Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Magnum Nopus

Instead of writing the grand rebuttal I kept planning on doing, I just went on Facebook and debated religion on a person to person basis with even more random strangers. Now, I may have learned something, because I was doing some thinking along the way, it's just that I usually don't remember specific details about what I learned doing almost anything. Regardless, I think I wrote some nice paragraphs :/. I tried my hand at writing a personal counter to Pascal's Wager, completely without citation to all of my sources of thought (although the wiki on the Wager was significant). Amateur, yes. I may post it some other time, when it's more refined; it was built in response to a specific person, and so the writing needs to be generalized more.

I began writing that paragraph at the end of November, stopped, and then resumed now. Not much has changed between now and then, although I should probably make it a very rare occurrence to only write once every four months. Anyway, Science Online '10 is approaching, and although it isn't nearly as amusing to say as Science Online '09, I can hardly wait. If the ethics and management woven into science, and all their wonderful problems, is interesting to you, then it may be worth at least reading about what's been done at the conferences wherever the site is found. Although one can't now get into the coming conference, there's probably going to be another in '11, just in case you would be interested. The current site for information anyway is http://www.scienceonline2010.com/, and Bora Zivcovic's Blog Around the Clock will have information about the conference afterward, for in case I either didn't post this or one doesn't feel like going back and finding out.

Next, the LHC has apparently done not one, but two test sets while I wasn't watching. The latter broke the world record for highest energy collision of particles (yay) and neither of them broke the LHC (yay!). Clearly, I should have been watching at least a month ago.

And now, for the completely random portion of my posts that happens some percentage of the time, I only just found out about Time Cube. This followed from searching the meaning online of the expression 'not even wrong,' where I found there was a Wikipedia entry for it. That article linked both to 'wronger than wrong' and Time Cube. I'm now glad I have both contemplated both various ways in which one can be wrong, and what it means to truly be bat shit fucking crazy. I mean, I try to keep swearing out of here, because I at least pay lip service to civility and careful debate*, not to mention not making huge assumptions and as of yet unfounded statements about anything or anyone. On the other hand, I couldn't bring myself to actually analyze this writing personally, or not use a string of words I've found somewhat hilarious for maybe a week now. If you wish, you may visit timecube.com to see what I've seen (I checked the first sixth of the page, then scrolled to a random portion about 3/5 of the way down).

*First, I now plan on putting significant and larger streams of thought bracket enclosures in footnotes, where I should have :/. Next, I went backspace instead of Ctrl-X, then forgot to use Undo until right about now instead of wishing I hadn't accidentally removed this information from myself. What can I say, I hate retyping things, especially when it wasn't important :D.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey, you were writing a religious debate thing.

Well, guess what. I found someone worth paying more attention to at www.reasonablefaith.org, and his name is Docta Stiles I mean Dr. William Lane Craig.

Now, this guy seems like much less of a zealot than a lot of other Internet Christians. That doesn't mean he isn't one, to a degree; he made an elaborate site with a mailing list and official organization. Anyway, he's posted (some of?) his debates in a free members section, usually defending the existence of the Christian God or the existence of the accompanying morality. In the debates I learned quite a bit from both those Dr. Craig debated against and Dr. Craig himself about current arguments, and surprisingly, I also found that I disagreed with points from many of these atheists, agnostics, and occasionally softer theists of a sort or another. Primarily, I'll kick the next person who seriously uses the argument from evil against the existence of God, among other things.

For all those who haven't seen this used before, you've probably heard some form of it from an angry atheist anyway who didn't give it a name. Very vaguely:

1. If God exists, he would disallow evil.

2. God is omnipotent and omniscient, such that he is capable of enacting 1.

3. Evil exists.

4. Hence, God does not exist.

And I saw atheists and agnostics using this; professionals. Now, ok, this does not directly contradict their statuses as atheists and agnostics, but we nihilists aren't letting those fools into the tree-house after that one. The use of 'evil' as something that exists in a very real sense seems to imply objective moral values. As a nihilist, I also tend to think that of all of Dr. Craig's arguments for God, I see the very nature of defending OMVs to be among the most futile, up there with God being revealed upon examining nature. I also see Dr. Craig's defense of these two points to be blatant appeals purely to the way we take in the environment and ourselves; asking for us to see the objectivity of God in nature with only our judgment to guide us. What are our minds, though, but subjective in their functions, feeling objective because that's the only information in our personal realms? Important to note, though, is that I can't actually defend an answer of 'nothing else' for the last sentence, I'm just speculating; more to the point is whether or not we can seriously look at nature, using all bodily and mechanical senses available to us, and then infer that 'God did it.'

Other main arguments, in a personally shaded nutshell:

1. Resurrection of Jesus: Lots of eyewitnesses and literature. Lots of liars? Jesus lookalike? Jesus wasn't actually dead? Jesus was actually reanimated? I can't argue against this point seriously, because I have no background in this history. I can say that, though there are many writings of the time, people didn't understand much about the workings of natures; also, the integrity of writings can get a little shaky with mediocre known context and 2000 years between now and then. Still, this is something based on historical records.

2. Kalam Cosmological Argument:

a) Universe can't cause itself.
b) An actual infinite of causes and effects (or anything else) cannot exist.
c) The universe was caused.
d) Quoted:

If the universe has a cause of its existence, then
an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists,
who sans creation is beginningless, changeless,
immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously
powerful and intelligent.

e) And hence, said Creator caused the universe to exist.

The best breakdown of this argument I found from Dr. Craig was here (one must register for free to see this). First, I'm uncertain about a) and b); one person who debated Dr. Craig attempted to prove an actual infinite by way of measurement. Shortly: first, take a distance of any length, a metre as he called it. You may halve this metre, and you'll have two of half the first one's length. One may then halve both of those, and then have four that still sum to the original. This process is not limited. Dr. Craig responded by saying that this was a potential infinite, that though this may be repeated indefinitely, it can't be; he agrees that there may be something that tends to the infinite, but there cannot actually be an infinite. My own response to this is that no matter how much we can't fathom the divisions, that doesn't mean they can't be there.

As for a)... at least, I don't think the observed universe is responsible for causing it, but there's much that hasn't been observed that maybe can be. There may also be that which exists which will forever be outside of our perception. What we see is what we can use as evidence too, but God has been relegated to from explanations before from new discoveries. This area of physics is so uncertain and enigmatic, I won't really solidly affirm any model for now; it's great people are coming up with them, and one day I hope to coherently do one myself, but our predictions here are volatile, at least over the course of decades. I doubt we yet have the truth, we may very well not even have an approximation.

This post is getting rather long... I should add a Part 2 later. I probably will. As for Troy Brooks, author of the former proof that I had set out to examine (critically) at http://www3.telus.net/trbrooks/perfectproof.htm, he's now got Youtube videos and he's written a truly colossal amount of work on his forum. I think this is his job. He asks for no repetition of points made by opponents, a reasonable request in my opinion. All this is quite well and good, but he also bans people from the forum who deny his premises. I'm attacking most of them, so I probably won't get the opportunity to defend my work when it's countered. I'm wondering, now, if this should be abandoned... but no, I'll continue, if slowly. There are better things to do with my time, but oh well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Talk with Larry Moran: Paraphrased

As one or two other people on the Internet that I don't know may have noticed, Larry Moran invited me to his blog and U of T after reading my interview with Bora Zivcovic (now found at http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2009/07/scienceonline09_-_interview_wi_5.php).

We talked for a couple of hours about various things, part of it over some buns from a Chinese bakery (they were good, except for that one chicken bun that went bad). At first, I asked about the fields of medicine and physics, including careers and schooling, and he enlightened me about various the various career paths and what one can and can't do in each one. Shortly: the divide in between research and care is huge, it's essentially one or the other. He (being a professor in the department of biochemistry at U of T) had speculated that it would be substantially harder to get into research fields in medicine than physics. Of course, Michael Nielsen had earlier given his only really short answer to how hard it would be to get into physics, with a resoundingly to the point yes.

We also talked a bit about how people behave on Facebook, and just generally with their identities online. More to the point, how the younger generation (including me) does it, and why we're so loose with damaging information about ourselves and others. I figured our arrogance and stupidity had at least something to do with it, but that answer seemed a bit too simple standing alone, and I don't actually know what leads people to post pictures of themselves naked and drunk online. I also speculated that maybe we don't care about these things as much as people used to, but then there are still stories of people dearly regretting it when it comes to employers and the morning after, when they awake to a parent screaming.

We didn't get into views on religion, or lack thereof; the theory I currently accept as strong, my dad's, is that he didn't want to scare me away from U of T and himself with his very strong ideals. What he didn't know... is that I'm usually up for a good debate. This is why I'm also fine with going to York, and entering the debates it's famous for (or shouting matches... maybe there's something to be learned from listening to those too, hopefully).

Finally, although this was the first thing we talked about, was talking very briefly about Science Online (the conference, one in which I had a blast, is very new and is held yearly in North Carolina; more info here and in the following two posts). He barely made it to '08, and couldn't go to '09, because January's got a ton of work in store for professors that include him, and I went to the opposite one. He figured it wouldn't be likely we'd meet there; or at least, it would take a number of years. To recap: he thought it was good stuff, I reiterated that I thought it was awesome.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Seeing the Internet as the endless pile of stuff that it can look like, and then I'm gone.

When I entered the realm of the Internet some time in the early 2000s, I had my idea for my username, Sazz. I really thought that it was original and that no one else had done it. Around a year ago I decided to go out and see if other people really had used that name, and I've found out that it may have been used since before I was born, by lots of people. I really thought I had had a new idea, too.

On another note, I just searched 'fmp tedzy the bear' again, and found that it has a result from me and a result from some other site that actually had some recognizable Starcraft wording in it. I clicked on the link and found out that my IP range is banned from the site. Even if it's just because I'm on Blogger my priority in the search was higher than yours, fools.

On what seems like the most important note, from the world of ScienceOnline '09, I'm submitting my interview response to Bora Zivcovic at A Blog Around the Clock either tomorrow or today. I can't say enough that I'm eager to go next year, there was a lot of interesting information and speculation to go around at the last conference and an atmosphere I appreciated (many of the people at this conference have said proudly that they don't want to 'grow up', at least in a more traditional sense of the word).

And finally, my family (which has extended to include me, too) will have highly limited access to the Internet over the following month. This means I won't be writing anything for that duration of time (as if I was a consistent and frequent poster anyway). To all my loyal and numerous fans, I'll return to tracking your epic turnouts at the end of summer!

Monday, July 13, 2009

PP: AItCSUP: Chapter 2

In the second chapter of the book, the Pythoning begins. The idea of the book is to give ongoing information about computer programming throughout, but the programming itself begins here.

The chapter started off by explaining, on a broad level, the macro of how a computer works: on the most basic level is the hardware, which materially the machine is. Next, the operating system is that which directly interacts with the hardware; all that is above the OS needs to go through it, or operate using it, to do anything with the hardware. The OS and the various other entities above it that do things are all programs, but the book outlined how the OS is the only one that calls the shots (has direct access to the hardware).

Next, the chapter went into some math. The math here wasn't extremely complicated (BEDMAS, modulo, rounding, integers and floating point numbers), but the information was more about how Python dealt with the numbers than how a person would, presented on a sheet. For instance, Python before 3.0 (apparently the later versions of 2 are still used more) will round down (take the floor value) of integer division. On the other hand, it will divide floating point values as closely as it can (it will also always convert integer values to floating point values when the two are in the same expression; I'm guessing that integer values are only used when it's strictly certain that the rest or the real numbers aren't needed). After that, it went into using variables on top of the math, and then how Python treats variables (again, not quite as one is supposed to use them generally). A short interlude with basic error messages came (there was one before too), and then the book got into functions.

I was pretty interested with this part. It took all of the previous math information, with variables, and then added defining and using functions to it. At this point, one might not right much of a program yet, but they (I) could make a list of variables and functions at this point; I was OK with not knowing how to right an even mildly sophisticated program after the first chapter, but I was glad the learning curve wasn't very wrathful (maybe I want a straightforward learning experience... sue me). The chapter finished with a few paragraphs on style (there are myriad forms, and the books advice was to use some kind of procedure with a few broad tips; however, if people argue that there is one style out there to rule them all, then hound them for actual proof). Finally, there was a summary of the chapter (which I didn't read before writing this-- honestly!), and a section with exercises. The chapter's title was 'Hello, Python!', and in the way of Python's own developers, they made sure to include well known lines from cultures of varying popularity almost wherever there was a code demo with words. More on the book later, which is hopefully sooner; I was supposed to update this daily, but I doubt that's a pattern I'll settle into (maybe my dad meant that I was supposed to at least add to a post daily, which sounds manageable).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Practical Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science Using Python: Introduction: My Blog Entry

A few days ago, my dad said that a programming book about Python he'd ordered for me a few days (weeks?) previously had arrived. He had been saying, before, that the book focused not only on Python itself, but on the nature of being a computer scientist itself. The book is even called, before, and introduction to the science using Python, as opposed to an introduction to Python itself. When he handed me the book at my little brother's graduation ceremony, I was interested. I have Python for Dummies, and I took several stabs at it. Those stabs ultimately failed; I didn't go very far probably through a combination of too short an attention span, and the book having made assumptions that I already knew something about programming. The book even said that outright; it mentioned that a truly basic level of programming knowledge was suggested, but that really ended up being important, or at least I assume it did; there were more assumptions of what we knew than I was happy with.

I've liked the introduction to the book so far. Like the Dummies book, it gave a straightforward introduction to computer science; what is a program (a set of instructions), what purpose do they serve (to amplify humanity's potential dramatically wherever a program can help), an outline of how to think like a strong programmer (if there's something that isn't in account, take it there, and then get creative about your next steps), why Python is awesome (its use is widespread and deep, noobs can pick it up more easily, it's 'free and well-documented' [excellently put by the book], and it's well supported on ancient machines and other tools), etc. I think these were very well laid out in the introduction, and then finally it gave, very broadly, what the book would teach. This was put into a list of 4:

1. Solving real-world problems using programs

2. Using Python in particular

3. How to think and work like a professional programmer (the styles, formats, goals, and very generally the mindsets)

4. And finally, the book gives 'tools', the rest of the sentence going on to essentially say that these tools make 1 and 2 easier, effectively accomplishing 3 (but likely incorporating other materials... but that may also result from 3). I really shouldn't have said there were 4 before I actually reread them; I've liked the book and its approach quite a bit so far, but this 4th point is basically some rewording to give the authors a nice, even number of points greater than 2 (but, once again, this might also be a pile of things like other useful literature and files that would definitely help out).

Well, I've read some of the book beyond this point, and I've found it h4wt, to quote Cory Doctorow (I had... never seen that typed before I read Little Brother, although I thought it was a great book). More on the other chapters later.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Extreme Debating! (not spelled Xtreme on purpose)

Recently, I started reading a bit about formal debate too (well, I read the Wiki on it a bit, and read some transcripts from the religious site Reasonable Faith), and I've found that people always seem to stage debates that would usually last no more than twenty minutes or half an hour. As much as this seems to make sense, given it takes mental endurance to debate coherently and to listen attentively, there's always more to be said afterward (from my limited to moderate experience at school and reading online). At the end of formal debate, both sides shake hands and agree to disagree (more or less). The threads are left hanging, and that's usually fine.

Now, what if there were some sort of formal debating style that involved dramatically extended times? Into the realm of hours? Now, to start, I can come up with myriad reasons why this wouldn't work (as hoped for), but I'll bear with myself for now. The idea in progress:

If there were a six hour debating style, and each side would be composed of a single speaker (the main belligerents), and a bunch of research and support positions. These support positions would be critical; they'd have access to such things as the Internet with various database subscriptions (as required), and non-digital source material. There may even be practical demonstrations to be made, provided they are very thoroughly screened for transparency and relevance. These could be showcased on any time that the side using the demonstration is allowed to speak (overrun would have to be negotiated with the opposition, who would have the right to refuse it). An audience that may comment is also important, as well as a moderator. Preparation in advance would be lengthy and intense: first, each team would be given a month in advance to prepare (if that's when the competitors first even learned of this competition, preparation would likely involve mental and physical conditioning too). Sources are only barred if they aren't legally allowable in the country in which the debate is held (if held in a country with weak human rights, well, let's just hope there wasn't too much crap involved in information gathering...) Any source may then be challenged during the debate. If one party is completely dissatisfied with a certain source and cannot be convinced of otherwise, I'm not sure how that would be resolved.

The debate itself would be structured, but there would be sections that would be more and less orderly. The first, say, half and hour would be split into specific speaking times; a traditional sectioning of time. Each side would be given only a few minutes per section, as is common. After initial introductions and rebuttals, there would be a short period of free argument; in this part, it would be very important that the two debaters have respect for the others time and words, and the moderator would be permitted to stop someone if they're making too strong an attempt to dominate by interruption or is disallowing their opponent to speak for too long. Following this section, there would be a question period for the audience, and this might last a solid few minutes. After that, the moderator would ask a few questions that are presumably as unbiased as possible, and each debater would have a couple of minutes to respond. Finally, each debater would get a few minutes that are supposed to be focused on clarifications and pointing out concepts that they think their opponents are fundamentally failing to understand about their arguments. Each side would get a rebuttal/reiteration of around the same time. After this round, there would be an intermission of a few minutes to around fifteen for each side to regroup. The whole process would have taken, maybe, an hour to an hour and a half.

For now, I'm thinking that that format would be repeated several times until the end of the debate. Also, what I consider to be a staple of this debate: it's meant for formal debating where both sides actually disagree with each other over something, not a competition where each side must argue what is given to them, unfailingly. The idea is that each side and everyone attending wouldn't only learn new things, but acknowledge them. The central aim would be that the arguments would become sophisticated enough that entirely new thinking may be introduced, and possibly strong concessions on one side or both. Although it's incredibly difficult to overcome the most ingrained views that come out after a few hours of arguing, one hopes that both parties approach the case as objectively as they can, but extended postulating is increasingly fine as the debate drags and (relatively) solid information begins running thin. At any point in the debate, one side may even concede it is wrong, to any degree; this should not be frowned upon at all when done honestly.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Maybe I'll do some work on this later, maybe I won't. I'm still in the midst of exams, and in two days I'll have two at once. After that, I'll have only one more. Almost there...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Well, I didn't do it. Yet?

So the people out there that read the last post, and decided they wanted more, are probably disappointed, but-- well no, it's completely legitimate. I guess I have two things to say for myself now.

First, I didn't say last time that I wanted to take a really solid, nuanced whack at this, reading all material that seemed relevant. I thought that relevant material would be a couple forum posts and that a nuanced whack would be at most a page, but then it all went to hell when I found that there was more relevant material than that to read, there was a lot to address all the time, everywhere and anywhere in the proof, and so I'd have to write something more detailed to encompass it all.

Next, there were final evaluations at my school. That meant that it was actually the most intense homework period of the year, and I'd largely blown the week before not doing enough work on this... and then all of a sudden I didn't really want to work on a self-assigned project on top of all the other things teachers told me to do. I really could have done this, but I'm also battling my procrastination on work for real marks (now largely over; exams time, and studying is much less of an issue with all my newfound time). Citing personal failing never really stops looking lame when used as an excuse, but the Internet Police are leaving me alone for now.

At least thinking I'm approaching this topic with an open mind, I still can't help but feel a little depressed while in the process. Though I'm thinking right now that subjectivity and passion are one's arch nemesis when having a religious debate, they beat at my mental door harder and harder the longer I remain reading and writing on the topic. Damn emotions. Afterward, I'm left passionately thinking thoughts that at very least feel deep, but subjectively are definitely strange and disturbing. The more people assert things that I think are false, the more I have to, in turn, analyze my own thoughts, and face my own argument on the nature of truth, and the idea that we can't really be certain about the any question, including the big ones, when we just don't have the means to find the answer... oddly enough, I feel relaxed by intense music when working on this though. Helps me concentrate when my brother is playing Nine Inch Nails or System of a Down. Interpol's good stuff too, Modest Mouse... maybe it's just my brother's taste in music that helps me focus. I won't call it mine, because he's the one that gets all of our room's good noise, but I like it enough not to grow my own musical brain, get some headphones, and buy my own stuff.

I have summer school too, but it's less intense. Looks like there's no excuse for not doing this now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Once more into the void...

I'm writing something over the weekend (and a little bit this week). See this link:


I'm going to submit an analysis when it's done. I guess I saw this, then read it, and then didn't agree. Behold; an argument has been born! It isn't just any argument, either... it's an Internet argument. I've read pieces of it, and I intend to respond to the piece in its entirety, which is why this is going to take a while.

Honor guide me in this endeavor... because we do it for Aiur.

Edit: Well, a lot this week. I'm looking at this now... and I'm just a bit annoyed that I didn't do this earlier. I'm sure they guy can wait another few days.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wandering in an Annoyed Manner: Tech Support

Disclaimer: the ending of this saga is anticlimactic.

Recently, I got a new computer. That, in and of itself, is wonderful; I have a new communications box, which is presumably better than the last one... YAY!

Of course, I have to get used to the thing first. Like some sort of domesticated (or any) animal getting used to a new territorial feature, I spent an hour or two poking around the thing. It's Vista, and so far the layout is... different. Performance was generally much smoother, the connection to the Internet was more reliable, and the interface was different; I've found that I don't like changing interfaces and associated aesthetic features with respect to most things I do or experience, but I'll usually adjust after a brief period of annoyance and continue as usual. Overall, I'd give this computer a ?/10, because I don't fancy myself as any sort of tech critic, or a critic of anything for that matter... things are different, but usually it has to make me ice cream or kick me in the groin to provoke me to strong emotions about said 'thing'. In a nutshell, the computer's fine, and it's better than the last one.

There was one issue that I found, though. I installed Warcraft III (paraphrasing almost to the word what a guy at sales said when we were looking for a computer: "Every single computer here could run WC III easily."). The other computer ran it fairly well offline, but the speed wasn't good enough to get through much in multiplayer; it would try desperately to maintain connection for a while, go in between moderately slow performance and nearly complete freezes, and then eventually just give up the ghost and disconnect. Sometimes I could get through a game, but that was the exception. In this respect, I was glad to have a new computer; the other one had run well before, it was only really slowing down with regard to intense, net-related content in recent months, and beginning to lose integrity in programs like word processors. It's still usable, but it had lost a lot of vigour, so after I whined about it for a while my parents had mercy and bought me a new one (I think I was really anal about it, but when I was typing and my computer decided it needed to sit down and take a time-out, I was losing faith after several attempts to clean it up).

Right, back to the new one. I installed WCIII, played it offline, and it worked like a dream. For a few minutes. It would proceed to slow down to a crawl. At first, confused, I minimized and checked the background for anything else, and found nothing. I went back, and all was well again. I continued playing, and it worked wonderfully for a few minutes before... slowing down again. This would continue after restarting, following a few basic tips online, etc.

I played for a little while, dealing with these interruptions (I had found that continued minimizing/maximizing could reliably banish the lag for a bit). Eventually, though, I grew tired of getting n00bed every time I played online because I was, essentially, incapacitated every few minutes *WHINES MUCH*. The ol' nerves, as usual, continued to be frayed by the constant inferences that I was a of homosexual orientation or that my online fellows knew my mo--... anonymous insults aren't too bad when no one knows who you really are, but they get annoying when their number's order of magnitude may be greater than can be counted on one hand, and one has to just take it without having the means to enact your sweet, sweet vengeance in an incredible act of nerdraging. I finally turned to tech support, deciding that poking around the system for things that might be the problem wasn't doing much.

I checked around forums for advice, and within them I found advice that was often enough neglected in posts; there are a lot of really simple problems that could be the causes, and it takes a while to sort them out. While figuring out how to deal with those, I went to Blizzard. They probably assumed that I had taken care of all of these basic suggestions when I submitted my problem, because the solutions seemed more temporary (and weren't the issue). Even if they didn't help, I still want to say that the Blizzard tech support system is actually quite good, and that they actually do send helpful advice when directly contacted. On my second reply from Blizzard, I finally heeded one piece of advice from the forums that I didn't think should have been an issue; updating my drivers. I was thinking my computer's new, it should have up-to-date drivers, especially with respect to a game that's several years older than the computer itself. I still decided that, what the hell, I'll check for an update for my graphics card. I'd looked around my system with advice from forums and gone through other processes, so I wasn't terribly optimistic about this, especially because I figured it would be a basic system fallacy; the game worked well, but it seemed as if the game were starved of power as if idle until refreshed. Well, guess what the driver did. It worked.

I like to tell myself that I might know some of the most basic things about computers, but the fact of the matter is: whenever I have a serious problem, I almost never know how to fix it. Machines designed to be used by lay people, computers are complicated enough, and require so much teamwork across organizations and people to complete, that there are bound to be some mistakes. Even if these mistakes are few, they can occur anywhere, and first editions are almost always buggy. From this knowledge I had, reiterated by this event, my lesson is: I should probably pay more attention to my system, considering on how much I rely on it (or, in a general sense, life has once more shown me how much people have come to take for granted from one and other, because of how many people all of human knowledge has to be spread over). I may have philosophized more about this, but I think the post has become rather long. Still, we have come to build for ourselves a way of life that pretty much requires taking a lot of things for granted; how could we, even if we wanted to, thank all the people that have given us services or products from across the world? Could we possibly know all of the people who live that have contributed to our lives, never mind those who died throughout the history of humanity? It may very well be a life's quest to find the former, and I'm fairly certain the latter is impossible; many among them have been lost to memory or record. Though just a little thing, a mole hill relative to the (pointless?) mountain of which I speak, we may as well take our smaller examples of what happens in our stories when we see them; it might just give us something to think about for a blog post.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's perfectly legitimate to ignore this post. Tedzy the Bear.

That was, in fact, completely necessary. I was just thinking: Why is the most amazing Starcraft map every made without its own Google search result? WHY!? I'll tell anyone who's reading why. No one wanted to honor a map made hell-knows-how-long-ago by some person who might not even play the game anymore. Rarely was it seen in the US East and West servers when I was on (afternoon to night here, most days, for around a year and a half). It might be over 8 years old. And yet, the image of a flaming teddy bear head on a map didn't hit my funny bone. It hit my hilarity bone.

I don't have the map anymore, because I had to get rid of my stuff for a while. If I had it... I don't know if I'd stoop so low as to post an image of it or a download for such a result either. On the other hand... I might, because I can. Thank you Blogger search priority! I could just make a Googlewhack with two words that don't show up together for the hell of it in five seconds. Genius.

Edit: It appears I'd have to get a link too it. My plans... ruined!

Edit 2: Hm... it appears that I'm now the #1 result for the search. Wow. 16/02/2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Belated: Science Online '09 Did Two Things

The first thing it did was have a rhyming name. That was hilarity in a can for a few minutes, or hours. Well, come to think of it, I still think it's funny.
Secondly, it blew my mind. Ok, maybe it didn't blow my mind, but I went primarily to discussions related to open source , and then I also went to a discussion on race in science, one on age (about high school people our methods with regard to science), one on the rights of scientists around the world (the point originally being on those of Serbian scientists; they have few), two around anonymity; one centered around that and the other around the impact of one's known online actions, and then finally I watched a few demos (some people showcasing a few online tools).

Now that I'm somewhat removed in time from the conference, I still remember I took notes. I don't still remember where they are. I've still retained a few things though; first, I remember now that there's such a measure in the world of science called the Impact Factor, being a measure of science journals (citations/number of 'citable articles'). I also remember it being instilled in me by the presenter that not only is that metric stupid (if I may be so bold as to use that word), but that even the concept of a simple metric for a journal is flawed. It was also noted that data on this metric has been monopolized by a lucrative organization and that some journals have had sudden surges of IF value after deals with said unnamed company.
As always, though, I try to ask myself what comes after a supposedly poor system is crushed. How is it replaced, if need be? We didn't really come to a conclusive answer, as far as I could tell. It was brought up that journals, collectively, had done well in the last few centuries of semi-organized science without metrics. That was, presumably, before there were as many journals as there are now that are accessible to everyone.

I'm limited by time for this entry (I started somewhat late), but fear not! I might post more on the subject. One can also check all the other entries online, if they haven't done so already.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Im in ur North Carolina, Participatin in ur Discussions

After one day of listening to people talk about science, freedom, and freedom to do science, I've come to a conclusion very quickly and have stuck by it: I should have had more sleep earlier. I haven't slept, or even seemed extremely tired, throughout these, but I would have preferred it if my brain was closer to 100% capacity for function throughout the talks. I have to say, to the world, that I found every single discussion I went to (1/4 of the total, as many as using each time slot permits) was full of interest in the topic from, often, most of the people in the room. I would put in my own two cents, and in return people were glad to share their knowledge on what was being discussed. There was also a healthy dose of general hilarity at a number of the rooms, and at one point it sounded as if a bunch of Vikings had walked into the hallway and started singing loudly, which lasted a few minutes. At the last session, I was given a concise overview of Serbian history, relating to politics, the state of the people, and the state of science as a whole in the country. Though this account may have had some bias because of the person delivering it, my knowledge of the world IQ may have gone up a point or two at the end of an hour.

On a side note, we were walking down the hallway to our room in the hotel when my dad pointed someone else out to me walking towards us:

(Dad): "Hey Sam, it's Michael."

(confused): "Oh. Hi Michael."

(Michael): "Hi guys!"

(still uncertain): "Hi."

(Dad): "It's Michael Nielsen."

(enlightened): "Oh. Oh! *facepalm*"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Going to North Carolina! WOOOOOOOOOOOO

If you're one witty, clever sleuth, then you've probably come to the conclusion by now that I believe I'm headed for North Carolina. If you haven't, you should probably read the title more closely. If you have, then I'll be there the 16th to the 18th.

FAQ time!

1. If you almost never post, then why should we care that you're going for one measly weekend?

Well, all of my blogging up until two summers ago had been for a school project. After that, it had culminated in this trip. I'm now being prodded by my dad to post much less frequently, and thus I am, but it's still fun to do it. I could have just decided to stop blogging (and staying out of Python too, which I mostly have save for the occasional revisit). In that case, I wouldn't have been scheduled for this trip.

2. So you're motivated only by this trip, and you'll stop blogging afterwards.

Lies. Your fiendish deductive ability may have lead you to this conclusion with what seemed like flawless reasoning, but *nay! This trip, contrary to popular belief, actually impedes my school scheduling substantially. I don't want to miss this time, mostly because I'll have to catch up on everything as opposed to getting a nice free pass like the good old days of early primary school, but I'm still interested in going. I like blogging, and will continue to do so afterwards (even if some prodding might be involved).

3. So from once a week, to once a month, you'll now blog once a year.

That isn't even an established trend, but I'll break it anyway. By blogging more often than once a year, not less.


In an entirely related issue, I've been researching 'Screens of Death', and the Wikipedia article is alarmingly vast.


I found the Mac screens of death, and they lack one thing very common to other personal computer operating systems: no technical information. After the sad face series, the developers of Mac are shown to be true diehards when it comes to errors: no ugly lines of code or even old-school fonts with non-artistic screens. There's a black screen, with an artistically faded on/off symbol in the background with the message to turn off the computer given in four languages. That's a classy kernel panic.

I just got this off of Wikipedia, but I don't believe this is the sort of information people would forge just because they felt like it. It doesn't mean it can't possibly happen, but I doubt follow-up research is strictly necessary here.

*For all those of you that saw 'neigh', I have little but this to say: oops. I had to be reminded how to spell that homonym, too. Well... now, hopefully I'll remember.