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Convince me:

Wednesday, December 11, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Hm, looks like I was a little hard on religion ("religion") last night. Partly I was just all annoyed by the Wired article, I suppose.

"Science works, religion doesn't" is a little more absolute than I usually want to be!

There are some things that might plausibly be called "religion" that don't not work, and that I'd be willing to praise in various circumstances.

On the other hand organized Western religion (which is what the Wired article meant by "religion"; in fact it really seemed to mean "the Roman Catholic Church"), to the considerable extent that it is a meme complex that survives by forbidding and punishing critical examination, definitely doesn't work for those things that science does work for, like expanding the number of valid truth-claims we can make.

I have no problem with religions that avoid making truth claims; I belong to one.

Speaking of which, I'm now pretty convinced that Citizens United for a Decent Internet is indeed a parody, or a piece of performance art, rather than what it seems to be at first glance. And for that matter that all of the even more impressive OBJECTIVE: Ministries site is also. (The story about the Apatosaurus hunt was what finally convinced me, I think; thanks to Bill for pointing out the especially juicy passages.

See also this endearing site that takes the artistry a level deeper, as well as the Homeland Security Culture Bureau, which takes it off in a whole new direction. (Thanks again to Bill, who really ought to have his own weblog.)

Not a Joke: It has come to my attention that at least one reader of this log (or at least this site) has a very serious infection by some version of the Sircam worm. If you have documents with most or all of these titles on your hard drive:

joe stadler for college tutition - 2nd request
010207 HRector written warning
paper #2
Topic for paper
DBM type resume june 1999
cover letter for kaw valley
Native Women and the Stereotype

(not to mention "Plantation Mistress and Black Female Slaves", although I think that one may be wired into the virus rather than copied from your filesystem), you should instantly scan your system with an up to date anti-virus program. The virus is running around in your system, sending out infected copies of your documents to all the addresses it can find. That's Bad.

It's not just Microsoft department:

RealPlayer Still Vulnerable to Attack: Nearly two weeks after posting a faulty patch for several security vulnerabilities in its ubiquitous RealPlayer and RealOne software, Real Networks Inc. has yet to release a working fix for the problems. And, a security researcher said Tuesday that he has discovered five more vulnerabilities in the media players.

From Talkleft, an article about Total Information Awareness, by someone with some unique experience:

This isn't the first time that the military has slipped the bounds of law to spy on civilians. In the late 1960s, it secretly collected personal information on more than a million law-abiding Americans in a misguided effort to quell anti-war demonstrations, predict riots and discredit protesters. I know because in 1970, as a former captain in Army intelligence, I disclosed the existence of that program.

And we'll close with a worthwhile recent piece from Joel on Software, which links to a less recent but at least as worthwhile one. Joel is evidence that deep immersion in Windows products doesn't always severely damage the centers of reason.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

I love Unix; it's so silly.

There are for instance all sorts of things like sed and awk and perl and stuff that let you take the output from one command and reformat it however you like. But notwithstanding that various commands have their own little output formatting languages built in.

For instance on the iBook over here, if for some reason I wanted a list of all the processes running on the machine, and for each one I wanted to display the user running it, the process id, the virtual size, and the actual command running (including arguments), in that order, and I wanted the column labels on those columns to be "who", "where", "size", and "melissa", I could type

ps -aww -o user=who,pid=where,vsz=size,command=melissa

Pretty cool, eh? And, another great feature, if I wanted to do that same thing on say the AIX box at work, I would type almost but not quite the same command.

(For instance, to get the running command and its arguments on OS X, the token is "command", whereas on the AIX box it seems to be "args".)

But in general the whole idea that someone would have the time and interest and spare cycles to sit around designing an entire format language for the command line of a single command is just really keen.

Horrifyingly scary, but also really keen.

This week's puzzle: from Steve, we have this fascinating challenge: is Citizens United for a Decent Internet a parody, or isn't it?

It doesn't seem (what?) funny enough to be a parody (not like say Landover Baptist); it's mostly dead earnest and never quite goes over the top. Although for instance the phrase "disreputable countries like Holland or Canada" comes sort of close.

I don't agree with Steve's reader who opined that the Irreducible Complexity Mousepad in the OBJECTIVE: Ministries online store is evidence for the parody theory. It seems entirely in line with the creationist view of the world.

It's entirely possible that I'm being taken in; if I am, it's by a quality of performance art that I'm honored to be gulled by.

Here are the top phrases searched:

- 2 for "naked helen pictures"
- 2 for "pictures of iris chacon"
- 2 for "sally had a steamboat"
- 1 for "bowers"
- 1 for "chess"
- 1 for "dimensional warp generator 52 4350a"
- 1 for "e mail"
- 1 for "hack a webcam"
- 1 for "hack yahoo webcam"
- 1 for "ibm"

Favorite Spam-letter saluation of the week:

Dear Sample A. Sample,

So did it work?



for ineffective values of "work", yes.

If he's so ineffable, why doesn't write his own damn biography?

This blog usually does the trick.

Isn't that a Talking Heads song?

Did it work? You better believe it! And you should've seen the expression on her face, too! Kind of, surprised and horrified and mad and laughing all at the same time.

Of course not. It never does. But sometimes it gets close enough to make it all worthwhile.

I don't know...I mean, not yet. Okay, no, it didn't. But now I can't even remember what it was, or how I wanted it to work in the first place.

You know, it was working fine at first. But, after a few hours, it developed a little rattle, almost imperciptible at first, but growing louder over time. Then it started vibrating, to the point of bouncing on the table. As it vibrated, it inched slowly towards the edge of the table, where it tilted, slipped off entirely, plummeting into the squirming pile of rivets and wires below, bursting into cams and shims and circuit boards and unidentifiable bits of yellow plastic.

We'll take that last one as a "no". Well, depending on what you were trying to do.

The blog link above leads to the quite worthwhile Alas, a Blog, from which I wandered to the also worthwhile Body and Soul, and to this particular item, which is indeed sort of heartwarming.

Researchers from the Barna survey asked respondents how they felt about evangelicals, born-again Christians, ministers, and other groups of people in society. According to the survey, evangelicals came in tenth out of eleven, narrowly beating out prostitutes.

Now my first reaction is actually how sad it is that innocent sex-workers came out last on the survey. But the fact that evangelicals were second to last is indeed an encouraging sign. (The story seems legit, see for instance this press release for details.)

Various things I'd like to eventually talk about. For instance the fatuous Wired article about the "convergence" between science and religion (summary: religion has always believed strange stuff, science nowadays has found some pretty strange stuff, so science is becoming more like religion). Has like one casual sentence on the important point: that science and religion are completely different ways of arriving at beliefs, and that nothing like "convergence" is going on there. Science works, religion doesn't.

This deserves a multi-page rant, but I'm not up for it at the moment. (Surely there was a MeFi thread on it? I'm so out of touch.)

(Don't interpret this as an attack on religious people, or on the notion of value as something separate from fact. My problem is only with the idea that either facts or values are things that come down to us from some super-human source and are written down in some particular book, or passed down by some particular caste of priests. That, as we say around here, turns out not to be the case.

But I said I wasn't going to rant!)

Monday, December 9, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Wow, it gets cold in the house when the outside temperature's down around 15°F, and the furnace is in nighttime mode.

The theory, of course, is that the furnace can let the house get colder because everyone's nice and cozy under the covers.

But I'm still back here in the back room, theory notwithstanding, typing on this computer.

I was going to stay up just a few minutes after M, writing in the weblog and maybe checking casually into Metababy and GNE.

But (again) I got caught up in the silly anarchy of Metababy somehow (the Gallery doesn't really do it justice; it captures only the stil images, not the dynamic of creation and destruction).

And I haven't checked into GNE at all, to see if the gamestate has been wiped as the developers were saying it would be.

With any luck I'll be able to resist that until tomorrow.

I was going to post a batch of unposted reader input, but somehow I'm too cold and/or sleepy to figure out what the oldest unposted reader input is.

I'm not very organized.

But it's nice to sit here in the cold house typing comparatively short paragraphs into the editor.

Writing in my weblog.

A nice thought somehow.

We got a Christmas tree on Saturday (I think it was Saturday), driving up to Abel's Trees as usual and cutting one down.

There was snow on the ground for a change, ankle-deep and powdery.

It was sunny, and the kids ran around, throwing snow into the air to watch it sparkle and swirl in the beams.

They still don't have lots of large trees, but we found one big one way at the end of a field, in the opposite direction from the pond-side where we found one last year.

It was a long carry back to the bailing station; now it's sitting all decorated in the living room.

I used to feel bad about Christmas trees: "Let's kill something and put its dying body in the living room to celebrate the holiday!".

But recently I've begun to feel more like plants don't really mind. Cut them down, they just come up again, the same one, or another instance of the same genome, or something else similar.

They have no plans.

As far as I know.

I plan to go to bed.

Nice you stopped by!


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