Monday, May 28, 2007

Never attempt to write a paper that is way above your head in a subject. Never attempt to write a paper that is way above your head in many subjects, stupidly including philosophy, genetics, economics, neuroengineering, computer science, nature vs nurture, self-referential paradoxes, history, cultural relativism, the ethos of biotechnological enhancement, free will, cybernetics, early childhood education, transhumanism, double-barreled optimism and the point of no return, ethics, mathematics, evolutionary psychology, molecular biology, and what it means to be human.

Especially when you have another paper due in a few hours. It's just a bad idea...

The Three Laws of Thermodynamics:
1. You can't win.
2. You can't break even.
3. You can't quit the game.

Heaven is where the police are British, the chefs Italian, the mechanics German, the lovers French, and it is all organized by the Swiss.
Hell is where the police are German, the chefs British, the mechanics French, the lovers Swiss, and it is all organized by the Italians.


City of LA High School Math Proficiency Exam

Name:________________ Gang:________________

1. Johnny has an AK-47 with a 40 round clip. If he missed 6 out of 10 shots, and shoots 11 times at each drive-by, how many drive-by shootings can he attend before he has to reload?

2. Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine. He sells an 8-ball to Jackson for $220 and 2 grams to Billy for $85 per gram. What is the street value of the balance of the coke if he doesn’t cut it?

3. Rufus is pimping for 3 girls. If the price is $63 per trick, how many tricks will each girl have to turn so Rufus can pay for his $800 per day crack habit?

4. Jerome wants to cut his 1/2 lb. of heroine to make 20% more profit. How many ounces of cut will he need?

5. Willis gets $200 for stealing a BMW, $50 for a Chevy, and $100 for a 4X4. How many Chevys will he have to steel to make $600?

6. Raoul is in prison for 6 years for murder. He got $10,000 for the hit. If his common law wife is spending $1,000 per month, how much money will be left when he gets out of prison, and how many years will he get for killing the bitch that spent his money?

7. If the average spray can covers 22 square feet and the average letter is 8 square feet, how many letters can Rodney spray with 3 cans of paint?

8. Hector knocked up 4 girls in his gang. There are 27 girls in the gang. What percentage of the gang has Hector knocked up?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Okay, so we all know that MyHeritage's Celebrity Recognition database is stocked full of hot celebrities to falsely boost people's self-esteem. For instance:

Yeah, right.

It goes on:

BUT, only one person can look like all of the above AND like a bunch of creepy old men. Best of all, only one person can look like Kirsten Dunst, Halle Berry, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicole Kidman, Heidi Klum, Johnny Depp, AND Friedrich Nietzsche. Now THAT'S self-esteem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oh God... This is horrible... why is no one helping them? Is there any feasible thing that can be done from here? Anything at all? This is truly terrible. I wish I was qualified to actually do anything, I'd take a year or two off to help. God, I wish there was something I could do. Terrorism is horrible. There is absolutely no justification for killing kids in a lecture hall. Attacking military bases, government buildings, even transportation systems, I can understand. Not condone, obviously, but understand. But attacking your own students? Unacceptable. Like bombing a nursery. Just unacceptably wrong.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Funny Pictures

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nicomachean Ethics. Read it. Really read it.

On that note...

Daniel: have you heard of Harvey Mansfield?
me: vaguely?
Daniel: he's a major Straussian at Harvard
me: ah
Daniel: he mentored Andrew Sullivan, who I tend to like
but today
he gave a talk here
and he was talking about how all of political discourse can be reduced to "thumos"
which is a classical concept of "longing for recognition"
or something of the sort
in the meantime
he was railing against science, talking about how it ignores names and faces and how it is so limited in explaining the intricacies of human nature
he then concluded his talk by stating that thumos is not a theoretical concept
me: well, he's got a point... not that it matters, but human nature's pretty hard to pin down empirically at this time
Daniel: we're closer than you think
me: i'd dispute that, if it was central to the point
but thumos sounds pretty damn theoretical to me
Daniel: complexity theory is edging closer
me: right. except not really. we are the best instruments for understanding humans, and we still dont get us. talk to me in 100 years
Daniel: I mean, at the moment
yes, human nature is beyond our empirical calculations
but he's going on some bullshit about forgetting modern biology and look to "the biology of Plato and Aristotle" that includes the body of the spirit
me: um
Daniel: so during questions, I had to confront him
me: weeellll.... i guess he's um... no, i really cant defend that easily on no sleep
descartes tried, and came up with the most embarrassing nonsense ever
but ok
Daniel: I asked, "If you say that thumos is not theoretical, but it is not material, then does that make it metaphysical? And if it is, how can you defend thumos if we attack the notion of metaphysics a la Nietzsche?"
me: heheh nice
Daniel: I expected an intelligent answer, because I mean, he sounds like an intelligent guy
me: yeah? what'd he say?
Daniel: but his answer was
"Um... that's a very U of C question... Um... well, Plato... Um... Hobbes... Um, well, naked eye science, you know, is different from modern science because we're not measuring things with x-rays or telescopes, but Aristotle... um"
me: ... oh god
Daniel: yeah
me: hahahahha
talk about name-dropping your way out of a question
Daniel: it was ridiculous
and there was this one neurobio guy who said
"how do you explain the spiritual nature of thumos when neurobiology comes closer to explaining any social behavior being based on biological determinism?"
his answer
"well, I have not heard that the scientists have isolated a part of the brain that is responsible for asking these questions. They might, but that means that if I take a pill that affects the area that keeps me honest, that'll mean I'm stupid"
and I'm like... what the hell?
me: ...?
what does that even mean?
is he clinically retarded?
Daniel: I think it's an attack on biological determinism
me: psh
biodet is the WAY... mostly (ignoring complexity, quantum and indeterminability, but either way, there are general laws that can approximate well enough for the macro world)
Daniel: well, at least try to refute biological determinism using logic
NOT aesthetics
this is why I really hate Straussians
they formulate everything on classical metaphysics
at least the humanities people understand that they are merely creating an aesthetic
but I guess I shouldn't say this is representative of ALL social studies
hell, prolly not even all of POLITICAL SCIENCE
but it's very frustrating
Alan Sokal is right; many people criticizing science have no idea about science in the first place
me: hahaha so true... so true
im posting this convo on my blog... it amuses me

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Scientology

The head of the Galactic
Confederation (76 planets around
larger stars visible from here)
(founded 95,000,000 yrs ago, very space opera)
solved overpopulation (250 billion
or so per planet -- 178 billion on
average) by mass implanting.
He caused people to be brought to
Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H Bomb
on the principal volcanoes (Incident 2)
and then the Pacific area ones
were taken in boxes to Hawaii
and the Atlantic Area ones to
Las Palmas and there "packaged."
His name was Xenu. He used
renegades. Various misleading
data by means of circuits etc.
was placed in the implants.
When through with his crime Loyal Officers
(to the people) captured him
after 6 years of battle
and put him in an electronic
mountain trap where he still
is. "They" are gone. The place (Confed.)
has since been a desert.

This transcript of OT III was posted on line and cause the Church of Scientology to sue Karin Spaink for publishing it, claiming she violated their copyrights to their "advanced spiritual technology".

Responses to this document by believers include:

"I sat there for a long time after I read this startling revelation. It was a profound turning point for me. I will describe what went on in my mind as well as I possibly can. Here I had finally made it to the Wall of Fire, I had just been given the Secrets of the Universe. This was Reality! I distinctly remember feeling like I was in a state of suspended animation; as if I were watching myself to see how I was going to react to this news. I almost let the thought form: "You've got to be kidding!" But I caught it just in time and squelched it. I did allow myself to think that I didn't understand what he was talking about. But having already installed L. Ron Hubbard in my mind as the unerring dispenser of Truth, there was no way for me to reject the information. I remember feeling completely numb and making sure to arrange my expression so that the course supervisor would not realize how stunned I was.

Mercifully, it was soon time for dinner. I remember walking toward the galley (the dining room), which was in the basement of what is now Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, trying to digest what I had just learned. As I walked over a small bridge I suddenly stopped dead in my tracks, frozen by the thought that I was crawling with millions of disembodied creatures. I had to restrain the urge to wipe my hands over my whole body to get them off!"

-- Stacy Brooks
Bob Minton explains what one can expect when entering Scientology:

"In the lower levels of Scientology, new Scientologists are taught to believethat the person or "pre-clear's" behavior and problems are caused by his"reactive mind." The reactive mind is the term used by Scientologists to describe a supposed force that causes a person to act irrationally or against his own best interest. Scientology seeks to convince a person that he needs to overcome his unknowing obedience to this reactive mind and clear himself of its influence. A person is promised that when he becomes "clear" of his reactivemind, he will be free from mental and physical problems. After reaching this much-touted "State of Clear," a Scientologist is then indoctrinated to believe that by paying for a further series of expensive "auditing" procedures, he will eventually attain a state known as "Operating Thetan," or "OT." In Scientology, one is taught that there is an entity, separate from the body, which is called a "thetan". One is promised that when the state of OT is attained, one will be able to fly around at will without one's body. One will be in complete control, in fact, over the entire physical universe of Matter, Energy, Space and Time."

He goes on to write:

"Many Scientologists who have left from the highest levels of Scientology have told us that they have been in a room at Scientology's Sandcastle building in Clearwater, Florida for 5-7 hours per day for up to 15 years, holding two asparagus cans together, attached to a primitive lie detector, talking all day to these dead space aliens. And guess what? You'll never ever finish talking to dead space aliens until you leave Scientology."

Read the full essay here.

This post is in response to Scientology's latest attack on reasonable civilization, a YouTube video of BBC reporter Sweeney completely losing his temper in a very cringe-worthy display of his frustration. His response details the disturbing heights the Scientologists he was investigating went to; stalking him, his family, and the family of his wife? A little much, if you ask me. I would have done a lot more than shout at them, that's for sure...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Have a Different GPA
Are you about to give your child the single most beautiful name that nobody's ever thought of before? Stop. Don't do it. New research by University of Florida economist David Figlio shows that a person's name can have a serious impact on the direction of his or her life. Figlio looked at female names and gave them each a linguistic "femininity" score by using 1,700 letter and sound combinations that could be associated with one gender or the other. He then examined 1,000 pairs of sisters to determine the paths of girls with more and less feminine names. Figlio found that girls with more feminine names like Isabella were significantly less likely to study math or physics after age 16 than girls with less feminine names, such as Alex. He also found that children with names associated with lower socioeconomic status scored three to five percentage points lower on exams than siblings with more traditional names. Additional research by UCLA psychologist Albert Mehrabian showed that people hold traditional names in high esteem. "A name is part of an impression package," Mehrabian told the Guardian. "Parents who make up bizarre names for their children are ignorant, arrogant or just foolish."

by Maggie Wittlin • SEED Magazine

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Scav Hunt 2007... Let the madness begin!

List preview:
...Enter a lecture in street clothes. Receive loud phone call. Shout "I NEED TO GO, THE CITY NEEDS ME!" Remove street clothes to reveal superhero apparel. Run out for the good of the land. (18 points)
... R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Crerar" Video Part 1 (13 points)
...It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. Build the Internet as described by Ted Stevens. (60 points)
... A marxist democracy activist fighting an oppresive state doesn't have time for split ends or dandruff. (13 points)

Only 296 more items to go!

Wisdom of Jean Rostand, French biologist and philosopher (1894-1977)

Falsity cannot keep an idea from being beautiful; there are certain errors of such ingenuity that one could regret their not ranking among the achievements of the human mind.

God, that dumping ground of our dreams.

One must either take an interest in the human situation or else parade before the void.

It is sometimes important for science to know how to forget the things she is surest of.

I prefer the honest jargon of reality to the outright lies of books.

I should have no use for a paradise in which I should be deprived of the right to prefer hell.

In order to remain true to oneself one ought to renounce one's party three times a day.

In politics, yesterday's lie is attacked only to flatter today's.

Stupidity, outrage, vanity, cruelty, iniquity, bad faith, falsehood - we fail to see the whole array when it is facing in the same direction as we.

Science has made us gods even before we are worthy of being men.

Theories pass. The frog remains.

There are certain moments when we might wish the future were built by men of the past.

Think? Why think! We have computers to do that for us.

Truth is always served by great minds, even if they fight it.

It takes a very deep-rooted opinion to survive unexpressed.

My pessimism extends to the point of even suspecting the sincerity of other pessimists.

Never feel remorse for what you have thought about your wife; she has thought much worse things about you.

The divine is perhaps that quality in man which permits him to endure the lack of God.

A few great minds are enough to endow humanity with monstrous power, but a few great hearts are not enough to make us worthy of using it.

A man is not old as long as he is seeking something.

A married couple are well suited when both partners usually feel the need for a quarrel at the same time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Late night ramblings in my second all-nighter; attention paid should be little to none. Scientific theories are the product of informed imagination, and truth is more boring when you think of it as just getting the world straight. "What can be done with fewer assumptions is done in vain with more." -- William of Occam, and why religion is unnecessary for morality (although on a large scale it tends to help).

Ramblings... Ah, life. How you treat me these days both amuses and confuses me, I must admit. So beautiful and so painful sometimes, a very bitter bittersweet.

Enlightenment philosophy and the French Revolution were like that, which is why my paper due today will likely be a projection of my own state of mind. God willing, it will be a good paper. A bit off topic perhaps, but if Boyer's got half a brain or all a heart, he'll appreciate it. Such devastating optimism, both in my last statement and the French Revolution, but such is the result of philosophical extremes.

What a tragic hero Robespierre was! Weeks before his beheading, he wrote of "The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality; the reign of that eternal justice whose laws have been inscribed, not in marble and stone, but in the hearts of all men, even in that of the slave who forgets them, and in that of the tyrant who denies them.” So noble. So wretched.

It failed, as all extremes must. Compromise and moderation, while forever antagonizing to the young and active, must rule our rebellious minds. To commit to a philosophy so blindly and whole-heartedly is to almost ensure its fall. Perhaps it is merely the result of scientific training, but it seems to follow that one must always be prepared to see the destruction of one's own ideas. If they are false, they will fall, and you should delight to see them fall before the truth.

There are indeed those who fall in love with their theories, and joyously sacrifice everything for them. You have Robespierre, who died for his optimism. You have Condorcet: "How consoling for the philosopher who laments the errors, the crimes, the injustices which still pollute the earth and of which he is often the victim is this view of the human race, emancipated from its shackles, released from the empire of fate and from that of the enemies of its progress, advancing with a firm and sure step along the path of truth, virtue, and happiness! It is the contemplation of this prospect that rewards him for all his efforts to assist the progress of reason and the defense of liberty." He wrote this from his prison cell, the Reign of Terror intensifying around him.

There are those in science who stand by their theories, staking (and often losing) their professional credibility, their funding, and their reputations on them. The high suicide rate among theoretical physicists in the late 19th - early 20th century evidences this to a higher degree. It is a mantra in science today: make your mistakes quickly; funeral by funeral, theory will advance.

There are also, and this is another pet peeve of mine, those who tragically misinterpret the philosophy of science, and get caught up in the fury of reductionism and postmodern unreality.

Reductive megalomania exists only in philosophy, not in the sciences. Complexity is what interests science in the end, not simplicity. Reductionism is the way to understand it. The love of complexity without reductionism makes art; the love of complexity with reductionism makes science.

As preventing my hands from shaking while I type gets more difficult, I must bid you good-bye for now; I should save some incoherence for my paper. Only 10 more pages to go...