Friday, April 30, 2010

Facebook = not

So if I post something fabulous to my blog and get no response, no problem.

But you post something fabulous to Facebook and get: 1 child, 1 sibling, 1 coworker. I don't know. I'm tempted to just go back to the blog.

So here it is:

I found Stonewall Jackson in the marble tile floor of our 1st floor bathroom.
What's he done with Jebus? I sure hope Jebus is ok ...

This is about as funny as I can get ...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sin # 3: Hampering Scientific Research Re Stem Cells And Cloning

After some extemporaneous rants, we return to the extended, multi-part rant.

Religous opposition to stem cell and cloning research follows two themes:

  1. The "all human cells are potential people and as such may have souls" magical thinking. As in the discussion of abortion, if we are going to do everything possible to protect back to the zygote stage, then clearly these cells are off limit to any research -- even if they are being held in storage at a fertility clinic and will be destroyed if the parent couple decides they don't need them. Meanwhile, what kind of controls and limitations are there on stem cell research in China, Japan and Korea? Pretty much none. We actually wound up effectively encouraging top foreign-born researchers in these areas to return to their home countries, where their work would be encouraged by the government rather than restricted.
    It says something for the zealotry of conservatives that even in the face of a direct, emotional plea by Nancy Reagan on behalf of her beloved Ronnie -- Ronald Reagan, probably the most beloved conservative of the last 50 years -- for stem cell research as a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, she was turned down flat.
  2. The "this is the affair of god, man has no business here" cant. Fear of the various genies that science can let out of their bottles dates back to Mary Shelley and "Frankenstein". Some legitimate fears here (re Bill Joy and "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us"), but, by and large, my feeling is, you can't keep technology advances bottled up. They will break out. The sooner you realize that and make realistic plans to deal with it, the better.

Here's a little song I made up. I think you can guess the tune:
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 1]
It don't know about evolution.
It don't know about relativity.
It don't know about quantum mechanics.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 2]
It wasn't there when they split the atom.
It wasn't there for the double helix.
It wasn't there for the human genome.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 32,768]

And so on ...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The iPad is Here, the iPad is Here!

So, UPS dropped off an iPad here yesterday. I had ordered the cheapest one: 16GB, Wifi only, on the 1st day you could. I thought they started at $400, oops, $500. Oh well. Two reasons for ordering:
  1. For a couple of years, I have been wanting a tablet computer that I hold in my hands and sit in a comfy chair and surf the web, read RSS feeds, read Web comics, maybe read eBooks. The iPad seemed to be just that.
  2. My wife loves her iPhone. She has hated every other computer, including a mac, that the has ever had. She reads books on it, and browses the web for hours on it. An iPad seemed like a great idea for her as well.
So, it came, I hooked it up to my PC. My idea is this is a shared resource that lives in the family room -- an electronic magazine on the coffee table. I put all my pictures on it, and 7 kids movies. BTW, two features that I hadn't heard about:
  1. a button that locks the screen orientation, I would presume for lying on your side and reading in bed.
  2. a soft button next to the "slide to unlock" that makes it a digital picture frame. Just as the iPhone replaced many devices (it's a flashlight! it's a metronome! it's a guitar tuner! ...), you wonder what devices the iPad will replace.
So the movies and pix took about 2/3 of the 16GB. No music, I decided, Pandora and web only. Then downloaded apps -- besides the top 50 paid and free in the app store this link had some good suggestions. So far, less than two screens of apps, with the personal ones (mail, notes, contacts and calendar) moved to a (hopefully unused) third screen.

The apps so far:

  • the free iBooks reader from Apple. I like this much better than the kindle. The contrast is so much better, and the larger size I also like much better. They give you one sample book, "Winnie the Pooh". The color illustrations are great. In portrait mode you read a single page, in landscape, two pages (the book is open). Tap the screen to get controls at the top for Table of Contents, and changing contrast, font size and font face, and a slider at the bottom for jumping to any page. But what I really liked was: you double tap a word, you get choices: dictionary gives you a dictionary entry; bookmark creates a bookmark there, which then shows up with the TOC; and Search will find all occurrences of the word in the book, or will search google or wikipedia! What a way to read non-fiction or scientific material, a true hyperbook.
  • ABC player (free) to go with YouTube. Recent series episodes with limited commercials. I think everyone's fingers are crossed for Hulu to show up.
  • Nat Geo World Atlas ($2) to go with Maps. Also free Weather Channel and WeatherBug. Maps look great.
  • USA Today, NPR, NY Times Editors choice, Bloomberg financial app -- all free. Readers are very clear and easy to read. The Bloomberg app is beautiful.
  • wikipanion, epicurious (recipes), pandora, free books (23,000 classics -- the reader is not near as nice as iBooks, no reason why it couldn't be), dragon dictation -- all free. Wolfram Alpha 1.99, Voice recorder 0.99.
  • The Elements, my most expensive purchase at $13.99. An interactive coffee table book on the periodic table, with two pages per element. Tons of pictures and video, really cool.
  • IMDb movie database; Adobe ideas and another free Draw program; all free.
  • A bunch of games, $9.99 to free: crosswords, scrabble, sudoku, mahjong, labyrinth, magic piano. They all look great.
  • A marvel comics reader (free) - guilty as charged.
I spent a total of $45 on apps.

Overall, viewing content on this thing is great. The downsides:

  • it is definitely a little heavy. My left hand cramped a few times holding it yesterday.
  • the typing is not great (I am a touch typist). In portrait mode, I can type OK with my thumbs like I do on the iPhone -- a person with smaller hands could not. In landscape, I was kind of touch typing the right hand keys and hunt and pecking the left hand keys with my right hand. After I went back to my iPhone, it was like "Wow, it's so light! And so easy to hold! And so much easier to type!". So, iPad is much better for reading, if you want to do serious input I would figure on getting the bluetooth keypad. I saw one review with the guy complaining how anti-web 2.0 -- the web of participation -- the iPad was, because input is hard.
All in all, tho, I think it will fill the roles that I bought it for. I think I probably won't use it much. (I might have used it to surf, read RSS, and do FB while a basketball game was on, but b-ball season is over :-<) My wife seems to definitely like it for web access from the family room. And, we actually had some kids in the house recently, I think it has stuff to keep kids occupied for a while. I've invited my older children (and spouse) to visit in the next month or so to see what apps (particularly games) they would add, because there are introductory low prices on stuff now that may go up later.

I will advise if it does wind up just being a paper weight.

Letters to the Editor

I had a letter to the editor in the Herald Leader a few weeks ago supporting health care reform. I sent this one in Friday night, in response to a letter writer justifying the Iraq war and naysaying the health care reform (which has passed!) with, "In the Bible, the story of the Good Samaritan is a classic example of non-governmental intrusion.". My response:
I would like to discuss a couple of the issues raised by Mr. J. D. Mackey in his letter of 4/2/10.

Firstly, with regard to the Iraq war, my recollection is that, although he was very belligerent and obstructionist, Sadam Hussein did finally agree to let the UN inspectors into Iraq. But, that wasn't enough for us, we decided to invade. I don't think we will ever really know why. My worst fear is that, we were too successful in Afghanistan in 2002, and Mr. Cheney and his friends at Haliburton and Blackwater had not obtained enough data on the possible profit margins of outsourcing war, and just wanted some more data.

Regardless, we invaded, and the blood of the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died is on all of our hands. This is several dozen times the number of innocent deaths of 9/11. And, no Weapons of Mass Destruction or facilities to produce WMDs were found, and everyone agrees, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

That blood is on my hands, and on all of our hands.

Secondly, with regard to the bible, I would direct Mr. Mackey to Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35.

"2:44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."

"4:34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need."

A bit stronger than the trickle down economics of the good samaritan, yes?

Actually, it reminds me of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" -- Karl Marx, 1875. It's a good thing that The United States is NOT a christian country -- if it were, we'd have to change the system of government from democracy to communism!

I've been answering every teabagger post I see on Facebook, and any place where I normally comment. I try to be rational, stick to just the facts. But, it's so hard. Like the letter above, reading the verses, a christian might say "Maybe there's something to think about here". But, quoting Marx and comparing christianity to communism, although accurate, is basically a cheap shot, a finger in the eye (Stoogism rules!) -- your average christian is going to take offense. Maybe I just need to do this more often to where I can stay on point more easily.

Speaking of fingers in the eye, this NSFW Bill Maher clip also explores physical metaphors for how to deal with republicans.

Happy Bunny Day

In my capacity as Founder, Chief Elder, and Spokesperson for the Church of Holiday Movie Personages, it is my duty and pleasure to wish everyone a Happy Bunny Day! CHMP (pronounced chump) worships exclusively The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. Santa's elves are included in the pantheon in a role similar to angels, but anyone attempting to add Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer to make a trinity is, of course, a dangerous heretic who will be excommunicated (following a lengthy ritual purification).

We of CHMP believe that if we live good lives and follow the gold and silver rules, when we die we get to go either to Bunnyland, to help in the production of The Bunny's goodies, or The North Pole, to help Santa. (How did you think they got all that stuff made and organized?) In both places, you are allowed to snitch and eat as much as you want, and you never get fat!

We also recognize The Grinch in the role filled by the devil. But, happily, he gets converted from The Dark Side to The Light Side every year! We are working to adapt this process to republicans ...