Archive for March, 2007

Deep Thoughts’ atheist blogroll

March 15, 2007 2 comments

MoJoey over at Deep Thoughts invited me to join his ever-expanding Atheist Blogroll, so I popped over and spent a little time surfing the links there.  Some of them were familiar to me, most were new.  I also picked up a new Humanist link that I’ll be adding to the sidebar.

What I found confirms in my mind the incredible diversity of nonbelievers out there.  There is a spectrum ranging from militant-and-hostile to inclusive and forgiving, intersecting at various points with other dimensions of rational perspective and cultural affiliation.  Which aligns neatly with my understanding of the diversity of Christians out there.  (I don’t know enough about Hinduism or Islam to say the same though it would surprise me if that weren’t the case about those religions as well)

Though I appreciate the offer, I believe I’ll pass on joining the blogroll.  But exploring it is a good antidote to the inclination to stereotype members of a diverse group.  In the long run I hope the most important group, the most influential, will be the invisible association of those who bridge differences between themselves and others.  And that group probably won’t even have a name.

Categories: Religion

Thoughts about valves

March 14, 2007 Comments off

I only got a moment to snap a picture of this valve before it was carted off to the recycling bin.  I imagine it regulated the main water flow into the building but I know it did so for 37 years in what was, at the time of its construction, the largest dormitory in the world.  It’s a gate-type valve, and the gate component on the left would bolt onto the flange at the bottom of the housing on the right.  Together they probably weigh about 350 lbs and would be installed with the gate above the housing rather than the orientation seen here. 

Valves are part of the technological infrastructure that surrounds us and to which we don’t give a lot of thought.  There is a minimum of 33 valves in our 1-bathroom home, counting those which regulate liquid or gas, and those incorporated into washing devices and operated by electric solenoids (but not counting the ones on spray cans or butane lighters)  The number goes much higher when you consider that the first vacuum tubes were called “valves” because they performed a similar regulatory function on electric current, and that transistors are the descendents of those valves.  By that rubrick, the number of ‘valves’ in my little home numbers in the countless millions.  There are several million in my cell phone alone, and we haven’t even stepped out the front door yet.

Then the number becomes truly staggering (even forgetting about electric valves) as the city regulates the flow of water, sewage, natural gas, compressed air, medical gasses, and various fuels.  But the concept of flow regulation can be carried to any desired level of abstraction.  Our economic infrastructure is full of monetary ‘valves’ that let dribs and drabs of money pass from one account to another, up to the Federal Reserve itself.  Our elected leaders, in a sense, regulate the flow of public pressure on issues, but that is stretching it.

When people talk simplistically about “technology” as if it could be accounted a good-thing or a bad-thing, I take it as a sign that they have no clue how surrounded by technology they really are.  We haven’t even touched upon various kinds of locks, or transducers, or storage devices, or transmission pipelines, or engines, or… 

Anyway, I thought it was a pretty cool valve.  How many valves in your home?

Categories: Science & Technology

Look out, China!

March 14, 2007 3 comments

This is great stuff.  The cover of the little red book held aloft by the heroic worker reads “Property Deed”.

Living up to one’s name poses something of a problem for the Chinese Communist Party, which dictates the laws the NPC will pass, and whose name in Chinese literally means “the public-property party”.

To such a party it must be an ideological embarrassment that China has such a large and flourishing private sector, accounting for some two-thirds of GDP. So one law due to receive the NPC’s rubber stamp this month, giving individuals the same legal protection for their property as the state, has proved unusually contentious. It was to be passed a year ago, but was delayed after howls of protest from leftists, who see it as among the final of many sell-outs of the ideas of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong, to which the party pretends fealty.

The party’s decision to enact the law in spite of that resistance is a great symbolic victory for economic reform and the rule of law. Clearer, enforceable property rights are essential if China’s fantastic 30-year boom is to continue and if the tensions it has generated are to be managed without widespread violence. (Emphasis mine)

Take your time, China.  Really I don’t care if it takes 100 years for a full turnaround if it can be done nonviolently, and China is on track to do it a lot faster than that.  This is a pretty good example that there are better ways to overcome destructive ideologies.  It is exposure to market economies that has undermined communism more than any military threat ever could have.  For an example closer to home, if we’d been trading with Cuba all these years, communism would long since have eroded away to “in-name-only” there.  (Plus, I could get really great cigars)

Categories: Economics, Politics

Requiem for a mouse

March 13, 2007 Comments off

Cajun is a high-power guy.  I mean, really high power electric systems that run giant electric motors and pumps and keep industry going (to say nothing of pumping natural gas up North to us frozen Yankees).  When he writes about his work, it’s always a window into the industrial places most of us never get to see. 

Latest (fully illustrated) installment, Requiem for a mouse, or why small rodents should be more careful about the little spaces they wriggle into…  :lol:   Yeah, I admit I laughed out loud, but I doubt it bothered the mouse any.

UPDATE:  There’s more!  Here’s a little sample, you can go read the rest:

Raccoons have a natural curiousity and a tendency to climb, and I personally worked on the aftermath of the demise of two raccoons, both succumbing to 13,800 volts. This sort of activity results in a loud bang, a huge flash…
Mostly Cajun – Critters and electricity.

Categories: Science & Technology

MS Office Trial Version Warning

March 13, 2007 3 comments

Being a big fan of Bill Gates, I’d rather think well of Microsoft, but Webs05 has the lowdown on a pretty neat scam.  Suppose you want to try out the new Microsoft Office 2007 version.  You download it, install it, and at the end of the trial period, it stops working.  OK, fine – that’s what we expected.  But it also ‘locks’ your files – your stuff that you created – and won’t even let you copy your own files to another computer unless you install a licensed version of their software on that computer.  It holds your files hostage until you buy their product. 

This is a low-down, dirty-dog trick even for Micro$oft.  Bad Microsoft!  Bad dog!  And a good reason to use OpenOffice.  I’ve been using it for 3 years exchanging files with MS Office users, and no one has noticed. 

Categories: Geeky, Software

Rumsfeld is a clue

March 13, 2007 3 comments

Mike The Mad Biologist relates an incident in the history of our former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, in which the first-term congressman went far to the right of a man who advocated first-strike nuclear attacks during the Berlin crisis and the Cuban crisis.  Leaves me shaking my head how he ever got the president’s ear.

Yeah, Rumsfeld is old news but it’s interesting to see what kind of guy thought we could go into Iraq with 40,000 troops and be welcomed as liberators.

Categories: defense, Politics

Science and religion, not sharing a beer just yet

March 12, 2007 4 comments

ScienceBlogger Rob Knop (physics and astronomy) over at Galactic Interactions has a couple of posts that explore the borderline between science and religion.  Specifically, that a religious person could be a good scientist and vice versa.  It’s good stuff, though to say the very least not everyone at ScienceBlogs agrees. 

Yeah, I’m harping on tolerance, again. We’re in an age of global problems so the question of finding common ground is always relevant.  Rob is writing a whole series of these (gotta say, the man has guts) so as they appear I’m appending the list. 

UPDATE: This has turned into quite a dust-up on ScienceBlogs and several others have chimed in.  Links and further commentary below the fold:

This is hardly a complete list: if you read all the posts flying around this topic, and the hundreds of comments on some of these posts, you’d have enough material for a rather large research paper on the relationship between science and religion.  Let me try to summarize several positions that are butting heads in the threads:

  • Rob:  Christianity makes sense to me on a level that matters to me, so back off, OK?

  • PZ Meyers and chorus:  Lies and nonsense.  You’re not a real scientist unless you think all believers are fools.  Besides you’re not defining Christianity the way we think you should be, so you’re not even a real Christian.  So there!
  • Neville Chamberlain atheists: We may may not believe in god or any of that supernatural stuff, but we can still have constructive relationships with Christians.  Grow up, everybody!  (This is pretty much where I am)
Categories: Religion

Chris Mooney on James Hansen

March 12, 2007 Comments off

Check out the Seed Magazine profile of NASA climate scientist James Hansen written by bestselling author Chris Mooney.  It’s a good object lesson on how not to shut someone up in a democracy.  Might work in a dictatorship, though. 

Kinda reminds me of the old joke that ends; “OK granpaw, I got the wildcat – now tell me how to let go of him!”

UPDATE:  And as if to drive home the fact that they just haven’t learned their lesson, the Bush administration just issued a memo to travelling scientists that basically says; “I won’t mention climate change or polar bears…”

Cheaper than I thought they’d be

March 10, 2007 7 comments

Trying to think of a caption for this picture

Categories: Religion

In case there was any doubt

March 9, 2007 10 comments

I’ll be interested to see how they spin this on Fox News where Newt is a celebrated correspondent:  Gingrich Admits to Affair While Pursuing Clinton Over Lewinsky.

Categories: Politics