Thursday, March 31, 2005

Inspiration

No, I haven’t died. I’m at sea on the Carnival Inspiration, and relaxing a bit too much for serious writing on the blog. We steamed out of Tampa Monday night to fairly rough seas with some ill effects to many on the ship, but none to our family. Tuesday was about 6’ seas which the 850’ stabilized ship handles with very little sense of motion. It is very nice to be able to leave the snows of Minnesota (at least when we left) for mid 80’s and a lot of Sun.

Wednesday we were parked off shore in Grand Cayman with four other cruise ships. The Island really took a hammering from Hurricane Ivan, and is still very much in reconstruction. Lots of roofs on houses that are easily worth the multiple millions of dollars still have work to do on them, and huge tracts of vegetation are just flattened and dead. We enjoyed a little outing to “Hell”, a sea turtle farm, and out to swim with the stingrays. The water has that wonderful “fake blue” that is so pretty it seems that it couldn’t be real.

I finished up “The DaVinci Code”. I tend to not to that much of what most consider “fun reading”, although I find most all of my reading to be very enjoyable. The Dan Brown is a good writer and I very much enjoyed the mystery, the ties with history, the codes, and all the twists, connections, and conspiracy. (as he said more than once, “everyone loves a good conspiracy”) What is sad is to see people look at a book like that and consider it “truth” vs “fiction”. In this case, it is identified as fiction, but for those with doubts short consideration of the same paradigm that I use with the works of Noam Chomsky gives pretty good evidence that can’t be true. The book exists and the author is alive.

In cases like the DaVinci Code and Chomsky, if what they said were true, the authors would be dead, and you would be unable to read the book. If the Catholic Church were really powerful enough to keep the “truth” that Jesus was married, fathered a child, never claimed to be more than man, it seems pretty likely that we would know ALL about it by now. In fact we “do”, if we want to read all the books that make those claims (fiction or otherwise), they are available and not suppressed at all.

Noam doesn’t claim to be fiction, but if 5% of what he claims about the US was true, he would have been dead long ago. A nation as much ruled by a conspiracy of the rich, the media, and the military would have very few qualms about having something “accidentally bad” happen to old Noam.
I suspect that Noam, Brown, and Howard Zinn (author of “A Peoples History” of the US that I'm reading now) would all agree that we would be much better off living in a Goddess Worshiping Eden, where there was no private property and no competition. I just wonder if we would have cruise ships in that world?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

It is hard for Christians to write of much else but Christ on Good Friday. I may not understand physics very well, but my level of understanding of an infinite God willing to die for a sinful me makes my physics skill seem PHD-level by comparison.

Being raised a Baptist, I never got to attend worship services, especially on Good Friday. There were a lot of alter call services, but we were just too busy for the worship part. Now days my two favorite services of the church year both involve candles, which likely means that I’m something of a pyro, or maybe I’m just really recognizing that burning is what I deserve.

The candlelight Christmas Eve service is the first, because it is complete love, joy, and the kind of happiness that makes you tear up even if you are trying not to. The second is the Good Friday Tenabrae service, because it is dark, somber, long, final, and gives you a lot of chance to think … but you still get a candle at the end. I think life can be like that. We get a chance to see the light at the end.

Sitting in the darkened Church, trying not to think of anything but Christ and my need for him, but failing as I usually do, I stared at the single candle remaining and thought that we are pretty much like a set of kids out in the barn with some matches, seeing what happens. Among the “fires” that we have are life, consciousness, and technology. We have very little understanding of either life or consciousness.

The spark of life passes through us in much the same way that early man found and worked with fire, but couldn’t create it, and didn’t understand it. Even less do we understand consciousness. Our technologies vary from the simple, a lighted candle, to the fairly sophisticated; the chips in this computer, the operating system, the internet. Some of us THINK that we have more understanding there, and we certainly do in the sense that we can generally reproduce results, but since the technology arises from two parts of ourselves that we have very little clue on … life and consciousness, it seems that humility is in order even there. 

Our knowledge house is built on mystery.

One day, all of our little fires will go out. Knowledge and technology won’t mean very much then. I’ll say my prayers tonight that I get to see the light at the end, and for the faith to keep praying.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Is, Was, and Always Will Be (Fabric of the Cosmos)

I haven't completely finished Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality" but I’ve decided it is time to comment on it. I'm not going to claim that I understand it, and yes, it certainly did make my head hurt at points. It has one gigantic insight that hits me like a brick between the eyes. I'm not sure I even really know what I'm talking about, and even if I do,  it is hard to fathom. 

An effect of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is that whatever has ever happened, is happening now, or is going to happen in the future, has always been happening, will always be happening, and is happening now. The "thing" that is moving through this "static history" may only be our consciousness, which gives us the impression of the “flow of time” to us. 

An observers view of space-time is relative based on distance and velocity, so if one is 10K light years away from a location (say earth), and changes their velocity toward or away from the location, by even highway speeds, the “space-time slice” that one would be in relative to the distant location shifts by 100s of years into the past or the future. Up that velocity to thousands of miles per second, and the time scale becomes millions of years. Since there are no “privileged observers”, any of the “slices” has to be equally valid, and the only way to make that work is if all the slices are there all the time and always have been. (the expansion of space-time since the Big Bang means that those slices "got bigger", but they were still "always there" from the perspective of the "smaller" space-time) 

The picture he presents is space/time as a frozen “loaf” sitting on a table, with one’s view of reality as a “slice” with a certain angle through that loaf based on location/velocity. If everything that has and is going to happen is always happening, one might question “free will” just a bit. It isn’t important to me to fully understand these things, but I like to have some sort of model that I at least find “interesting” of what is happening in the universe. I’m perfectly willing to leave it up to God, but I’d like to have some questions that I’m looking forward to answers on when I get to meet him. (fortunately, I'm stupid enough so that is not going to be a problem!)

In this case, I subscribe to the Hugh Everett “Many Worlds (MW) Interpretation” where everything that can happen in the universe at least "can" and maybe does. In this model, the old "is light a wave or a particle" question becomes "depends on which universe you are in". In Quantum Mechanics, the answer is "both, until you observe it, then it picks".

In MW, either every possible decision point, even at the particle level ALWAYS means another whole universe, or the fact that "somebody" (a conscious being?)  observed it causes the new universe starting from that point. 

In computing terms, this is fairly easy to understand in terms of a process "forking" -- everything is the same up to that point for the new universe, but the "observation" creates an entire new universe with the same past, but a different future -- in this case, different only in maybe a single photon resolving as a wave vs a particle. 

A lot of people find this theory disconcerting because it means “a whole lot O universes”, but since I can’t comprehend one infinity, it doesn’t seem like that much more of a burden to not comprehend infinity to the infinity power ;-) This interpretation has gained some more followers as work on quantum computation has progressed.

So, in the “Moose interpretation”, I think the “universe forking” only happens when consciousness is involved. That is why we see the “uncertainty principle”. If there isn’t a conscious observer, there is no reason to fork (resolution can be "lazily evaluated" for you computer people). As we go through our lives, we generate new universes when we make conscious choices … and the aggregates of those choices interact with each other.

There are a whole set of universes where none of us reading or writing this blog are even here, and there are a bunch of universes where some set of us are in radically different circumstances because our “consciousness track” chosen to date was different.

In some universe I stopped HERE …. But you got to read on to HERE in SOME other universe ;-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Right to Life

Watching the different crowds mill around the Terry Schaivo case this Holy Week brings some thoughts of what has happened since then. Christ was the victim of the death penalty, but at the time of his crucifixion I wonder if there was anyone that questioned the right of the state to put those deemed to be worthy of the penalty to death. Christ certainly never questioned the right of the State to inflict the death penalty as he walked the path to Golgotha, and his insight into matters of "right" and "rights" are a bit beyond those of the talking heads. The ideas of "cruel and unusual" seem like they may have been a bit different then too.

Terry has been sentenced to death for failure to be responsive enough to please her husband. Historically that criteria only worked in India, but maybe we are starting a new trend here, it is often hard for me to keep up. The means of termination in this case is "death by dehydration/starvation", which under these circumstances is considered "humane". I think the standard technique in India was immolation. That sounds painful, but given the "pass out factor", I'm wondering if the speed may not even give it the "kindness winner" by a nose. Those can be tough calls when you have the kind of innocent life that is just begging for termination.

Sadly, the US is an "equal rights for women" country, so I'm a bit concerned for my life. If men get to evaluate their wives for suitabilty to continue life in this world, I must assume that the same right will be extended to wives. Mooses tend to fail to meet requirements on many occasions, and there have been allusions made to "brain dead" more than once cast my way. Both starvation and dehydration would be especially hard on me. I'm almost sure they would prohibit beer on the grounds of it being a fluid, and that seems cruel and unusual right there.

I suppose if a person can still move a bit, one could save their life by committing a crime that would be worthy of the death penalty. Then the left would stand up for you in a hearbeat. In fact, the lower your mental capability, the MORE likely they are to demand that you you live, and there isn't any potential way to kill you that isn't "cruel and unusual" in that circumstance.

In Terry's case however, a long drawn out death is just fine. Death by starvation isn't the panacea that the media seems inclined to make it out to be in this case. I watched a man that I visited as a volunteer at a nursing home die of starvation. He had inoperable cancer that interfered with his ability to eat, and tiny amount of remaining family decided on that end for him. I'm not saying they were "wrong". They had the right, they decided, and I wasn't going to interfere. I just know that it wasn't that "easy". I'm not saying dying of terminal cancer would have been easier.

Those on the left feel that the only kind of human life worth defending is criminal life. No matter what your crime, taking your life is just plain immoral. Innocent human life on the other hand, especially any innocent human life that can't speak directly for itself, may be terminated by any means available. I must stipulate HUMAN life though ... for if you are an owl, snail, beetle, bug or fungus, your "right to life" is suddenly again a matter of grave concern. Want to build a housing development where there is some rare fungus? The left might be able to stand a few rapes of 9 year old girls and letting the offenders even walk free if it was "just once", but don't be making any trouble for the fungus.

The "religious nuts" defend the right to life of the innocent voiceless humans, and the sensible scientific lefties defend the right to life of the criminals and the snails. I guess there is a certain order to the universe if one looks at it just right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Lament of the Infernal Rot

As I survey what I need to get done before this weekend, the need to scratch one of my PCs to take along to my Father's house to potentially replace his spyware/virus riddled current PC looms large. As a 27 year computer professional, veteran of many machines built from parts, and numerous scratch installs, I'm sure I CAN get to the finish line, but am disgusted by the effort.

All my 78 year old completely non-technologist Dad needs is "email and browser capability". Somehow he managed to find some Spyware, probably with a great big button that said "click here to protect your computer", and the infection began. A previous trip to install Spybot cleaned off thousands of instances, but even though the machine became useable again, the "rot" was apparently permanent, and the best guess is that it is time for a scratch install now since it keeps eating his Internet provider password, and fails to connect.

Given the potential difficulty of that, it seems easier to create a clean machine here, copy over the favorites, email files, and very tiny application to hook up to his Internet provider once I get there, and "be on the road". It can be done, but in these days of $70 1GB SD cards it seems amazing that a machine can't have a non-volatile copy of a enough OS to provide Browser and Email capability without the need to drag a complete machine to Wisconsin.

If only I had "a little time" (weeks? couple months?) I could manage to build myself a very simple Linux Kernel, set it up with Firefox and Thunderbird, and configure it so that it ONLY exposed those functions to my father. How many older folks (and in fact even younger folks) only REALLY need that much computing power in many cases? It seems like such a solution must be done already, but at least from a SHORT Google search of the net it did not materialize and thus I Blog my lament and dream of a better computing life.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Friends of the Reaper

The Terry Schiavo case seems to be pretty high in the national news right now. Some say that is because "Congress is involved", but it seems to me that the media spent less time in the discussion of Tort Reform than this, and Congress was involved in that as well.

Personally, my concerns with Terry are small. It is unfortunate to see a husband and parents fighting over what is left of a person due to tragic circumstance. As a Christian, there is a sense that there is"benefit" to the people charged with the care of a life even at a minimal level of existance under the same principle as "it is better to give than to recieive". The willingness to "be of service" is a core Christian value, and situations like the Schiavo case provide people the chance to be "in the service of life" even though the "rewards" of that service in this world are very likely to be zero.

On the other side of the ledger, my sense is that this is certainly a political loser for the Republican party. The set of people most likely to support them in their efforts to save this womans life aren't likely to vote democrat anytime soon, and it is the wrong time to "energize the base" (little long until Nov '06). So, it is a political net loser for Republicans, but then maybe in the big picture there are more Americans that feel as I do that it is actually very refreshing to see a set of folks go out and do something stupid politically just because they believe it is the right thing.

I'd personally probably not interfere. The relationship of a husband to a wife would trump the parents interests in this case, and even though he may be far from a perfect husband, the incidence of those is rather low.

I do get a kick out of the liberals extreme desire to let a husband effectively put his wife to death for "not meeting requirements" (all be it, in a big way), and apparently get a few funds in the process. It isn't hard to understand the parents motives, why the husband can't just walk away and let her have whatever vanishingly small chance she has is hard to understand.

Liberals are remarkably consistent on being "pro-death" ... if you are very young, very old, infirm, or just depressed and on the path to doing yourself in, they are resolute in their pro-death position. For a set of people for which consistency is usally not a consideration, it is admirable to see them consistently give the Grim Reaper the thumbs up as "their kind of guy".

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Don't Think of an Elephant


I finished the subject George Lakoff book (pamphlet?) titled. The book is a NYT bestseller, with a foreword by Howard Dean, and raved about by the left as "This is how to start winning elections again". The book can be summarized by "There are two kinds of people, those that make ridiculous oversimplifications in classification, and those who don't". Well, joking, but only a little.

George claims that there are two models of families: "The Strict Father Model" ... life is hard (competitive), kids are born (“bad”), children need discipline, and adults need self discipline. Hard work, the nuclear family is the core, fathers are important, individuals have to do a lot, they ought to have power, right living etc should be rewarded, there is a God, he has an agenda, if you don’t follow his agenda (rules) there are consequences. (this is was formerly known as "the real world") 

The other model is “The nurturing parent model” … we are all born good, the world needs some work but there is no reason it really needs to be hard / competitive, if we just care and love each other, are “responsible” (which apparently mostly means paying a lot of taxes) things will be fine. No real need for discipline, fathers aren’t that important -- certainly not as any kind of a “head of the family”, there may be a God, but if there is he has no rules other than love and group-hug.

There is really only one other big picture claim in the book, and that is that the only way that people can think about things is by “framing”. Simple words "activate a frame", and then at least most of us are “stuck in the frame”. Republicans have been successful lately because they “control the media”, and they are really good at this framing. George is going to clue in the liberals, and once he does, the poor “strict father” conservatives are toast! He uses the term “progressives” often.

One of his favorite Republican frames is “tax relief” – evil because it makes it sound like a good thing (“relief”), and also diabolical because it is a “strategic agenda” because it enables a whole raft of other Republican strategies including the dismantling of ALL social programs and destruction of the known universe, since there will be no money for ANY of the good stuff. He may not have looked at the Bush budget which includes 1.6 TRILLION in social security, medicare, and sundry other social programs out of a 2.6 trillion budget, but looking at this kind of boring stuff likely isn’t what the “nurture types” focus on. Oh, yes, only the “progressives” (I can’t help myself from using that, it must be what he means by framing!) look at facts and discuss programs "honestly". 

That may seem kind of odd on the surface, since the “strict fathers” believe in rules and the world being competitive, one could jump to the false conclusion that they might do odd things like look at both sides, facts, and maybe even read the other sides pamphlets, but that would have to be wrong, so I must be “out of frame”!

Other nasty frames include “Partial Birth Abortion”, “War on Terror”, “Defense of Marriage”, “No Child Left Behind”. I’m not sure where George has been, but he must have missed “Woman’s right to choose / control their bodies”, “Lockbox”, "Risky Privatization Scheme”, “It’s about the CHILDREN!”, and even failed to think of “Progressive” as a frame. It could be that since he only listens to NPR, his horizons are limited. 

This isn’t in fact a joke, a lot of his “breakthrough in thought” here arises because some conservative that he knew mentioned James Dobson, and George had never heard of him because he wasn’t on Public radio and that is all George listens to. The revelation that Dobson existed and millions of people listened to him led George on this path of discovery … although one wonders if his understanding of “conservative thought” might be missing a couple thousand years of writing, it is important to start somewhere.

One of the other sad things for liberals is that conservatives have “a huge head start”, since they deviously fund “think tanks” like the Heritage foundation, and have been spending “billions” on their ideas and control of the media, while the penniless liberals are at a HUGE disadvantage (George Soros is one of the guys that recommends the book). The depths of their poverty are so great that one is almost driven to send them a donation!

George is a professor at Berkley, I’m wondering if there are any other liberals on the faculty there or at potentially one or two other US institutions of higher education that he could contact to figure out what the liberal answer to the “think tank” is? Last I checked, UW Madison, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, UofMN, … and maybe a few hundred other institutions were spots where potentially an intellectual liberal could hang out? 

I was forced to break out in laughter that a guy that IS actually an intelligent guy (I’ve read his book “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things”, and he knows what he is doing on classification and language), could be so blind as to not understand that the biggest reason that conservatives have been forced to fund “think tanks” is because the many billions being spent on public universities over the past over 50 years have funded just the kind of idea generation on the left that he abhors on the right.

This is getting too long for a blog entry, so I’ll just desist. There are many further revelations in this book of the operation of the liberal mind, but the biggest thought that I’m left with is that they will clutch onto literally any straw rather than face the fact that they may have a lot of BAD IDEAS in a post-communist, globalized world, and their ideas are certainly not the ONLY ideas -- although they REALLY want to stamp out any ideas except their own! 

They know all about framing -- you have to be pretty good at it to name a rigid ideology of totalitarian state control as "liberal" or "progressive"! 

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Deep In Snow / Stealing Elections

Rochester received something around 20" out of the snowstorm that went through yesterday. The kids were off school and it was very nice to have 4x4s to get around with, so our activities were not curtailed very much.

I like to read more than one book at a time, and finsihed up a couple of somewhat interesting ones in the last couple of days. The first one, "Stealing Elections" by John Fund brought out a number of things that the mainline media has never covered. First "Motor Voter", the first bill pushed through and signed by Bill Clinton in '92 manadated that requiring that drivers license bureaus and other government service outlets would register anyone applying and offer mail-in registration with no identification, and forbid government workers to challenge new registrants. This legislation is an invitation to fraud, but of course gets no discussion in the mainline media. The whole concept of absentee ballots as a way of voting is more prone to fraud, one can draw their own conclusions as to why Democrats find that to be an "acceptable risk".

The other fun discussion was about the FL election. All the focus has of course been on Democrats and media people trying to "prove that Bush stole the election". So far, not one of those attempts has found a way to show that Gore won. What has been missed (and generally stonewalled in the key counties) is any attempt to see if the Democrats had good reason to fear the election being stolen, since they were trying to steal it.

In Palm Beach county Bush was weaker than the Senate and House canidates, but the Democrats running got LESS votes than Gore. In Palm Beach county, Bush got less than 60% of the Republican votes, and had the lowest rates of votes amoung registered Republicans of all the counties in FL. It looks like 15K Republicans went to the polls in that county, and failed to vote for Bush ... OR? There were 19K over votes in Palm Beach county. An over vote is where the voter votes for more than one canidate for an office. Punch ballots have a notorious weakness that somehow has been missed by the general media. Take a stack of ballots and use a sharp object to punch through the hole for Gore. If it is already punched, no problem (for YOU), if it isn't punched you either just voted, OR, you created an over vote and invalidated a vote for another canidate (Bush).

But vote fraud never happens. Right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Choices, Walls, Models

I am reminded of the story of the person fleeing the old USSR confronted with the set of choices of "soap" in a grocery store in the US. In the USSR they could MAYBE get a bar of soap, but here there were tons of bars, liquids, hair, body, scents, colors ... simply too much choice. They were paralyzed with indecision.

Having 9 computers around the house if I count desktops and laptops including work machines for my wife and I, an e-mail and web-page site on a local magnaspeed.net, as well as a Mac laptop and at least a place to PUT a web page at Mac.com and I find myself with something akin to that paralysis. So for my "unscented bar", blogger.com for now ;-)

Listening to NPR and the rest of the lefties today I was struck by their level of glee and starvation for ANY " bad news" from Iraq. In a week when the newly elected Parliment is just getting down to business, we get breathless reporting on the "CRUMBLING coalition" because Italy is going to pull out. Those that want success and democracy of course always live with the concern that "bad things are just a bomb away". It has, and always will be easier to kick down the barn door than to build a new one. The left has made their bed with "The Disaster of Iraq", and if reality doesn't match their dire view their credibility will be further eroded, so they hunger for things to go badly.

Even the local liberal paper today raised the ugly spectre (to them) of "What if Bush was right?". If I make a simple prediction, like "it will snow tomorrow", there is always SOME chance I will be right. The decision to hold Saddam to the UN resolutions was never that simple, but like any choice, only a fool (or apparently a liberal) would decide there is ZERO chance of the choice being shown to be correct.

One definition of intelligence is "the ability to predict the future". Reagan said that the USSR was an "evil empire", and that we would "consign them to the ash heap of history". Liberals told us he was a fool, the USSR wasn't evil, and any idea that they were going away was so wrong as to be a sign of insanity. Today of course, they tell us it was "obvious all along, and Reagan had nothing to do with it". Their model was completely non-predictive, and what is more, they have failed to learn from their lack of prediction, so are unable to improve on their model for future use.

This time they have staked their reputation on Iraq not becoming a democracy and the situation there never improving to the point where it can be seen as a good decision to free the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussien. If the elections in Iraq turn out to be "The Berlin Wall of the Middle East", the liberal model will have failed to make a correct prediction about the future in a major way for the 2nd time in a generation.

How obvious is it that the liberal position is more intelligent?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The First Post

Hello Blogging world. A normal day with no reason to start a BLOG other than it was on the list of things to do for this year, and it IS this year!