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May. 3rd, 2013 | 07:30 am

After reading an article about gerrymandering that complained about how the Democrats got more votes while the Republicans got more seats in congress, my eyes betrayed me and drifted down to the comments. I noticed two in particular because they kept coming up over and over. (paraphrased representatives below to capture the theme)

From the right...

The Democrats won't take responsibility for their proposals failing.

From the left...

It's hard to defend the inaction of the appeaser-in-chief

So one thing that the comments seem to agree on is that when Republicans block a vote or vote against something, the Democrats should be blamed.


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Infinity is not a number

Mar. 29th, 2013 | 10:35 am

This morning I spent the better part of an hour writing a review on Walt Hickey's recent article about controversial math facts and then promptly deleted my work by trusting the browser with too much text and not saving partial work. I'm going to rewrite the part of the article I actually care about and leave the rest of the review in the bitbucket.

I'm only going to look at two of the answers, #3 and #9. (slide 14 and slide 49 for those who don't want to read the whole presentation).

Let's take #9 first. This is a proof of why the harmonic summation (let's call that H) diverges to positive infinity. Hickey takes a similar summation (let's call it A) and expresses it in two forms. One form shows that H is obviously greater than A. The other form shows that A is obviously infinite. The proof concludes that if H is greater than something infinite, it must also be infinite. Great explanation, solid proof; I have no complaints here.

But then there is #3. In this section, Hickey claims that there are the same number of positive even numbers as counting numbers. He sets up a 1-to-1 correspondence between the to sets and concludes that they are both countably infinite and therefore it anyone who says that one set has more elements than the other is wrong.

So close, but fail. The fundamental misunderstanding here comes from the reflexive property of numbers which states
Every number is equal to itself
This isn't exactly the most controversial property ever. The problem is when you try to apply that rule to infinity, it doesn't work because infinity is not a number.

In problem 9, the key step of the proof was that H > A. Since H was infinity and A was infinity, that means that in this case infinity > infinity, not infinity = infinity. This is fine, since infinity is not a number and therefore doesn't have to follow the reflexive property.

Applying the same logic to problem 3, we see that it makes no sense to say that there is the same number of elements in the sets because both cardinalities (set sizes) are infinite. The moral of the story is that infinity doesn't play nice with concepts like equals, addition, multiplication and the like, so be careful about treating it like a number, or before you know it you'll be claiming that infinity minus infinity is zero or infinity divided by infinity is one, which turn out to be variants of the same mistake Hickey made.

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By the last light of the setting sun

Feb. 10th, 2013 | 01:08 am

There's a longstanding story about a "green flash" that sometimes appears right at sunset if just the right conditions appear. Tonight I saw it for the first time. I was looking out over the ocean and the sky was almost completely clear except for a couple could near the horizon almost perfectly lined up with the sun.

I watched the sun during those last few seconds when the top quarter slips beneath the horizon, and then just at the sun was a sliver, the line of the horizon went green. Not green in a olive drab sort of way, but laser pointer green. It just lasted a moment.

I've watched a lot of sunsets since moving to about 50 feet from the cliffs and I was starting to think the green flash either didn't exist or at least didn't happen at this latitude. I'm happy to report being wrong. This was actually cool to see. That said, I've watched the sunset about one in three nights for three years, which is about 0.3% of the times I looked.

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Monster Eyes

Jan. 15th, 2013 | 01:18 pm

I'm in the waiting room of my GP, and have just been informed that I have monster eyes. The informant is about four or five years old, so I take this information as impeccably reliable. I have an ongoing condition called cluster headaches..

In the range of suffers of the condition I'm roughly in the middle. I have my clusters about 7-9 months apart, slightly less than twice a year. Each cluster is characterized by about one week I called the "outlier" week where the duration and timing is pretty random and generally toward the mild range. Then I get about three weeks of the "regular" period where I get about two to three hours of pain daily, always at the same time each day. Each cluster picks it's own time of day. Night time clusters mean interrupting the sleep cycle, since it's impossible to sleep during an event. Day time attacks usually mean a social price. I've learned its better to isolate during events rather than try to control my tone of voice. Finding a way to take a two hour break during the work day and then stay late to make up for it sucks. Sadly people are more likely to notice the time you weren't available than the fact that you are working more hours than anyone else. After the regular period comes the peak, where headaches come multiple times per day and every moment is either part of an attack, or waiting for one. Even though the peak generally last three days or so, by the end of the three days I'm generally certain this will last forever and its going to kill me this time. I can't even call this an irrational fear because in about 20% of cases that eventually happens and the person becomes a "chronic" case which essentially means that the cluster lasts forever with little or no remission between cycles. Chronic cases generally become suicidal. After the peak I get another week of outlier, then it goes away until the next time.

Seven months is perfectly long enough to let the hope set in that the pain will not come back. Or won't be so bad. Fuck hope.

So this is going to sound obvious, but it turns out that cluster headaches do not imbue the sufferer with an immunity all other forms of disease. I mention that because I picked up that flu-like thing that is going around during the regular period. Which means during the peak of the cluster I had the flu. So in addition to having a rusted iron caterpillar in my head that wouldn't stay damn still, I was drowning in snot and was running a fever.

In a normal cluster, my eyelid (almost always the left side) droops and gets puffy, and the eye gets a little red. With the combination, the condition spread to both eyes and is so severe that my eyes don't have whites, just reds. It doesn't look like bloodshot -- the red is pretty even throughout the eye. The edges are a little yellowy where the eye coating has swollen out of its normal space. The bright blue irises in the middle look really creepy.

I have monster eyes.

I'm into the outliers now. I just need to go another few days without telling anyone to go fuck themselves nor pointing out that they are blithering idiots who shouldn't be allowed to talk.

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The Clean Slate Argument

Dec. 13th, 2012 | 10:17 am

I saw geek feminist wiki for the first time today, and after browsing I found that there was a common tactic of troll that doesn't seem to be in their lexicon yet. I call it the Clean Slate argument. Here's a first draft of a write-up:


The Clean Slate Argument is when someone argues that the past should not be considered. The argument typically involves the notion that the future is more important than the past, then makes an awkward leap to the idea that the past should therefore be discounted as unimportant.

An common example is the troll who claims to have been reformed and wants to be taken as sincere in spite of repeated past examples of poor faith. I discussed this previously as D_Vosray:
I generated a mini-lesson that was included into a middle-school “critical thinking” curriculum in his honor. Some of the current trolls and those who have to deal with them could use this highlight from it.
  • ad hominem attack “We should ignore him because he is a troll.”
  • ad hominem fallacy“What he said must be wrong because he is a troll”

  • The latter is a bad idea because trolls can’t be relied on even to be wrong and also because it sets them up to use reverse psychology. The former is just good sense.

    Arguing for a personal clean slate is more destructive when the argument is applied to the subject matter itself. In the example of Martin Krafft under the definition of concern troll, his last statement is a perfect example of this tactic.
    "Under the assumption that most people would like to move forward towards an equal-opportunity community, how does keeping meticulous track of all the problems of the past and present help?"

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    A poker first

    Oct. 13th, 2012 | 11:19 pm

    I've been playing poker since I was a kid. I've been playing in casinos since college. Some times it feels like I've seen all the situations unfold and the challenge of reading people is what keep the game interesting. Today was an exception.

    I got a straight flush. With the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Ten of clubs, I held the immortal nuts. I even got two callers on the river.

    If you never ever fold and always go to a showdown, that still only happens once every 31 thousand hands in holdem. So with about 25 hands per hour, this should happen once every 1240 hours of play. When you take folding into account, then number goes way up and the math gets too complicated for a late night blog.

    But I got a Royal Flush. At this rate I should have another one in 2035.


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    Ghostchaser: Save the date

    Aug. 25th, 2012 | 10:40 am

    Saturday October 6th: Ghostchaser rallye.

    I've written my first A-B style gimmick rallye and will be presenting it with The Rallye Club on October 6th starting at Larry's AutoWorks. This is a puzzle game that should be a lot of fun. Slow driving in non-traffic areas. All you need is a pencil, a flashlight and a friend. A highlighter and a clipboard might help, too.

    I'm hoping to get good turnout. If you've ever thought about coming to a rallye, this is the one to start with. If you don't know what a rallye is, try this out. It's fun.

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    New anti-gay UCMJ clauses subvert their own intent

    Aug. 25th, 2012 | 10:08 am

    Representative Todd Akin of recent "Rape can't make you pregnant" infamy has been also mentioned in the news for what has been characterized as as protecting chaplains who refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

    Section 536 of the NDAA does exactly that, and its neither unusual nor inappropriate by itself.

    Unfortunately none of the media coverage included reading on to Section 537. Section 537 prohibits anyone else, chaplain or not, from performing any solemnization or ceremony for same sex couples on any land controlled by the DoD (whether owned, rented, or whatever). This is the actual nasty part of the bill. It aims not to protect the chaplain who doesn't want to conduct a same-sex ceremony but to prevent others who do not share that belief from doing so.

    This might seem like just one more clause to add to the list of things that need to be repealed when the anti-gay power block has finally been thrown out of power, but there is a twist. Section 536 provides a loophole to section 537. A chaplain who believed that same-sex marriage *should* be allowed is now exempted from any punishment for performing the ceremony consistent with his sincerely held religious beliefs.

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    The Voting Rights test of our time

    Jun. 3rd, 2012 | 06:37 am

    There is a criminal conspiracy in Florida.

    The National Voting Rights Act was put into place as part of the Civil Rights movement to put an end to racist and classist practices where active racists would use literacy tests and poll taxes as a pretext to deny non-white and poor citizens their legal right to vote. The NVRA was written with safeguards against clever new ways that criminals would use to circumvent it, such as a 90-day freeze on purging voter rolls before any national election. The point of the 90-day waiting period is that there is time to fix the registration of citizens who are incorrectly removed from the rolls as part of a trick by corrupt officials, or even just inept officials.

    The Florida primary election is scheduled for August 14th, 2012, which means that the deadline for purging voting rolls passed back in the middle of May. Florida is in the middle of a registration purge right now, which violates the NVRA both in letter and spirit. The Department of Justice wrote Florida Govern Rick Scott a letter warning him that he is in violation of the law.

    The NVRA has teeth. In 42 USC § 1973gg–10, there is a provision for up to five years in prison for anyone who attempts to violate the provisions above. At this time, the illegal purge against over 2700 registered voters has not been suspended. This is what voter fraud looks like.

    It isn't enough to stop this particular attempt to illegally deny people their vote. If we allows the perpetrators of this crime to stay in office to try again and again, they will find ways past the watchers. There is wisdom in the law that provides for personal punishment for this sort of voter fraud. Let's follow the law and put these criminals on trial. Let's give those most responsible a stay in federal prison proportional to how heinous the illegal orders they gave were.

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    Dinosaurs and Fundementalists

    May. 19th, 2012 | 08:41 am

    I like to listen to the stories people tell to explain their own existence and search for purpose. Here is something I noticed while listening.

    A tiny bit of background first. There is a calculation that is popular among certain Fundamentalist Christians about the world being quite young. They usually pick some age around five thousand to ten thousand years. Some fundamentalists sects have latched onto this number tightly and consider it essential to their theory of creation. They indoctrinate their children with this number and invest a lot of their credibility.

    Which brings us to dinosaurs. Most books about dinosaurs have numbers in the millions of years estimating how long ago dinosaurs roamed the earth. When four year old little Janet shows up to her religious service with her Pterry the pteranodon doll and hears from her clergy that the world is thousands of years old right after reading her favorite book about dinosaurs living millions of years ago, there is no force on earth that can stop the question "BUT WHAT ABOUT DINOSAURS!?!?"

    Back in the seventies, I heard a clergyman answer that question. He suggested that the dinosaur bones in the ground might have been faked by scientists. Scientists were (and continue to be) a popular villain in these stories. These scientists dedicate their time to elaborate fraud to lure the religious away from their faith. Scientists all over the world were hard at work trying to prove evolution, so being villains they would invent the evidence to support them in the form of dinosaur fossils. Not satisfied with a single explanation, he also suggested that the bones might have been left there by God as a way to test the faithful. Either way, the statement to little Janet was clear; there were no dinosaurs. She would have to choose between her belief in dinosaurs and her belief in God.

    The question from all the children like Janet hasn't gone away, but more recently there has been a new story to answer it. Dinosaurs did roam the earth, but they did so alongside humans. There was even a place in the southwest where people could go to see the footprints of human tracking a dinosaur, or perhaps the other way around. The disagreement about the age of the earth hadn't gone away, but now instead of questioning the existence of dinosaurs, the story left room for adventures including them. The book from the scientists suggested that there were no such adventures because the dinosaurs had gone extinct before the humans existed.

    The sects with the story that there were no dinosaurs suffered from their conflict with the children who wanted to believe in them. The sects that offered a lost world with dinosaurs and people alive together flourished. Over time, the sects with the older story died out or adopted the new story.

    This is how the fundamentalist position on creation has evolved.

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