Friday, December 30, 2011

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

Evolution: way cool!

A really good scientific theory explains things it hadn’t anticipated.

The Copernican, helio-centric model was designed to fix the calendar, and provide improved predictions of observable planetary motions.

As it turns out, with a fair amount of refinement, it also explains seasons: put the earth in elliptical orbit around the sun, with axis-of-rotation at something other than 90-degree angle to plane of revolution, and, VOILA! Seasons!

Similarly, Darwin’s ‘evolution via natural selection’ also contained an implicit prediction Darwin never contemplated.

As I understand Darwin (admittedly, not all that well), his view of inheritance was via some sort of ‘mixing’ model. ... as it turns out, a ‘mixing’ model of inheritance doesn’t really work to explain evolution via natural selection.

BUT: particulate inheritance – via genes – works like a charm!... and Mendel established the fact of particulate inheritance.

A frequent criticism of ‘evolution via natural selection’ – among those who seek to discredit it – is the claim that every individual in the population has to experience the same mutation at the same time.
If even one parent produces a competitive mutation, that’s all it takes.

The casino game ‘craps’ is actually pretty fair. Once upon a time I had an assignment to compute probability of the shooter winning at craps.
I don’t recall the answer, but it’s something like 49.3% – meaning the house has a 50.7% chance of winning.

If you play long enough, you’ll lose your shirt. (This is how casinos make money: most of the games are pretty fair... but the house always has the edge: if you play long enough, you’ll lose your shirt!)

Particulate inheritance works exactly the same way. If a single individual has a mutation that grants him/her only a tiny advantage in survivability (probabilistically), eventually his/her progeny will take over the species.
This can be simulated via computer. It’s easy to demonstrate. The house always wins in the long run.

Again: Tho’ Darwin didn’t realize it, his theory contained the implied prediction that inheritance is particulate! ... a prediction that has been confirmed!

Politically incorrect

If I were the head of a Santorum or Gingrich or Paul superPAC, this is the anti-Romney ad I'd be running in the Bible Belt:
Mormons: God-fearing, church-going, family-oriented, civic-minded, hard-working, self-supporting citizens...
... BUT: members of a Satanic Sect!!!
Why the Secrecy?
Gentiles - that'd be the rest of us - are not allowed at Mormon services, and would not be invited to a Mormon wedding.
Do Mormons drink Christian blood during communion?
[... We KNOW they don't drink wine!]

Was Joseph Smith a charlatan, or just stark raving mad?
Again, Why the secrecy???
You Decide!

A dirty joke

[note: I don't know that many dirty jokes... but this is one of my favorites]:
He: Do you know the difference between a hamburger and a blowjob?

She: No.

He: Ya wanna go to lunch?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2nd draft

Ladies & gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up – yes, you there, come a little closer… don’t be afraid, come a little closer … there, that’s better: I am about to share with you the GREATEST SECRET of MODERN MEDICINE:
Royal Elixir!!!
This valuable remedy, of which I am the proprietor, is a sovereign remedy for Dyspepsia, Sick Headache, Biliousness, Liver and Kidney complaints, Rheumatism, Gout, and Impurities of the Blood.

… It is an agreeable tonic for delicate women, being delicious in taste and beneficial in results.

For children it is especially desirable owing to its pleasant taste.
Folks, just over 100 years ago, these tonics, nostrums, and elixirs were common-place. They promised to cure EVERYTHING – no matter what ails you, “Royal Elixir” will cure it – and it tastes GREAT!

There’s a name for these cure-alls: SNAKE OIL! – and the folks who peddled them were SNAKE OIL SALESMEN.

You may believe that SNAKE OIL SALESMEN are just quaint historical figures, BUT, my friends, they’re with us today, peddling their ONE magic cure for whatever ails you…

Who are these Modern Snake-Oil Salesmen?
The GOP! – and the Snake-Oil they’re peddling is
St. Reagan's Restorative
Tax Cuts – good for whatever ails you.
To be fair, sometimes these nostrums even worked!
In 1906 the Sears, Roebuck catalog advertised the White Star Secret Liquor Cure with the promise that after a few doses Daddy would stop helling around every night.
It worked! Daddy DID in fact give up drink and stayed home at night.
The White Star Secret Liquor cure was based on a powerful narcotic.
Daddy was no longer drinking: he was addicted to opium, and sleeping like a baby.
(Just for good measure, the Sears catalog also advertised the Sears Cure for the Opium and Morphine Habit!)
Since the days of Saint Reagan, the GOP’s ONLY ‘cure’ for the economy?
Hey: Mitt, Newt, Rick, Rick, Michele, … Ron? – whaddaya think?

Folks, when ONE nostrum, ONE magic remedy, ONE cure-all is all you need, all the time, no matter what ails you… well, there’s a name for it: it’s SNAKE-OIL, and the people selling it to you are SNAKE-OIL SALESMEN!

For the GOP, “Tax Cuts” are ALWAYS the answer – good economic times or bad, war or peace, jobs or no jobs. “Tax cuts” cure EVERYTHING, all the time, forever.

In 1954, under the administration of that commie-pinko-socialist and wealth-redistributing Republican Dwight Eisenhower, the top marginal tax rate was – brace yourself! - 91%. I seem to recall from history that this was a period of mushrooming economic expansion, and the rise of America as a super-power.

Yes, indeed, my friends: Tax Cuts taste GREAT!... but are they really a cure-all?… and might the ‘cure’ – like White Star’s Secret Liquor Cure - be worse than the disease?

Call out the GOP for what they are: Snake Oil Salesmen!

(Look for this on YouTube within the month!)

Just for fun

three (3) semi-related headlines:
Sadr bloc calls for early elections in Iraq
Arab observers aim to see Syria's deadliest city
Suicide bomber kills 7 outside Iraq ministry
Recall, a post hoc rationale for invading Iraq was to build a bright, shining democracy in Iraq - thereby introducing stability into the region.

WMD? - didn't quite pan out.
"Bright, shining democracy"? - didn't quite pan out.
Stability in the region? - didn't quite pan out.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away: When my statistician & USMC bud was in Iraq (VERY loyal readers may recall that he participated in 'battle for Baghdad'), I asked what he'd guess for end-game. (We corresponded as regularly as possible during this time...)
His response: "Eventually we'll leave and all hell will break loose."... this prediction made in 2003 - eight (8) years ago!

On the bright side: we're out of Iraq... finally... minimally $800 BILLION later.

The less-than-bright-side: current Administration is blamed for our FAILURE in Iraq... not W and his cabal.

... and we leave the region with, well - let's see:
Iran stronger than ever.
Syria on the brink of civil war.
Good work, W!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Iowa: pointless but valuable

"Who'll win Iowa?"
- Who cares?
The winner of the Iowa caucuses seldom goes on to be the nominee!

On the bright side: all GOP contenders are doing their level best to win Iowa by presenting themselves as the 'only true conservative'.
This behavior will provide TONS of video against whichever one eventually DOES win the nomination.
Pandering to 20% of the electorate is unlikely to win a general election!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Re-engaging.... slowly

I keep thinking I oughta send $$$ to Michele Bachmann's campaign.
She seems to be losing traction, and I'd REALLY like to see her as the GOP nominee!
[... tho' truth be told, just about ANY of the GOP slate would be just fine with me!.]

In the meantime, I've received donation form from Michelle Lujan Grisham, requesting $$$ for her run for Congressional NM1 - vacated by Heinrich in his run for U.S. Senate (Senate seat vacated by Bingaman).

... and I've been successfully putting off entreaties from Heinrich to come back to the campaign.
1 Jan is my re-commitment date... and then only if looks to be a contested primary (which to date it does not).

Very slowly I am re-engaging with politics.
(I've even started reading front page of NYT... well, not every day, but once in a while!)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Continuing what is now a 5-year-old tradition:
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
It's secular - religious overtones are secondary.
It's American - the rest of world goes on happily without us.
Most of all, for me the basic premise - giving thanks - is a good thing. Yes, I am thankful for my family, for my undeserved good-fortune in life, for friends.
As mentioned in previous years, most of my family & extended family is in town. None of us started out here - we all just ended up here. I've 3 sisters. 2 of 'em are in town, with their husbands. My mom is in town. My wife's mom is in town. Her sister & bro-in-law are in town. A sister's sister-in-law is in town. Our kids are in town. My daughter-in-law's folks are in town. We added a nephew last year.

Usually, some one family hosts a huge Thanksgiving spread.

This year, no. [... last year the same]
Two family get-togethers - my sister & teresa's sister.
I'll be doing main meal with my sister (a 2nd sister will also be attending).

That leaves my wife's sister, bro-in-law, their daughters, and assorted siblings of bro-in-law. I'll be visiting them if only to place annual $1 bet on the Cowboys' game (I always bet against Dallas).

Son's college friends - Scott & Beth - are hosting small get-together this year...
I'll head over if only to meet their 2-month-old daughter, Sienna.

Yes, let's give thanks for family, friends, and our undeserved good-fortune.

Happy Thanksgiving, with friends & family!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

... regressing...

My apologies: I cannot celebrate the assassination of bin Laden or Qaddafi.

... these episodes take us back to 'might makes right'... we are no better than the warlords we pretend to deplore.

Political assassination, whether up close & personal or via Predator Drone, seems only to vindicate John Wilkes Booth & Lee Harvey Oswald: you got a problem with someone? No problem: kill him!

We - the so-called "leader of the free world" - WE! - are regressing.

I seem to recall that in the '70s of the last century, CIA interventions in the internal affairs of sovereign nations via political assassination was heartily condemned.
Great - now we don't do it covertly.
Rather, we celebrate it as open expression of MY country's "greatness".

Stop the madness!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remembering Teresa...

… remarks delivered at her Memorial Service, 27 April 2011

“So, how did you meet Teresa?”

Teresa was my student…
Math 4110 – pre-calculus – University of Texas at El Paso, spring semester, 1980.
On the last day of class I invited the class to join me for pizza & beer at local pizza joint.
Teresa and her girlfriend were the only ones who showed up.
I asked her if she was available.
She said, “Yes”. (“… and, oh, by the way, I’ve got 2 kids…”)

On New Year’s Eve, 1980, I asked her to marry me.
She said, “Yes”. (… again)
She had the kindness to call me on New Year’s Day, 1981, to ask,
“Do you remember what you asked me last night?”

“Well, yes. Do you remember what you answered?”
We were married on August 22, 1981.

… and, oh yeah, … she got an “A” in the class.

Based on my one experience, I’m a big fan of marriage.
Teresa is the best thing that ever happened to me… my best friend, the love of my life.
The term ‘better half’ doesn’t come close to capturing her role in our marriage and her place in my life.

My theatrical biographies always include,
“Thanks to my charming wife, Teresa, for her continuing encouragement and support.”
Someone once challenged me: “Why charming?”
My reply was immediate:
“Well after all these years, I’m still enchanted.”

We had little in common.
She could – and did – spend endless hours on detailed cross-stitch.
Me? – no patience for detail.
(In retrospect – yes, big pictures are born of details… maybe I learned this from her.)

We both enjoyed reading… but, except for pulp detective fiction, our tastes did not coincide.
She liked sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a history buff.

Movies? Little in common…
… but we tolerated each other’s choices… most of the time.
… usually she had to call our son, Peter, to go the movies with her.

I got to complain about work to her… and to explain the detailed technical/statistical issues confronting me.
(I’m certain these detailed explanations simply fascinated her!)
Working on nuclear warhead reliability, she had little opportunity to discuss her work with me.
She did however once refer to the “IDT protocol” – the “Inadvertent Drop Test”.

… But, our marriage lasted 29.5 years… delightfully, lovingly.
I had hoped to celebrate our 30th anniversary together. Didn’t happen.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…

Though neither of us is particularly social, we nevertheless enjoyed hosting large social activities. For many years we hosted the annual Thanksgiving get-together for the extended family – almost all of whom are in town.
“Extended family” frequently included friends, and friends of friends.
One year we hosted more than 30 people…
… and Teresa insisted on seating everyone at one contiguous table.
Using every portable horizontal surface in the house, we managed it.

On the bright side, from that point forward, whenever she had reason to criticize me, I could remind her of ‘one contiguous table’.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…

What I want to talk about is one of our shared passions: travel.

… from family vacations when Peter & Faith were kids to business trips.
When the kids were kids, we trekked to Disney Land, Disney World, Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Toronto, and Indiana Dunes State Park.

When traveling, we shared a ‘come what may’ attitude.
On a camping trip to Indiana Dunes State Park, a 1.5 mile nature walk somehow turned into a 10 mile hike…
… the last 7 miles of which was in torrential rain.
Somehow we survived.
Peter and Faith quickly resigned themselves to misery and took the experience in stride.
(I’m not sure that Teresa & I were quite so … accepting!)

When we finally reached our camp site, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to town – to the Laundromat to dry clothes, and to McDonald’s for hot food.

After Peter & Faith left home, most of our ‘vacations’ were business trips on which one of us just tagged along.
Wherever we went we tried the ‘Mexican’ food.
Chile rellenos in Anchorage are square.
The Mexican food in Cannes on the French Riviera is almost inedible.
Enchiladas in Dublin are… interesting.
Tel Aviv has surprisingly tasty Tex-Mex.

‘Twas on a trip to Nice that I first realized just how weird it was to be married to a female nuclear engineer.
Teresa was attending a nuclear energy conference, representing Sandia Nat’l Labs.
I went along for the ride.
[aside: Teresa’s passport and wallet were stolen on this trip. The only thing that disconcerted her was the fact that the American Consulate folks could tell her when she arrived in Europe and when in Nice, and the name of the hotel we were staying at. This was the only time I saw her weirded-out while on travel: “How did they know all that stuff???”]
… anyway… back to just how weird it was to be married to a female nuclear engineer: the conference had organized ‘spouse tours’, visiting local attractions & restaurants, shopping.
I was the only male on the spouse tours. (… I’m not complaining)

While in Nice we spent long hours just wandering around, exploring neighborhoods.
I don’t know how many McDonald’s Nice has, but we found 5 of ‘em on our little treks.
… Teresa suggested we write a travel book: “All roads lead to McDonald’s”.
(never happened)

We’ve eaten at McDonald’s in Anchorage, AL; Nice, France; Tel Aviv, Israel; Dublin, Ireland; Rothenburg, Germany… and Sioux City, Iowa.

We sometimes rented a car.
Our protocol was simple: I drive, Teresa navigates.
This gave us each the opportunity to blame the other when we got lost.
We always got lost.
… then again, we seldom had a pre-determined itinerary, so it wasn’t always clear when we were lost
– “Well, here we are!”

[Sadly the advent of GPS technology in rental cars pretty much made it impossible for me to blame Teresa.]

For my first sabbatical with Intel, I took the two of us on an archeological dig at Caesarea, Israel – where St. Peter converted the centurion Cornelius, and St. Paul was imprisoned by the Roman governor, Felix. You may recall the scenes in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the laborers are hauling sand and dirt in wheel-barrows. That is the job of unskilled volunteers on an archeological dig.
The work day started at 5 a.m., and ended at 2 p.m. to avoid the blazing heat of summer in Israel.
We were right on the Mediterranean, but were usually too exhausted to enjoy it.

On the flight home, Teresa suggested that SHE get to plan the next sabbatical.
Sadly, when that arrived Teresa was undergoing a rigorous chemotherapy regimen, and we got no further than Bandelier Nat’l Monument.


The choir sang a beautiful setting of Psalm 100:
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving…
I commissioned this work about a year ago, in memory of Teresa. Today was the first time I heard it. It was beautiful. It expresses perfectly my feelings today…
… I will forever give thanks to the Lord for giving me Teresa, and our too-short time together…

… she’s my summer love in the spring, fall, and winter.

Teresa, I love you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

In memoriam: Teresa Sype

In memoriam
Teresa Terry Sype
2 August 1955 - 15 April 2011

Daughter, sister, mother, wife.
Cross-stitch artist.
Lover of life, and the love of my life.

Teresa is survived by her mother, Margrit Erks; sister, Brenda Williams; son, Peter; daughter, Faith; nieces Rachel & Alyssa Williams;
nephew, Eric Williams; husband, Russ; cats Jane, Mattie, Jack, Rowdy, & Boo; and dog, Goldie.

Memorial service: St. Timothy's Lutheran Church, TBD.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

coupla things

thing1: IBM's "Watson" just crushed Ken Jennings & Brad Rutter on Jeopardy.

thing2: As loyal readers may have noticed, my postings have become ever-more infrequent.
Other things are consuming my time for now, and I think it time to formally announce an intentional period of inactivity.
So - I'll be taking a few months off.

See ya later.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Branding: "the radical Christianist agenda"

"Far-right", "religious right", even "Christian right" have lost their punch, and their meaning.
What's needed is a good, catchy brand for the drivel currently being spewed by the GOP.
I propose, "the radical Christianist agenda".
- matches their "radical homosexual agenda"
- uses word-formation analogous to "Islamist"
- avoids tarring all Christians... just the Christianists

The elements of this radical Christianist agenda? A good start can be found in recent headlines from Think Progress:
In First Month Of Legislative Session, GOP Lawmakers In Five States Seek To Eliminate, Criminalize Abortion

GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy Says Being On Medicaid Is ‘Actually Worse’ Than Having No Insurance

Rep. Fred Upton On Global Warming: ‘I Do Not Accept That It Is Man-Made’

Tim Pawlenty Refuses To Say Whether Gays Should Be Allowed To Serve In The Military At All

Alabama State Senator Advises Politicians To ‘Empty The Clip’ To Stop Undocumented Immigrants

REPORT: At Least 13 States Have Introduced Bills Guarding Against Non-Existent Threat Of Sharia Law

GOP Rep. Rehberg: Federal Judges Should Be ‘On The Endangered Species List’
Subjecting all so-called scientific "truths" to Biblical exegesis (preferably based only on a literal reading the King James version of the Bible); extreme and violent xenophobia; extreme and violent homophobia; extreme and violent attitudes toward government - particularly towards the FEDERAL government; extreme and violent anti-feminism - outlawing any and all forms of contraception (after all, God has commanded us to "be fruitful and multiply", and God slew Onan!); and, of course, denying that any so-called 'religion' has a right to be called such if it's not a "Bible-based" Protestant sect that accepts the inerrancy of the KJV as God's Own Words.

... I probably ought add 'contempt for the poor', and 'worship of Mammon', but the list above is a decent start. (Feel free to add your own suggestions in comments!)

These are the positions and attitudes that characterize the radical Christianist agenda.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"The more things change..."

Woodrow Wilson on Senate filibusters, 1917:
"A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible."
- quoted in Edmund Morris's Colonel Roosevelt
If nothing else, reading political history helps me realize that current political mess is not new, but has been a constant in American history.
There has never been a Golden Age...
... tho' today's Gilded Age has clear precedent.

[Just for fun: Wilson was a Democrat, the "little group of willful men" the minority Republican senators.]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Here's a good idea!

From friend PENolan over at Menopausal Stoners:
Turn off Fox

Just for fun: it's REALLY COLD!

This looks like a picture from the sci-fi movie The Day After Tomorrow... but it's a satellite photo of current massive winter storm over U.S.!

Currently in Albuquerque: 4°F.

I put the sweater on the dog before walking her today.

I turned off the pond pump - figuring keeping water OUT of the line would be a good thing (I'll learn if this was a good decision tomorrow).
The pond has a small 'donut' heater that keeps a bit of water (about one foot in diameter) open.
Last I checked - a coupla hours ago, when I unplugged the pump - the pond was frozen.

I'm guessing northern U.S. is a bit chillier.

"American Exceptionalism" - then and now

A couple of nights ago I watched a program on PBS: Panama Canal.
Part of the American Experience series.

Anyway, the U.S. began construction of the Panama Canal in 1904.
The canal opened in 1914.
Ten years.
Cost? Something under $400Mn in 1904 dollars, equivalent to something under $10Bn in today's $$$.

So, in ten years, for less than $10Bn, we built a canal that continues to serve the world... and makes $$$ with every ship that passes through.
The investment paid for itself long, long ago!

Ten years later, we're still in Afghanistan, estimated cost $374Bn.
What have we got to show for it?
In 100 years, what will this "investment" have produced???

What the hell has happened to us???

... and, oh yeah: even after so-called 'healthcare-reform' legislation passed, we're STILL the ONLY DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD without some form of UNIVERSAL HEALTH INSURANCE!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I've got a sneaking suspicion ...

... that if I were to meet Atrios, I'd like him.

From 27 Jan 2011

Mathematical Constant Challenge
Which is your favorite: e or pi?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Not a good headline!

As Egypt Clashes Continue, Fear of Islamists Paralyzes the U.S

C'mon, folks.
Despite all the political & economic problems we now face, we're still THE dominant country in the world.
Yeah - we could be stronger.
Yeah - we could be better.
BUT: ... are we really "paralyzed" by fear of Islamists???
If 'yes' I'll retract comments regarding 'strength'.

Ought we be world's police force?
... and maybe it would help if we didn't in knee-jerk fashion glom onto whatever tyrannical power happened, at the moment, to support our interests.
... that is, if we, in fact, purport to be THE bastion of Democracy.

Let's all just read the Preamble, and move forward.

"Fear of Islamists"???
Give me a break!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A modest proposal

It sometimes is difficult to cut through all the political rhetoric.
Perhaps it would help if our elected leaders began EVERY policy discussion with a return to basic principles.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
[Preamble, U.S. Constitution]
There you have it - our six national strategic objectives:
to form a more perfect union
to establish justice
to insure domestic tranquility
to provide for the common defense
to promote the general welfare
to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity

Would it be too much to ask our Representatives, Senators, Candidates, and others in the political arena, to begin ALL policy discussions from this foundation?

Yes, we may not agree on the meaning of these strategic objectives, but we should all at least be able to accept THESE as the appropriate objectives which every bit of legislation ought be designed to pursue.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU tonight...

... let me know what I missed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

bye, Keith...

Olbermann and MSNBC: a failing relationship
Confession (said to be good for the soul): I've not watched Keith or Rachel since the elections.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What have I missed?

Oh, yeah:
Lieberman Makes It Official: He's Retiring
Healthcare repeal passes House
Dumb Bastards!
... I'll ignore Palin for the moment... BUT: When 'Palin for President' committee forms, please let me know - I'll happily send 'em $$$.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In Memoriam

Dwayne John Erks
17 Dec 1928 - 16 Jan 2011
Husband, father.
Farmer, printer, artist.
My father-in-law.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Irrational and transcendental

... continuing 'math fun'...

Numbers are fun.
Basic: natural numbers - 1, 2, 3, ...
... also known as positive integers.

I think I was 4 when I learned to count to 14. This was a huge achievement.
Apples, oranges, cars, fingers, toes, ... you can count 'em: 1, 2, 3, ...

In 3rd or 4th grade fractions come into play:
You have 2 apples and 2 friends.
How do you divide the apples among yourselves so's everyone gets an equal share?
... ah!
2/3 (two apples = 2; you + two friends = 3).
2/3 is a rational number: the ratio of two integers.

Sometime in the 6th century BCE, folks figured out that there were numbers that weren't rational.
This discovery is attributed to Pythagoras - he of the Pythagorean Theorem.
He noted that given a square with side = 1, the diagonal of that square (based on his famous theorem) was equal to √2...
... and he further deduced that √2 could NOT be represented as the ratio of two integers.
Irrational numbers were born.

A fellow named Georg Cantor - in the late 19th century (just over 100 years ago) - deduced that there are a WHOLE LOT MORE irrational numbers than there are rational numbers!
In fact, just about EVERY number is irrational.
[... there have been nay-sayers. Another 19th century mathematician famously declared, "God made the integers; all else is the work of man"... For Leopold Kronecker, irrational numbers did not exist!]

Still it was believed for a couple of thousand years that any number must be the solution of an algebraic equation.
-: 1 is the solution of x - 1 = 0
-: √2 is the solution of x2 - 2 = 0

Then, sadly, Gottfried Leibniz, deduced that for at least some values of x, sine(x) is NOT the solution of an algebraic equation.
... and our friend Leonhard Euler was the first to define a transcendental number as a number that is not the solution of a polynomial equation with integer coefficients.

Turns out - as Cantor proved - there are a WHOLE LOT MORE transcendental numbers than there are algebraic numbers. (For what it's worth: there are just as many algebraic numbers as there are rational numbers... tho' not every algebraic number is rational!... and, oh yeah - there are just as many algebraic numbers as there are integers!)

In fact, just about EVERY number is transcendental.
... what's really weird is...
We can NAME only a couple of 'em.
π is transcendental (first proved in 1882 by Ferdinand von Lindemann)
e is transcendental (first proved in 1873 by Charles Hermite)

It's not known if π+e is transcendental!

Again: Numbers are fun!

The Pentagon's addiction to high-tech

F-35 looking more like white elephant
In addition to the issues noted in the article, the F-35 comes with a really cool, mandatory maintenance contract: when you buy the plane, you buy the entire logistics system needed to maintain the plane! (Sustainment, F-35 Lightning II)

If I were putting together specs for weapons systems, I'd include something along the lines of, "80% of parts must come from local AutoZone/Napa/Pep Boys/Radio Shack suppliers".

But - no.
If you buy an F-35 fighter, you are FORCED to buy the maintenance contract!
(Me? - I've never purchased a maintenance contract on any appliance in my life.)

Our addiction to high-tech weapons systems will...
- 1) bankrupt us
- 2) make us NO SAFER!

- Timothy McVeigh blew up OKC Federal Bldg with fertilizer & diesel fuel.
- al Qaeda toppled WTC with hijacked planes.
- the U.S.S. Cole was crippled with a rubber boat laden with conventional explosives.

Our enemies are NOT addicted to high-tech.
IED's are the story of the day... and the Taliban are winning!

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

math fun...

Euler's identity:
Perhaps the coolest equation in mathematics.
It includes exactly once each of three basic mathematical operations:
- addition, multiplication, and exponentiation.
... and by way of these three basic operations links 5 fundamental mathematical constants: 0, 1, i, e, & π.
Finally, this linkage is represented by the fundamental equivalence relationship, "=".

For you math neophytes: I'm betting you're comfortable with "0", "1", "+", and "=".
... Most of us learned about π - the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter - somewhere along the way.
... and you've likely encountered 'i' = √(-1)... you know, those unreal 'imaginary' numbers!
That leaves only 'e' - the base of the natural logarithm.

The way I learned 'e'?
Plot the function f(x) = 1/x.
The area under the curve between 1 and e = 1.

... oh yeah: e = 2.718281828...
'e' is an irrational, transcendental number -
- irrational: e cannot be expressed as the ratio of two integers;
- transcendental: e is not the solution of any polynomial equation with integer coefficients.

(... in both these respects, e is just like π, which is also irrational & transcendental.)

p.s. thanks to loyal reader PM for teaching me how to get Excel graphs saved as pictures!

p.p.s. ... no, i've not a clue why i'm thinking about Euler's identity in the early morning hours of Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011.

My letter to Speaker Boehner

Office of the Speaker
H-232 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

First, congratulations on being named Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives!

Second, perhaps now that you are no longer a member of the Loyal Opposition, you would be willing to reconsider your attitude toward health insurance reform. I note that after passage of so-called healthCARE reform (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) the United States is still the only developed country in the world without some form of universal health INSURANCE.
This particular example of "American Exceptionalism" does not impress me.

The Congressional Research Service reports that the U.S. spends more per capita on health CARE and more as a percent of GDP on health CARE than any other developed country in the world, yet achieves at best middling results – in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and quality of care (CRS Report for Congress, U.S. Health Care Spending: Comparison with Other OECD Countries, Order Code RL34175, 17 Sep 2007).

I note further that Americans with a government-managed, universal, single-payer health insurance system – the elderly on Medicare – are very happy with their health insurance and the quality of care they receive (“Keep the Government’s hands off my Medicare!”).

I realize that many in your Party were elected on the promise of revising or restricting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. May I suggest that you and your fellow Republicans would do yourselves a political favor not by emasculating this legislation, but by strengthening it?
In fact, revise it to provide truly universal health insurance to every American!

I remind you that the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution specifically states that one purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to “promote the general welfare.”
Not the welfare of big business, or Big Pharma, or Big Health, but the GENERAL welfare of “We the people”.
If timely access to affordable, high-quality healthcare doesn't count as "the general welfare" of "We the People", what does?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oops! Musta done something wrong...

... follower Lincon left me...

trying to be more uplifting

In the time of your life, live—so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed.

Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart.

Be the inferior of no man, or of any men be superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle but if the time comes in the time of your life to kill, kill and have no regret.

In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.

- William Saroyan

somewhat morbid joke

Patient: Doc, give it me straight.
Am I gonna die?

Doctor: Yes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

for what it's worth...

... no, I don't hold palin or angle responsible for the az shooting, and i've no desire whatsoever to restrict free speech.

BUT: folks really ought to recognize that metaphorical speech just might be interpreted non-metaphorically!... particularly folks whose speech is broadcast far & wide, folks who have a public podium, folks who pretend to play upon a world stage.

YES: words and images matter.
language & use of symbols distinguishes us from the creatures that are likely to survive us.

o'reilly ranting about 'baby killer tiller' just MIGHT matter.
palin putting congressional districts - and, by implication, congresspersons - in cross-hairs; ...
angle suggesting that '2nd amendment remedies' may be appropriate;...

... This speech matters, and the speakers ought acknowledge this simple fact.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Just in case you'd forgotten

From Sarah Palin's PAC website:
#4 on the list: Gabrielle Giffords, AZ-8.

... and now it begins... (part 2: FB friends speak out)

Comments from FB friends:
SO Sarah Palin pulled her infamous "target" graphic off her FB page and her Twitter feed. I guess she retreated instead of reloading.

Presumably, today's events are an example of the "2nd Amendment Remedies" advocated by Sarah Palin and her teabagging henchmen. In a dazzling display of cowardice to stand by her own convictions, she has removed the "cross-hairs" graphic, in which she targeted Rep.Giffords, from her website. If, unlike Palin, you believe that words have meanings and actions have consequences, make that graphic your profile pic.

"We need to realize that the rhetoric, and the firing people up and for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s ‘targeted’ list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action."
~ Rep. Giffords

Sarah Palin is putting photos with Bullseyes on Senators and Representitives that supported the Health Care Bill. this is Terrorist Behavior and should be treated as such. Send Sarah to Gitmo.
(this from FB Group, Arrest Sarah Palin Under the Patriot Act)

Thanks, tea partiers, for influencing stupid people to do stupid things.

‎75 year old Pima County Sheriff- spot on in his remarks about the violent rhetoric that encourages the type of violence that happened today in Arizona.
[Here's what Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said]:
"When the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia about how government operates, and to try to try to inflame the public on a daily business, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it has an impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with."
What I don't get is conservatives saying there are crazy extremists on both sides. I don't see any liberal people in favor of equal rights for gay people, environmental responsibility, health care for poor people, and religious tolerance spreading their message and ideas using violent gun imagery and hate speak.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Buffoon is delighted to welcome new follower, Lincon!
... hoping you continue to enjoy the neighborhood.

Will anyone notice?

Obama Created More Jobs In One Year Than Bush Created In Eight

... and now it begins...

Arizona Rep. Giffords shot, at least 5 killed
8 Jan 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. – Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday when an assailant opened fire outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents, killing at least five people and wounding several others in a rampage that rattled the nation.
This is what "Second Amendment solutions" look like!

Until today there've been only threats.
My prediction? Now that one Democrat has been attacked, the crazies will come outta the woodwork in full force.
(Thanks, Sharron Angle!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

just a thought...

When Mozart was my age...
... he'd been dead 22 years.

this, that, and t'other

this: xmas gift - Windows 7, now installed.
it'll take me a while to get used to it, but i'm already quite happy with various features.
(... tho' it took more than a little time to get it configured to my liking!)

that: successful congressional campaigns don't end, they morph immediately into re-election campaigns.
i've received new assignment from campaign - an assignment that in fact involves semblance of statistical analysis!... awaiting cd with 2010 election results.

t'other: 'tis been a bad week on the personal/cancer front. will know more next week. in the meantime i'm something of a nervous wreck - waiting for news.

... and still more t'other: started an acting class today. enjoyed class #1 - and had no immediate antipathy towards any of fellow students.
(note: i was INVITED to attend this class - i'm counting this as a win.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Just for fun (part trois)...

I sent the pastor of St. Tim's Lutheran - in whose choir I sing - information about Judgment Day, and suggested this might provide material for a sermon.
In a postscript I noted that...
I will NOT be in church 22 May - attending college friend's gay wedding in Washington, DC.
... just to let you know: my non-presence is NOT due to me being 'raptured'.
Her response?
Good to know. Otherwise I might feel left behind.
Tho' a non-believer, I DO appreciate St. Tim's Lutheran - if only for the opportunity to sing choral music on a weekly basis.
BUT - there are other reasons: Pastor Pat has provided invaluable counseling to both my wife & me, helping us both deal with 8+ years of "living with cancer".

p.s. once-upon-a-time I inquired of a fellow choir member the attitude of St. Tim's toward gays. The answer? (paraphrased)
St. Timothy's is an accepting congregation, with many active gay members... BUT this issue is not at the top of anyone's list.
I was satisfied with this response.

2011: a good year!

From friend and loyal Buffoon reader:
Happy New Year! 2011 will be a good year.

2011 is the sum of 11 consecutive prime numbers:
2011 = 157 + 163 + 173 + 179 + 181 + 191 + 193 + 197 + 199 + 211.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just for fun (new)

I am pushing sixty. That's enough exercise for me.
- Mark Twain

Just for fun (part deux)...

The previous post cited news article reporting the following (I've gone to the source):
MAY 21, 2011
I note that on 20 May 2011 I'll be in our nation's capital to help a college friend celebrate his GAY WEDDING.

I sent a note to this friend (and loyal Buffoon follower JC) congratulating him on his excellent timing.
His reply:
Not just great timing, Russ, we CAUSE the end of the world! One day the number of gay people who are married passes a point of equilibrium and god gets pissed and the world ends so he can throw everybody except the people who hate gays enough into the fires of hell!
To be honest, I'd not even considered the cause-effect relationship!
I replied to him, offering my congratulations that he & his soon-to-be spouse were directly responsible for inaugurating the End Times.

p.s. The wedding being held in Washington, DC, I doubt that I'll notice any sudden change in population on 21 May - the day of The Rapture... well, maybe the folks at the C Street House won't be around anymore.

Just for fun...

... these two stories seem to go together.
First we have...
First Falling Birds, Now Dead Fish in Arkansas
As Carcasses of 2,000 Birds that Fell From Sky Are Tested, 100,000 Drum Fish Turn Up Dead in Arkansas River
3 Jan 2011
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Wildlife experts are trying to solve a mystery that evoked images of the apocalypse: Why did more than 3,000 red-winged blackbirds tumble from the Arkansas sky shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve?
Separately, some 100,000 fish died last week in the Arkansas River in the northwestern section of the state, the New York Daily News reports.

The drum fish were discovered Thursday across more than 20 miles of the river, fish and game officials announced Sunday.
... followed by:
End of Days in May? Christian group spreads word
By TOM BREEN, Associated Press
Mon Jan 3, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. – If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she'll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2011.
In August, Exley left her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible.
Camping, 89, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled.

The retired civil engineer said all his calculations come from close readings of the Bible, but that external events like the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming the date.

"Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he said.

The doctrine known as the Rapture teaches that believers will be taken up to heaven, while everyone else will remain on earth for a period of torment, concluding with the end of time. Camping believes that will happen in October.
Somehow it seems appropriate that the first signs of the beginning of the End Times should appear in Arkansas.

Maybe it's time to reschedule that summer vacation to spring!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

... (and I was just getting used to writing '2010'!)

Best to you & yours in 2011.