Saturday, January 08, 2005

Having the most difficult time tuning my violin. Makes me think perhaps my hearing's gone, but then I "click in" and everything sounds right. I'm sure this is just one of those skills that one improves by constant practice. It would be nice to have a violin that you could just pick up and push a button and presto! it's all properly tuned. But then one would complain about the loss of the hands-on organic process of tuning up. The point, though, is to be able to play the thing. I just did a fairly creditable job of "Ode to Joy" so I must be doing something right. Last night it was "Gaudeamus Igitur" which brought me back to my prep school days which look so happy in retrospect but which in truth were nasty and confusing and depressing. But then what isn't when you're fourteen?
Robots, not immigrants
The Japanese have solved their labor shortage(via Slashdot). What, you say, a labor shortage in Asia? Why not just allow immigration? I can tell by that comment you're not Japanese. Wouldn't want to dilute the master race. But robots will do fine. They work hard, don't complain, don't burden the schools and prisons. Heck, we could use the idea here. Just imagine what a great job robots would do patrolling the Mexican border and then scuttling off to a factory, field or mine to do the jobs the illegal immigrants they've just captured would have done. They could be referees at NBA games, too. And a robot could sit in a chair and play Freecell just as well as any other government bureaucrat could. It could even be programmed to make positive comments about the latest management improvement plan.

The Motley Fool goes even farther (via Slashdot):

So, now we have machines that are pretty much capable of taking over the business of making other machines. It seems that all we have to do now is get them each an American Express (NYSE: AXP) card and teach them how to max it out, and we can take humans completely out of the loop. It shouldn't be too hard. In fact, I'll bet the cards are already in the mail -- preapproved.

We'd better not let these credit-card-carrying law-abiding buckets of bolts have the number of the ACLU, though. Why do I have a feeling the future holds funerals for rusty old robots, fake marriages between robots, robots smuggling in illegal immigrants to be their servants, and, NO! NOT THAT! but yes. Robobloggers!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Gere makes my point
That's the nice thing about Hollywood "activists". You can always rely on them to prove how utterly stupid and self-absorbed they are whenever you make a comment, such as my last post, about their stupidity and inability to deal with the world as it is. Can you imagine someone casting a movie and saying "who can we get to play the young naval officer? I know, how about Richard Gere. He played one in An Officer and a Gentleman." This is how actors get typecast. They aren't able to imagine how a wide variety of real people view the world because they see only their little part of it. Perhaps it's because they're so insecure that they cling desperately to one character. That's what makes William Shatner so good, perhaps the best of the lot. When he's Captain Kirk, you see Captain Kirk, not William Shatner. Yet when he becomes T. J. Hooker (was that the cop he played?) there's no Kirk there. Remember his portrayal of a Rush-Limbaughesque radio talk show host on a Columbo in the Eighties? The character was cartoonish and didn't do justice to Limbaugh's complex style. But within the limitations of the writing Shatner made the personality come alive. And I'm sure if I met Shatner, he would have a distinct and probably pleasant and interesting private personality.
Regular Whittle-ing

Looks like we'll have a regular dose of Bill Whittle for this year, if his resolutions hold up. His essays have the admirable quality of producing more energy than they absorb, proving that punditalicious pontificating is not a zero-sum game. I like his comments about actors and politics. I have noticed that some of the most acclaimed actors don't seem to be very good at projecting a distinct personality. I differ, though, in that I think the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, among others, don't do a very good job of absorbing different characters and portraying them on the screen. They adopt a particular character style early in their careers and then portray that same character over and over again. That's what they think acting is. Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier can play almost any character and make you forget they have an off-screen persona. Yet, their off-screen characters are distinct and interesting. The first group are the same, on-screen and off. If I were Whittle, I'd develop these thoughts into a 25,000 word essay.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

First tune
I played my first tune on my reconstructed, resurrected violin. And it was: Land of Hope and Glory, music by Elgar, words by Arthur C. Benson. I figure this is some kind of commencement so I chose music which made me feel like I was graduating all over again. Here's a link. Googling "Land of Hope and Glory" brought up some snarky "Imperialistic Anthems" pages and a disgraceful BBC contemptuous dismissal of anyone who would want to sing "God Save The Queen" or "Britannia Rules the Waves", one of the all-time best. Now if you ask me that's the problem with the Land of H and G, they've had a queen for too long. They need a real non-poufter King, and not that Charles fellow neither. Andrew might do it, he's got the Henry V model to look to, not to mention Richard III!
Got it!
That darn "Monty Hall problem" has resurfaced, thanks again to the demonic Dean Esmay. But this time, after perusal of this site and this US Naval Academy site, I think I've figured out an explanation that satisfies me. It's an odd situation, because you know what the right answer is, you just can't convince yourself why it should be so.

As everyone knows, the problem goes like this:

Monty Hall offers you the choice of three doors, A, B, and C. Behind one of them is a pile of cash, behind the other two are booby prizes. No tricks or hidden facts. You choose Door A. Then, before you see what's behind A, Monty says "Wait! I'm going to help you out!" and opens Door B. There's a booby prize behind it. Then Monty says, "Now, do you want to stay with your original choice or choose Door C?" What should you do?

Well, to cut to the chase, you should switch. All the experiments agree. But why? It's simple, really. When you were initially presented with three doors, the chance that the pile of cash was behind A was 1/3. Now, when presented with the choice of Door A or door C, if you maintain that the chance of the cash being behind A is now 1/2, you are saying that, when you first chose A, you somehow, magically, were able to choose a door that had a 1/2 chance of being the right one! Now how could you possibly choose a door with a 1/2 chance of being the right one when you had three to choose from? With no information, you couldn't. And, as Sherlock says, when you've eliminated the impossible, what remains, however improbable it seems, must be true.

OK, so maybe it's "Monte Hall". One consideration bothers me about the above analysis. So there you are sitting in front of three doors. What if, before you choose, Monte(y) says, "Hey, you know what? I'm feeling great today! I'm going to really help you out!" And he opens door B, which he knows does not have the cash behind it. You've got two doors left to choose from, just like in the above. But in this case your chances are obviously 50/50. So how is this choice different from the choice above, where all you've done that you haven't done here is commit to one particular door and Monte(y) has opened one of the other two doors? How can a choice inside your head influence probabilities in the real world? Does this have anything to do with the Einstein/Podolsky/Rosen gedankenexperiment!? Bell's Theorem? Something to work on.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

cancer, in the first instance, is not a disease of cell multiplication

Read this and tell me if your ideas don't change just a little bit? Not a teensy smidge? If not, then go meta.
Dean Esmay on the job
The bloggers are on the hunt after this AIDS nonsense. I stumbled across this post by Dean Esmay, who I have seen in many a comments section laying about him to good effect. The controversy I've been following for years now seems to be heating up for real. I bought and read Duesberg's book, and then Kary Mullis's, thinking there had to be some simple explanation for the apparent inconsistencies in AIDS logic (or lack thereof). Having never gone anywhere near a test tube since high school, I may seem to be at a disadvantage. But as a lawyer I know something about proof. And as a bureaucrat I know something about governments. And this looks like the story of the century. So far. Remember, you didn't hear it here first. People have been saying HIV doesn't really cause "AIDS" for years. And yet the band played on.
Atheists in love

The New York Times had, for a wonder, an interesting article, found via Arts and Letters Daily, asking what appear to be mostly irreligious people what they believe to be true that they can't prove. Some talk about life on other planets, rat "consciousness", even that there is no God. Of course one can't and shouldn't have to prove a negative, so that one's a bit weird. I like the last one best, because it reflects my belief (unproven!) that people believe what they want to believe:

David Buss
Psychologist, University of Texas; author, "The Evolution of Desire"

True love.

I've spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I've documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I've discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I've studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I've remained unwavering in my belief in true love.

While love is common, true love is rare, and I believe that few people are fortunate enough to experience it. The roads of regular love are well traveled and their markers are well understood by many - the mesmerizing attraction, the ideational obsession, the sexual afterglow, profound self-sacrifice and the desire to combine DNA. But true love takes its own course through uncharted territory. It knows no fences, has no barriers or boundaries. It's difficult to define, eludes modern measurement and seems scientifically woolly. But I know true love exists. I just can't prove it.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Doubtful Zarqawi capture (hey, that would be a great name for a band!)

Drudge is reporting that Zarqawi has been captured in Baghdad. But since even Debka isn't going along with it, I'm inclined not to believe it. And I'm pretty gullible about believing things I want to be true.

Take gout. I went to the doctor and he told me I need a full physical and should start on allopurinol after the present attack subsides. No duh. Now I believe if I get on allopurinol I'll never have another gout attack and will be able to gambol about like a young lamb. Anyone who knows me is now shuddering and trying to erase a thoroughly horrifying mental image.

By the way, my father always used to say never go to the doctor unless you absolutely have to if you want to survive. Think about it. Who's almost always present when someone dies? A doctor. The correlation between time spent in the presence of a doctor in the last, say, month, and death must be close to 100%. So doctors cause people to die. Right? And people who are alive and healthy rarely come into contact with doctors. The correlation there is almost nonexistent. Hey, if we abolished all the doctors, no one would ever die again!

Monday, January 03, 2005

The slow extinction of the Russian male
Worried about overpopulation? Read this.

And, you gay marriage advocates, don't forget this part:
The rapid decline of the two-parent family in contemporary Russia undercuts prospects for substantial increases in national fertility levels.

Don't tell me two parents can be two guys named Bruce and Irving. You'll just make me mad.
Gout today
So the old gout is acting up aplenty today, with naproxen sodium - you know, that nice stuff that gives one heart attacks - as the only palliative. Can't bend my right knee beyond 90 degrees, but, hey, who needs all that extra flexibility, anyway? Never really use it, or only in my dreams. I have no idea how those in the old days kept from suicide when there was no real help at all for the pain and stiffness of gout. Looking forward to not having to hobble too much after my doctor's appointment this PM. I was thinking, this ailment-blogging could be big. Think of all the old - and not so old - whiners and cranks who sit around all day complaining about how their body is disappointing and betraying them. Some of them might be so old and weird that they would devote whole blog posts to their medical condition - oops. If they blogged, though, they might feel better. And a massive amount of quasi-medical information would be available to researchers. Ah, 'tis a brave new world.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Two in a row
Hey, that wasn't so hard! Blogging every day can be fun. Especially when one is groaning under the impact of a massive gout attack because one's doctor insisted on one coming in to see him before he prescribes any more medication. Yes, that's right, the medication that has been at least somewhat successful in dealing with massive gout attacks in the past EIGHT YEARS that the doctor hasn't seen fit to see one and actually do some modern doctoring. My appointment is tomorrow, but until then I'm somewhat "grognon" as Maigret might say. We'll see what new treatment il dottore comes up with to assure that this ancient demon doesn't wreck my once-beautiful corpus completely.

Steve Sailer has some interesting speculation about why Germ troops outfought the Brits and Yanks after D-Day. He rambles on about group cohesion. Say, Steve, you don't think it could be because they (the Germs) were defending their "heimat", do you? Or because they still had a good number of troops left alive who had been fighting since at least 1939 and some who had fought in the Spanish Civil War? Sure the Brits weren't all raw recruits, but few of the Yanks had much in the way of combat experience. Knowing just how to use your weapons in actual combat is a big advantage. It took the Soviets several years of losing millions to the Reichswehr to amass a significant force of battle-hardened veterans who could push the Germs back. And they still made a complete hash of the capture of Berlin, losing hundreds of thousands of tovarishes unnecessarily.

That's another good aspect of the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan. If we handle the troop rotation properly, we'll end up with a veteran corps of guerrilla-killers who could make the next campaign (Syria, are you listening?) much quicker and less subject to embarrassingly deadly mistakes.