Friday, November 30, 2007


This one's from memory:

"There must be some kind of way out of here" said the joker to the thief. "There is too much confusion. I can't get no relief. Businessmen they drink my wine, plowmen take my earth, and none of them along the line knows what any of it is worth."

"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke. "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. You and I, we've been through that and this is not our fate, so let us not talk falsely now. The hour is getting late."

All along the watchtower, princes kept their view while all their women came and went, their footservants too. Outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching.

The wind began to howl.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lipstick, Pig

"I ran out of lipstick before I ran out of pig."
- a salesman about quitting his job

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


"Fidelity to truth butters no parsnips."

- Scott Nearing

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Going to the Gym

It feels like such a waste of time to attend to my body and leave my brain bored to tears listening to disco and counting down the minutes until I can get off the stationary bike.

So I had this great idea. A giant keyboard where each of the keys is a fifty pound weight. You'd get your exercise while coding or writing documents. Of course you'd need several versions to exercise various muscle groups.

Then at the end of the day you wouldn't need to waste an hour at the gym trying to stay healthy enough to keep typing.

I go to Lance Armstrong's franchise, which is sort of cool. I try to use the locker closest to his used jersey. Still, maybe we can have a geek franchise of some sort. Say Richard Stallman's 24-hour T-3 House of Pointless Exertions? Do you think RMS would be interested? We'll make millions!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Realpolitik is Hypocrisy

An interesting and intense rant appears on DailyKos. Here's the nub of the argument:

Let me state this clearly, because I failed to do so in an earlier post on a similar subject. Human rights were not created by the US Constitution, or by the International Bill of Human Rights, or by Thomas Paine, or by the Magna Carta. The men who created this nation knew well enough the origin of rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The rights were not granted by treaty or government, they were only recognized. Human rights are innate. Preexisting.

Our foreign policy a blatant confession that our morals are far less than skin deep, that our obligation to human rights is nothing but talk, and we have no real concerns other than our own power. We will state so, openly and often, under the guise of being realistic, then go back to mouthing the words of democracy and freedom tomorrow.

So long as we base our policy on what's good for us, rather than what best upholds human rights, we are base pretenders to the legacy left to us by those men who signed the Declaration of Independence. So long as we uphold dictators for our own gain, our soldiers, no matter how individually noble or honorable, are bound to an unjust cause. So long as we nod solemnly over the need to deny others their rights under the pretense of securing our own, we are monsters no less than the worst of our enemies.

There's some horrifying commentary by Ted Koppel that kicks off this severe complaint. Follow the link and see if it makes sense to you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey Day

Why does this make the press in the UK and not in America?

"This annual survey of food pantries and soup kitchens shows that more working families, children, and seniors are being forced to seek emergency food," Joel Berg, the coalition's executive director, said in a statement.

"Given that hunger continued to increase in the city, even when the economy was still strong last year, it is no wonder that now, when the economy is weakening, lines at pantries and kitchens are getting even worse."

Some food outlets said they would not be able to distribute turkey rations for Thanksgiving on Thursday, because their federal supplies of food had been cut by as much as three-quarters.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thinking About What a Friend Had Said

After the Goldrush
Well, I dreamed I saw the knights
In armor coming,
Saying something about a queen.
There were peasants singing and
Drummers drumming
And the archer split the tree.
There was a fanfare blowing
To the sun
That was floating on the breeze.
Look at mother nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies.
Look at mother nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies.

I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for a replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky.
There was a band playing in my head
And I felt like getting high.
I was thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.
Thinking about what a
Friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie.

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver
Space ships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun,
There were children crying
And colors flying
All around the chosen ones.
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun.
They were flying mother nature's
Silver seed to a new home in the sun.
Flying mother nature's
Silver seed to a new home.

Neil Young

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bumper Sticker

seen in Austin:

"I'll bet Jesus would have used his turn signals"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Texas Frittata

My almost-prize-winning recipe:

Texas Fritatta:

You will need a 10" nonstick pan with a glass lid

Frozen commercial breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Dean brand; reduced fat is fine)
1 medium sweet onion
1 mild hatch chile, roasted and peeled
3 eggs
mexican sour cream (no gelatins or emulsifiers) or creme fraiche
sweet smoky Texan spice "rub" blend (I use "Tears of Joy")


Chop and slowly sautee vegetables until soft, remove from heat


Coarsely mix three eggs and 2 Tbsp runny Mexican sour cream or creme fraiche with spice rub to taste. It is necessary to avoid creams with gelatins etc. for the texture to come out right. Do not blend . Whites, yolks, and cream should be intermingled but not indistingushable.


With a sharp knife, shave slices of breakfast sausage as thinly as possible. Tear slices into roughly 1 inch pieces. Spread non-overlapping across the bottom of the nonstick pan. Meat should cover about half the pan.

On low heat, heat until tops are cooked. Do not flip the sausages!


Pile the cooked chiles and onions evenly over the tops of the sausage. If they are cool, cover and cook until just warm. Leave heat on low. Do not flip the sausages.


Sprinkle a tiny bit of spice blend for color, then pour egg mixture over veggies and meat. Cover.


Wait for egg whites to just barely set. Some sour cream should rise to the top and will remain moist.


If all went well, the sausage should be blackening and almost burnt, and the eggs on the bottom very firmly cooked, and the top of the fritatta very moist and creamy. The goal is to get a range of textures, and a smoky flavor. Fold in half, cut in half and serve with refries and home fried potatoes or toast of your choice. Wear a big hat while serving.

serves two.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How Life Went Live

From no less than Stanley Fish in the NY Times, an account of someone who has seen the non-dark:

about Antony Flew’s “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” Flew, a noted professor of philosophy, announced in 2004 that after decades of writing essays and books from the vantage point of atheism, he now believes in God. “Changed his mind” is not a casual formulation. Flew wouldn’t call what has happened to him a conversion, for that would suggest something unavailable to analysis. His journey, he tells us, is best viewed as “a pilgrimage of reason,” an extension of his life-long habit of “following the argument no matter where it leads.”

Where it led when he was a schoolboy was to the same place Ehrman arrived at after many years of devout Christian practice: “I was regularly arguing with fellow sixth formers that the idea of a God who is both omnipotent and perfectly good is incompatible with the manifest evils and imperfections of the world.” For much of his philosophical career, Flew continued the argument in debates with a distinguished list of philosophers, scientists, theologians and historians. And then, gradually and to his own great surprise, he found that his decades-long “exploration of the Divine ha[d] after all these years turned from denial to discovery.”

What exactly did he discover? That by interrogating atheism with the same rigor he had directed at theism, he could begin to shake the foundations of that dogmatism. He poses to his former fellow atheists the following question: “What would have to occur or have occurred to constitute for you a reason to at least consider the existence of a superior Mind.” He knows that a cornerstone of the atheist creed is an argument that he himself made many times – the sufficiency of the materialist natural world as an explanation of how things work. “I pointed out,” he recalls, that “even the most complex entities in the universe – human beings – are the products of unconscious physical and mechanical forces.”

But it is precisely the word “unconscious” that, in the end, sends Flew in another direction. How, he asks, do merely physical and mechanical forces – forces without mind, without consciousness – give rise to the world of purposes, thoughts and moral projects? “How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends [and] self-replication capabilities?” In short (this is the title of a chapter), “How Did Life Go Live?”

Flew does not deny the explanatory power of materialist thought when the question is how are we to understand the physical causes of this or that event or effect. He’s is just contending that what is explained by materialist thought – the intricate workings of nature – itself demands an explanation, and materialist thought cannot supply it. Scientists, he says, “are dealing with the interaction of chemicals, whereas our questions have to do with how something can be intrinsically purpose-driven and how matter can be managed by symbol processing?” These queries, Flew insists, exist on entirely different levels and the knowledge gained from the first can not be used to illuminate the second.

In an appendix to the book, Abraham Varghese makes Flew’s point with the aid of an everyday example: “To suggest that the computer ‘understands’ what it is doing is like saying that a power line can meditate on the question of free will and determinism or that the chemicals in a test tube can apply the principle of non-contradiction in solving a problem, or that a DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays.”

How did purposive behavior of the kind we engage in all the time – understanding, meditating, enjoying – ever emerge from electrons and chemical elements?

The usual origin-of-life theories, Flew observes, are caught in an infinite regress that can only be stopped by an arbitrary statement of the kind he himself used to make: “ . . . our knowledge of the universe must stop with the big bang, which is to be seen as the ultimate fact.” Or, “The laws of physics are ‘lawless laws’ that arise from the void – end of discussion.” He is now persuaded that such pronouncements beg the crucial question – why is there something rather than nothing? – a question to which he replies with the very proposition he argued against for most of his life: “The only satisfactory explanation for the origin of such ‘end-directed, self-replicating’ life as we see on earth is an infinitely intelligent Mind.”

... Flew assures his readers that he “has had no connection with any of the revealed religions,” and no “personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or religious.”

Well, I don't see where he gets the "infinite intelligence" part, but the argument for the insufficiency of materialism is compelling. Still, there are people (Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers) who understand the question but nevertheless work very hard to sweep it under a rug somehow.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


What you get when you put "Tobis" into Google Maps. Probably an error. I hope they don't get around to fxing it anytime soon.

Python in MIT Core Curriculum

I guess we have arrived. Catherine Devlin has been banging a python advocacy drum with the fact that Python is now the introductory language in the MIT EECS curriculum. Brad Allen made a digg link.

Go team!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stolen Geek Art

I sort of like this idea: