The Eye in the Sky computer chip

I bet you “DARPA(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)”:http://www.darpa.mil wants to get their hands on “this”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4396387.stm. If they haven’t already done so. Maybe they’ll do some experimentation over at Gitmo. Forget torture. That’s too 21st century. Let’s get the info straight from the source.

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Maybe they should reassess

The freepers have posted a “memo”:http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1374634/posts, found at that bastion of truth “Newsmax”:http://www.newsmax.com, that says that a neurological assessment of Terri Schiavo comes back as “partially blind.” I wonder what they would say “now.”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15423-2005Mar31.html

Read the ??Washington Post?? article. It gives a very brief timeline of Terri Schiavo’s story, and, assuming the information therein is factual (and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, given that many different courtrooms have seen this by now), I have to say that Michael Schiavo is a very thoughtful, patient man in a very tragic situation. And having his vegetative wife unwittingly made into the poster child of the “pro-life” movement and everything right-wing only adds insult to injury.

I only wish it were considered ethical to administer potassium bromide in these circumstances. However, the national debate won’t move in that direction, and the fringe-become-mainstream right is going to steer it in another direction.

Killing Terri

Some counterprotesters “mess with Christian protesters outside Terri’s hospice”:http://www.livejournal.com/community/kill_terri/9666.html#cutid1. I like the third photo down, labeled “This is my favorite photo.” (I think it a favorite among a “lot”:http://www.apostropher.com/blog/archives/002392.html of “people”:http://forum.truthout.org/blog/story/2005/3/29/184242/299.) I think my favorite part is the look on the face of the woman holding the “Three of a kind” poster. My caption for the picture would be, “Hey, wait a minute. Maybe we really _are_ idiots,” but she’s probably really saying, “What the hey? Is this a joke? Is this a**h*** on crack?!” (I’ll let you use your imagination to substitute in the appropriate real terms.)

Incest is best …

… put your “cousin to the test”:http://www.wral.com/family/4326779/detail.html.

(Unless you spent a few Friday or Saturday nights at the ??Rocky Horror Picture Show??, you may not get the reference.)

All your math are belong to Jesus

I don’t know what to make of “this”:http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/327.html. Read the entry and the links.

This professor took time out of his life to look up _Bible_ verses that only marginally mention or relate to different mathematical concepts. Let’s break one of these down. In relation to the concept of probability (which he oversimplifies, by the way), our good professor says:

bq. God is able to beat the odds, however. He proved to Gideon that this is the case by systematically eliminating a large portion of his fighting men, selecting only 300 out of 32,000 to fight the Midianites. Jesus also used probabilities to teach his disciples. He says in Matthew 19:24 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” [Note: some Biblical scholars take the eye of the needle to be a small but busy gate into the city of Jerusalem.] So, the probability of salvation for a rich man is given as very small. He comforts his disciples in verse 26 of the same chapter by letting them know that God is more powerful than probabilities—“with God all things are possible.”

Let’s think about this. If something has a non-zero probability, then *it can happen*. If something has a 1/1000000 probability, then you can expect that it will happen one in a million times. If you are playing hands of poker, then you may never see the event in your life because playing a million hands takes a long time. However, if we are talking about conditions that occur a million times per second (maybe some quantum phenomenon you are studying), then you can expect to see the event once per second. Another example: if you are in the top 2.5% of the population in intelligence in this country, then there are about 7.5 million people smarter than you.

In advanced probability courses, you learn that events that have a probability of zero might still happen. But we won’t go into that for now.

I hope that I don’t have to work with a statistician whose only training comes from Prof. Sharon K. Robbert, or it’s going to be a very long day.

An open letter

Dear Professor Adams:

I must say, I sympathize a little with you for your “recent pain”:http://www.townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/ma20050328.shtml. As a child, I was very sensitive and always told the teacher when someone said a bad word or flipped me the bird, even if it was in the hall during class and even if I had no hall pass. Fortunately, I learned to disregard minor offensive remarks as I started to grow up, and I’ve been a lot better off for it. These days, I still have to manage people with dissenting opinions, and I’ve found a couple of techniques that you can use the next time you are trolling your email account for urgent messages on Easter. These techniques will even work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. Your mileage may vary during the other times of the year.

The first technique is to keep private conversations private until there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, such as safety or escalation of conflict resolution in the workplace. I find that if I disclose the name of the discussant and full contents of the conversation (or monologue, as the case may be) to the public, that damages my credibility. Perhaps you did not feel safe after reading the missive? While I did not detect any violent intention in the missive, perhaps I misinterpreted. Even then, you can disclose the information to a public safety officer before going to the public.

The second technique is to increase the repertoire of responses to such missives. As a professor who espouses conservative views, you probably get letters like this a lot, right? Certainly you have found the value in ignoring letters devoid of content and, for those that contain useful discourse, engaging the discussant in a healthy debate. A healthy debate works as follows: one side presents views and logical justifications for them. The other side tries to understand the first side’s logic. Then change roles and repeat. Then, as often happens in debates, there will be several rounds of counter-arguments. During each of these rounds, one side speaks, and the other side listens with the intent to understand. This dialectic procedure often leads to growth for both sides, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

The third technique is to anticipate the actions of the other discussant. This skill is admittedly difficult, and those that have mastered this skill have often become great generals, debaters, or corporate strategists. Fortunately, many of the basic principles are rather simple, and this should give you a head start. For example, different behaviors are expected of different types of people. For example, one might expect different behaviors from, say, a college student and another from, say, a college professor. Society has defined different roles for the student and professor, and, whether, while some of the expectations of these roles may be bad, most are quite good. To wit, one expects a college professor to handle dissent with poise and equinimity while the college student may still be developing these skills. So don’t be surprised if you ever receive a reprimand for sending an email with, “My penis is mad at you,” but the administration lets an email from a student saying, “My vagina is mad at you” slip through.

The fourth technique is to lighten up. I’ve taken a few opportunities to read the material you write for “Town hall”:http://www.townhall.com/, and you usually seem upset at some issue or another. I’ve found that this results from several sources:
* not laughing at funny things (usually do to the fear of appearing too childish),
* thinking that everything even of minor offense, including emails with two or three curse words, must be met with a nuclear response,
* worrying about whether I’m being treated the same way as people who are in different stations of life than me (e.g. college students),
* trying to maintain some façade of privacy on work email systems,
* saying up nights fretting about people who say that you are bigoted and immature,
* compulsively checking your email during a federal and religious holiday (i.e. slow email days) worrying about whether someone sent you something “urgent,”
* understanding that not everyone agrees with your assumptions, religion, logic, philosophy, etc.,
* and, finally, looking for things to be upset about.

I’m really concerned about you for this, because stress is perhaps the leading cause of health problems in this nation. Some doctors estimate that 60-90% of physician visits come from stress-related symptoms and illnesses.

I hope you are able to come to a mutual understanding with your students, even if they seem liberal and off-base. After all, liberals as well as conservatives and libertarians are off-base a lot of the time.

Sincerely,
John Johnson

© 2005 John D. Johnson

A whopper of a breakfast

Burger King has a new breakfast item that has “730 calories and 47 grams of fat”:http://www.wral.com/food/4323148/detail.html, more than a Whopper. According to WRAL, “It comes with two omelet eggs, sausage, three strips of bacon and two slices of melted American cheese on a bun.”

I’ll stick with my “Optimum Slim”:http://www.naturespath.com/products/product_details.asp?id=37 cereal in the morning, thankyouverymuch. I’m already 16 pounds over my “ideal weight”:http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/iwc. (Not that I trust ideal weight calculators all that much.)