No Pulp, Some Pulp, Lots of Pulp — 10:32

Do they just take out all the pulp from orange juice destined to go into the “no pulp” boxes and put it in the “lots of pulp” boxes?


The WordPress Plugin you don’t want to install — 18:55

Next of Kin by Tzafrir Rehan. Creepy. Funny. Interesting.


My RAZR lies

Filed under: thoughts,useless @ 15:51

I’m convinced that my Motorola RAZR cellphone does not tell time accurately.

The phone has a little external LCD panel that displays the time and other pertinent information so that I don’t have to flip the phone open to check on things. Normally, this panel is not backlit in order to conserve energy, but there’s an easily accessible button on the edge of the phone that lights up the screen. When I hit the button to check the time on my phone, about forty or fifty percent of the time the digital clock ticks over to the next minute.

That’s very odd; I’m not looking at the screen for more than two seconds (max). That means, I’d expect to see the minute change about once every thirty times, assuming the times at which I check the time are uniformly randomly distributed within the sixty second interval between minute digit changes. One out of thirty is not even four percent; there’s an order of magnitude difference between the expected and observed values. I must have checked the time on with the phone more than five hundred times by now, so this is definitely statistically significant. This discrepancy leads me to the following hypothesis.

My RAZR is programmed to change the minute digit on the display when I click the button if its internal clock is within a twenty or thirty second window around the actual time at which the seconds should roll over back to zero.

If true, it’d have to have been a deliberate design decision. Perhaps people remember the time better after reading a digital clock if they see the digits change and Motorola is just helping me out? I haven’t yet thought of a different explanation.


I pledge allegiance to the flag

Filed under: a group of folks,thoughts @ 14:25

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
and to the republic for which it stands
insofar as that nation, ruled by its people,
champions its ideals of liberty and justice for all.

A federal court has ruled, again, that reciting the pledge of allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional on the grounds that its words require the reciter to state a positive belief in the existence of God. I agree. The government, being made of the people, will naturally be influenced by religion, but it should avoid influencing people’s beliefs back (these are personal beliefs of mine not necessarily supported by constitutional arguments). Requiring citizens to pledge their respective troths to a country they are forced to admit is ultimately subject to God’s authority does just that.

My thoughts on this infamous “under God” phrase got me further thinking about the rest of the pledge. Does reciting the pledge bind me into supporting every aspect of America’s foreign policy? Discussing that prospect with Greg, we decided we didn’t have any desire to give that sort of unconditional support. Greg suggested something like the opening rewrite of the pledge above and I took to its message immediately.

Subsequently, however, I realized that that rewrite can be redundant depending on one’s interpretation of “allegiance” and “republic”. The rewritten version serves to illustrate a point but is unnecessary as long as one espouses the (arguably more robust) interpretation that, in reciting the (“under God” stripped) pledge, one is allying oneself with the ideals meant to be represented by the republic if not the actual instance of the republic itself.

So that’s settled; on to the fools. Interstitial comments of mine are in [bracketed italics].
Read more…


I can feel me getting smarter

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,thoughts @ 16:07

As of last night, Greg and I are officially “so much smarter than you”.

In an ongoing effort to make minions of all the world, we took it upon ourselves to enter a moment of introspection. Dictatorial control of the globe requires certain qualities of a person, and how can the self be made better if not through careful consideration of its faults? Upon peering into our souls and minds, we discovered something: we’re not that smart.

Let me offer you my perspective; Greg’s mileage may vary. Over the past several years (perhaps since senior year of college), my attention span has been diminishing (thankfully, only algebraically). I blame only myself and my lack of rigour. Nevertheless, my lacking in the powers of concentration has severely limited my ability to perform certain tasks like determining a tight bound on spatial quantum search, understanding the nuances of quantum pattern matching, or shaving.

Greg claimed to be suffering from a similar fate and, clever man that he is, suggested a solution: Chess.

He posited that the competitive spirit the game inspires would offer tangible incentive for concentrating on and rationalizing about one topic on a timescale of order greater than dekaseconds. In short, chess would, over time, reinculcate our respective abilities to think.

We started last night with a rousing (and, truth be told, embarrassing on both sides) game, mano a mano. Greg took me to town, but I feel a better man for it. Anybody willing to throw down the gauntlet is welcome; my brain can only thank you. For the record: Greg’s pretty good and I’m fair to middling.


Harry Potter and the Effects on Society Not Easily Modelled by Pertubation Theory

Filed under: thoughts @ 16:16

This weekend’s release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a non trivial event both in terms of thirteen year olds’ “Oh. My. God, I <3 Ron Weasley! I’m not going to eaven BREATHE ’till I’m all the way done with the book. Augh! I wonder if there will be any lethifolds *shudder*. Do you think Hermione is pretty? HP43vr!!” and how it will alter the daily activities in seemingly unrelated sectors: “No, I’m sorry, the doctor isn’t in. How many cockroaches did you say? That’s really a poison control issue, do you have their number?”.

I’ll be interested to see and hear how the world will be affected. The Royal Mail is planning to have an extra 150 lorries on the road this week. Hollywood worries that the release will seriously effect ticket sales. Some more words that end in “orries” (yes, you read that correctly: “ovarian growth worries”).

I’m particularly curious about various nations’ transportation and shipping infrastructures. Is it possible that unleashing tens of millions of books on the world all at once could overload the system? I’m thinking of some kind of phase transition in the shipping sector effecting some odd, emergent behavior: give just one too many parcels to the carriers in Montreal and, WHAM, there goes the Dutch chocolate industry. Traffic backed up at O’Hare? Harry Potter. Massive gladiolus phage? Harry Potter. Jerry Falwell consulted by White House on Supreme Court appointments? Harr- no wait, that’s all Bush.

Anyway, I fully expect some strange things to go down over the next few days whether it’s shipping related or not. So if anything happens to you, just blame HP.

Harry Potter: the new El NiƱo.


Titan II Missile Museum

Filed under: a group of folks,neat!,thoughts @ 15:53

I was in az.us this past weekend visiting my grandpa with my dad (and the rest of my family) for father’s day. While we were there, we visited the Titan Missile Museum: the only Titan II missile silo left after the other fifty-three were intentionally destroyed in 1984 as part of the Titan II ICBM’s retirement. (Tidbit: when the silos were demolished, they were left in ruins for six months so the Soviet satellites could confirm their destruction before being relandscaped into reusable property.)

It was pretty freakin’ cool. The tour started with a walkabout on the grounds above the actual installation. From above, you can look down through the silo door and see the vast tower of armament looking back up at you surrounded by its various service platforms, vibrational dampers and supports. (Tidbit: the jets on the Titan II were so powerful that, if ignited in the silo, they’d shake the missile apart. Massive streams of water were injected into the jet’s exhaust flow so that the resulting steam could absorb and dissipate the energy safely.) The thing is just plain big. (Tidbit: really big.)

Once underground we got to see some of the control center and learn about the daily operations of the compound. My mom even got to turn the brass key (Tidbit: Allen and I figured out it wouldn’t really be all that hard for one person to launch the missile instead of the two that the military had carefully designed the system to require). She annihilated “Target 2”; has that woman no compassion?

But what affected me most was the whole (inter)national culture behind the installation: Mutual Assured Destruction. Peace through Deterrence.

I’m no Cold War history buff. I’m no sociologist, no politician, no philosopher. But these seem like horrible guiding principals. What about Peace through Dialogue? I understand that there are big threats in this world and carrying a big stick makes those threats a lot easier to handle. But how much money was spent on this project and those like it? What if that had gone toward education or international (or, hell, domestic) aid? Would people be so enamoured with the idea of blowing up the U.S. if we didn’t have such a gigantic military machine building weapons capable of destroying most of the rest of the world?

People say the best defense is a good offense. I say the best defense is to not have people hate you. (Tidbit: that’s a lot harder to accomplish.)


Apple has sold its soul to the devil

Filed under: news,thoughts @ 12:18

Many have already heard Apple’s official announcement at WWDC 2005 that the company will be transitioning to Intel brand processors.

This announcement brings up some interesting questions. Will I be able to buy a cheap PC desktop and install OS X? Will some kind of Windows emulator be available (making the transition from Windows to OS X extremely easy for anyone)? Is my current hardware fated to a doom of ill support and obsolescence?

And, of course, is Steve Jobs in league with the denizens of hell?

Apparently, the first Intel Inside Mac will ship by June 6th, 2006. 666: indeed, the veritable number of the beast.

The answer, I believe, must be “yes”. How else could they gain such a legion of fanatics (in which I suppose I must count myself) if not by the means of the occult. I suppose I should not exclude the possibility that Mr. Jobs is himself the devil, but I’d have thought Satan would be better at predicting the future. Though, to be fair, all of Mr. Jobs’ false promises over the years may have been entirely intentional. It all may have been part of Satan’s tricky scheming.

At any rate, beware Apple. Their good design sense is just part of their twisted mask of deception. Do not be tempted by their sexy aluminum laptops, their vast expanses of widescreen flat panels, or their clean user interface. Every time you use a Mac, you’re communing with the lord of darkness.

I hear he’s pretty fun guy, though, so it’s not all bad.


Born into Brothels

Filed under: a group of folks,movies,thoughts @ 13:29

Holly and I went to see Born into Brothels on Wednesday. The documentary follows a photographer, Zana Briski, who originally went to Calcutta’s red light district to shoot the lives of the prostitutes but eventually became attached to the women’s children. She began giving them photography lessons. As Holly notes, the kids become really empowered by their new means of creation and communication. And some of their pictures are really freakin’ good. One of the kids, Avijit, was invited to Amsterdam with eight other children from around the world to exhibit their works internationally.

It’s really an amazing story. Here are these kids that live in a brothel; about twenty people all living in one apartment, each family with its own little room. When their mothers work, they pull a curtain across the bed, so the children don’t see anything that goes on. The sounds, I imagine, are harder to filter out. To escape, the kids go play on the roof or in the streets, but they themselves work most of the day too: washing dishes, going to the market, cooking. These kids are like ten years old and they work long days, see there mothers abused, beaten or burned to death, (more or less) go to school, and still manage to have fun. They play games, fly kites, laugh with each other. That’s what amazed me most watching the movie; there were times these kids were genuinely happy. I probably would have withered away a long time ago if I’d grown up in similar circumstances. Maybe the ones like me already have, and we’re only left with the strongest. It really shows how resilient little kids can be in terrible conditions, but makes you wonder just how psychologically damaged they’ll end up.

Photography, for some of these kids, is their way out of their abusive, drug riddled environment – a way out of prostitution. Through photography and the monumental efforts of their teacher, many of them were able to attend boarding schools (that is, were able to leave the red light district) and pursue a real education in a healthy environment. What’s sad is that this woman spent years of her life with about eight kids (at least that’s the story of the documentary). Eight. There really needs to be massive organizational change in order to help more than handfuls of children at a time.

Holly speaks more on these issues. I’d suggest going to her site for discussion.


Leading to Another

Filed under: a group of folks,thoughts @ 20:25

As per my conversation with Heidi and Dixie.

When people describe that certain way in which couples… discover one another, shall we say, they often use the phrase “one thing led to another, and…”. If only I could just figure out that ‘one thing’. It’s been my quest for quite some time now to find out exactly what it is because, man, I’d be golden if I knew.

Having officially given up on original research in the area, I’m opening this up to outside contributors; please advise on what you feel that ‘one thing’ to be. If some sort of ritualistic ceremony is prerequisite to this knowledge (e.g. Masonic initiation), just say the word and I’m there.

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