid doing at all costs. But I had an item I wanted. I went straight to the store I like. Enjoyed my shopping there. Then headed to my car. The next thing I know a salesman has grabbed by hand and started buffing my nails. Well, this is certainly a new version of sticking your foot in the door. I was stupid and ended up buying a Seacrest Nail Care Kit. The original price was $59. But when I balked at that, the price dropped to $29 and then when I balked at that it became 2 for $29. I figure this was still overpriced but I would be free. I paid and the next thing I know my hand is grabbed again and I have mud slathered on my arm. I was getting upset now. I said I have a doctor's appointment I have to go. Oh, this will only take a moment. Some 20 minutes later and endles products applied to my arm I was offered 3 small boxes and 1 free gift for only $529. No Way! Well, just for me the price was dropped to $279. No way! Then 4 boxes were piled up and 2 other boxes placed on the side. You can get all this plus 2 free gifts for only $279. This is less than 1 dollar a day for you very important skin care. No way! Well let me show you something. Here, finally he made a mistake. He left my side. I was out of that mall so fast.

And I wondered why I don't like to go to the mall. At least at home I can hang up the phone.

Skin Care: Expensive. Privacy: Priceless.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Technorati Debut

My Technorati Rank debuts at 4,978,471. Only 4,978,470 to go!
My other blog starts off with a ranking of 2,620,513, probably because I linked to myself.

Also, DTA now has a co-author. You should be hearing from her soon.


Whoppers are chocolate covered malt balls made by Hersheys, and if you get me around these things I stat popping them like popcorn (chocolate-covered malty popcorn, minus the popcorn). I actually had something else in mind though*; Lies. has a nice article about the biggest political lies and misrepresentations of the campaign year, and also an update to that article here.

The Whoppers of 2008
The Whoppers of 2008 -- The Sequel

My search to find something that resemble honest political news seems to be making slight progress. Of course, now it's only 3 days to the election and it hardly matters. Oh well. I already voted too. Oh well again! has been added to my (Newly Reorganized) blogroll.

* The complete non-sequitur at the beginning of this post is a function of how my mind works. I find this sort of thing amusing and you can expect more of the same if you visit here regularly. ;-)

Honorable Sewerage

If a group of people wanted to named a sewerage treatment plant in your honor, how would you react?

My first thought was "well that's pretty sh*tty crappy thing to do", but then I thought a bit harder. A sewerage treatment plant performs a necessary and valuable function to the community. It protects the public health from disease and the environment from pollution, so maybe it's not such a bad thing after all. But now look what some folk in San Fransisco want to do:
Group seeks Bush sewage 'tribute'
A citizens group in San Francisco wants to pay an ironic tribute to President George W Bush when he leaves office - by naming a sewage plant after him.
I would be honored to have such a facility named after me. No ... really, I think it would be cool! This plant would be performing a great public service to the entire community for years, probably even many years after I am gone, and I would be well remembered for generations to come.

My concern is this really isn't an appropriate tribute. After all, President Bush has demonstrated far greater ability to create messes than ability to clean them up. Therefore, I would like to suggest some alternate tributes:

George W Bush Marine Salvage Service (for those sunken ships of State)
George W Bush Roller Derby Arena and School of Foreign Policy
George W Bush Plumbing (specializing in economic bail-outs)
George W Bush Memorial Landfill, so the last eight years can be buried and forgotten.

Please feel free to add to the list! [and thanks to Christian for the tip!]

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Food Fight!

Tourist Pictures presents ...

Food Fight

The history of warfare, told with food

Food Fight is an abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict. Watch as traditional comestibles slug it out for world domination in this chronologically re-enacted smorgasbord of aggression.
Click through for more, it really is worth it.

[via Improbable Research]

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beware of GoodReads

Beware of a site/service calling itself GoodReads (.com). This site advertising itself as an interesting sounds book sharing? (or something) service, but it asks for access to your address book then proceeds to SPAM everyone you every communicate with. In short:

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"www.GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"

"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"
"GoodReads is EVIL SPAM"

Take THAT search engines!

Here is someone Jackie Danicki's discussion of it, including a response from "Otis", founder of GoodReads.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wisconsin Wildlife

I got a surprise this morning when I stepped into the kitchen to make breakfast.
From DTA: Hawk1
With a bit a research this evening, I discovered this is most likely a juvenile Sharp Shinned Hawk. [Update: I am informed this is more likely a Red-Tailed Hawk]

From DTA: Hawk1
This adds new meaning to "watching you like a hawk."

Then something really amazing happened. A curious squirrel came right up the the hawk to investigate it. We were astounded that a squirrel would be so bold, and of course just a moment before the camera battery ran out. I scrambled for the spare, but by the time I got back it was too late.

Then I got really lucky ...
From DTA: Hawk1
The squirrel came back! Hawk versus squirrel round two allowed me take some really cool pictures of these two interacting. See the full gallery here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Caffeine and Breast Shrinkage

[Tip of the hat to that LOONEY Michelle]
DRINKING just three cups of coffee a day can make women's breasts shrink, researchers say.

Nearly 300 women were surveyed about their bust measurements and how many cups of coffee they drank in an average day.

According to the Swedish researchers, three cups a day was enough to start making breasts shrink, with the effects increasing for every cup drunk.

They said there was a clear link between drinking coffee and smaller breasts, as about half of women possessed a gene shown to link breast size to coffee intake.

"Drinking coffee can have a major effect on breast size," said Helena Jernstroem, a lecturer in experimental oncology at Lund University in Sweden.

"Coffee-drinking women do not have to worry their breasts will shrink to nothing overnight. They will get smaller, but the breasts aren't just going to disappear.

"However, anyone who thinks they can tell which women are coffee drinkers just from their bra measurements will be disappointed. The problem is that there are two measures for a bra - the cup size and the girth - so you wouldn't be able to tell."

It was not all bad news for women, as the researchers also found that regular hits of caffeine could help to cut the risk of breast cancer.
The article in question (I think):

Mock Trial of Evolution versus Creationism

From Pharyngula: An account of the Northern Kentucky University mock trial of evolution/creationism.

Greg Lloyd attended the Northern Kentucky University mock trial of evolution/creation, and sent back a report. The scenario was that a teacher tried to advocate creationist theories in a public high school classroom, was fired for it, and is trying to sue for reinstatement. Here's Greg's account of the event.

Click through for the full account and comments.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Exposing Expelled

Ben Stein's movie Expelled has been released on DVD, so in case anyone didn't already know, the movie is creationist propaganda. If you missed hearing about it when it came out (and missed the 3 days or so it was shown in the local theater) you might be deceived by the advertising which completely fails to mention that the movie is actually about Intelligent Design. Were I paying for the ads, I suppose I wouldn't mention what the movie was about either, given the dazzling lack-of-interest at the box office. At least I might have done something more creative, like package it as Star Wars Episode 7 - Chewbacca Goes to Charm School. Now THAT would sell DVDs!

The National Center for Science Education created the Exelled Exposed website to help set the record straight, and you can find it here:

Scientific American also provides Six Things in Expelled That Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know... which is where I had participated in my first ID vs evolution discussion/argument/head-bang-on-table. Most of that discussion went away with the rest of the blogs and is now lost forever --- or at least until I pull it out of the zip file where I saved all that fun stuff.

Beware The Jihad!

The Unitarian Jihad, that is. I found this on The Unapologetic Mathematician Blath (Blog, whatever).

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary. Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism — 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression! People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to … you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion. We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes. Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for “balance” by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues. We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons. We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: “Sincerity is not enough.” We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it’s true doesn’t make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn’t mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone. Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he’s pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee. People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Right Turn Clyde!

Following a recommendation from Nate at, I read Matt Moon's commentary on Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. Smart stuff, and a sign that some conservatives are thinking. Good show Matt!. Of course, the comments go completely off track and lose the thread of Matt's insight. Alas.

In an effort to balance out my reading (politics-wise anyway) I have added The Next Right to my blog roll and Reader subscriptions.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Oh Crap

Form Techology news:

From Thrones to Robo-Commodes: The Pitfalls of Inventing a Better Toilet

Rose George's book The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters examines the ins and outs of sanitation; this excerpt explores the cutting edge of toilet technology

By Rose George

It's an interesting read ... honest!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Timmons aides Saddam Hussein?

Murray Wass of the Huffington Post writes:
William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
Moreover, there was a major financial incentive at play for Timmons. The multi-million dollar oil deal that he was pursuing with the two other lobbyists would only be possible if their efforts to ease sanctions against Iraq were successful.

Vincent, an Iraqi-born American citizen with whom Timmons worked most closely, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in January 2005 that he had acted as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's regime. Tongsun Park, the second lobbyist who Timmons worked closely with, was convicted by a federal jury in July 2006 on charges that he too violated the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Click here for the full story.

Here's is my take, and my self-assessment of my own understanding of this story:
  1. Corruption is bad. Timmons at least appears to be subject to corrupting influence. I'll hold off judgment on whether or not Timmons is actually corrupt.
  2. Representing Iraq, or at least Iraqis as part of the Oil for Food program is legitimate work and needed to be done. It was likely an almost thankless task.
  3. I have no clue what it means to be in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or how this might apply to Timmons.
If McCain has tapped a corrupt official as the head his (not going to be) transitioning team, this seems like a bad decision he should repudiate. If Timmons is not corrupt then I find it difficult to fault him through association. That is - As long as he was doing his job properly and representing Iraqi interests appropriately. This last part is a bit tricky. What exactly does is mean to be an "Unregistered Foreign Agent"? I find it difficult to credit that Timmons, a long time political insider, was acting in a treasonous manner. Corrupt perhaps - selfish - but not intentionally against US interests.

So what is this story? An October surprise? Obama's campaign hardly needs such a tactic at this point because it's hard to see McCain's campaign being much worse off than it already is. Maybe this is a story of corruption, but the Oil-for-Food scandal has already run its course, and Timmons role in that has been investigated (and he is not in jail). What is left, political sniping? Perhaps. I really think this story won't be around too long. (Go ahead though, prove me wrong).

2 is 1

A discussion over at Good Math, Bad Math reminded me of this - My favorite math riddle:

Proof that 2 = 1

Start with: X = Y
multiply both sides by X: X*X = X*Y
subtract Y^2 from both sides: X^2 - Y^2 = X*Y - Y^2
do some factoring: (X+Y)*(X-Y) = Y*(X-Y)
divide both sides by (X-Y): (X+Y) = Y
substitute Y for X: (Y+Y) = Y
divide by Y and simplify: 2 = 1

There you have it, a mathematical proof that two is equal to one!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Campaign Tricks Alert Code is

Nate Silver of writes:
Something is a little bit funny when Matt Drudge is treating 1-2 point gains for McCain in the Rasmussen and Zogby tracking polls as "BREAKING" news. Naturally, Drudge ignores other results like the just-released ABC/WaPo poll that show Obama continuing to gain ground.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Improbable Research TV: episode 108

The lastest installment of Improbable Research TV: episode 108 (”Cake, wrap, calculate”)

Who Knew? --- After Rapture Services

Last night my lovely wife tipped me to a web site offering "after the rapture services", which for a fee will store emails from you and send them out automatically. This morning we discover there is actually a competitive market. (A bit more searching reveals I might be the last one to hear about this.)

In addition to email delivery, there seem to be a related market for after-rapture pet care.

Do I detect Poe's Law at work?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

McCain and Palin visit Waukesha

John McCain and Sarah Palin are at the Center Court Sports Complex today at Noon. I wonder if they will play racquetball?

JSonline writes:
Waukesha: McCain and Palin will appear at the Center Court Sports Complex, 815 Northview Road. The event begins at noon. Doors open at 9:30 a.m., but all advance tickets have been distributed.
Is it just me, or do both the Presidential candidates look tired? This is not surprising given the requirements of the campaign, but it appears to be hitting McCain especially hard (also not surprising, given his age). While I don't intend to vote for McCain, I would like to see him to stay healthy and active in politics for a long time. McCain is a voice of reason in the Republican party - someone a lot of Democrats could vote for in other circumstances - and I think he still has much he can contribute.

A nice game of racquetball might be just the break he needs.

racketball McCain Palin Waukesha Wisconsin[Image: Big Time Attic or]

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Presenting: The 2008 Ig Noble Prize Winners

Ladies and Gentleman, Llamas of all ages ...

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

The 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded on Thursday night, October 2, at the 18th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, at Harvard's Sanders Theatre. We will soon post video of the ceremony.

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips," Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004, pp. 347-63.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: "The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake"
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Urs Thurnherr, member of the committee.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: "The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach," Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert,, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: "A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835)," M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.
REFERENCE: "Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy," Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: "Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism," Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.
REFERENCE: "Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?" Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
REFERENCE: "Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String," Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 42, October 16, 2007, pp. 16432-7.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
REFERENCE: "Effect of 'Coke' on Sperm Motility," Sharee A. Umpierre, Joseph A. Hill, and Deborah J. Anderson, New England Journal of Medicine, 1985, vol. 313, no. 21, p. 1351.
REFERENCE: "The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola," C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang, Human Toxicology, vol. 6, no. 5, September 1987, pp. 395-6. [NOTE: THE JOURNAL LATER CHANGED ITS NAME. NOW CALLED "Human & experimental toxicology"]
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Deborah Anderson, and C.Y. Hong's daughter Wan Hong

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."
REFERENCE: "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations," David Sims, Organization Studies, vol. 26, no. 11, 2005, pp. 1625-40.

See: for more.
Video of the awards ceremony soon to be available here: