Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Historical Dunning-Kruger effect

Another copy of the local paper has hit my doorstep and it too lacks a new article by Mr. Kline. I know, by visiting his website, that he has produced at least one new piece. Whether Mr. Kline’s newest writings have been shunned due to poor quality, or whether the local paper has bowed to censorship pressures, I do not know.


There was another letter strongly criticizing Mr. Kline. That brings the total to five against, zero in favor. I would write in but, even though I have been meaning to replace it with a outdoor CF bulb, I do not want my porchlight shot out. The latest letter came at a particularly interesting moment. I had just learned of the Dunning-Kruger effect (DKE) and the letter appeared to be a reasonable illustration of it.


Holly Pyne’s (of Tooele) letter was given a great title “Minority can’t rewrite history”. What was meant by this exactly? After reading the letter it became clear that rewriting history is the job of the purported majority and that the minority should stay home and be minor.


Holly asks: “why do we, as the majority, continue to close our eyes to this injustice.” ? What injustice? Apparently even mentioning the idea of keeping god out of anywhere, or as Holy Holly puts it: “Those who do not believe seem to think they have the right to dictate to the rest of us how, when and where we can worship God.”


When I read Kline’s piece, which is something I might have not done if not for these letters condemning it, I do not get the same message. Kline paints himself as a (at least) deist, not a non-believer. He does not mention worship, only schools and saying “god” in the pledge of allegiance. I wonder what kind of injustice the holy Ms. Pyne would feel if she suspected that people who were real reasoning atheists actually shopped at the same WalMart as her. People like me might interfere with the magic microwaves she receives from her invisible friend. She would probably have to break out the tinfoil hat.


What does this terrible injustice have to do with history? The purpose of the letter is to say who can rewrite history is it not? Ms. Holy seriously degrades the entertainment value of her letter by only mentioning actual historical events twice.


The first mention is my favorite. She rhetorically asks what the founding principle of the country was, and then answers this question with another rhetorical question: “Was it not based on the fact that those who were Christians came here so they could worship God freely?”. That is an actual Holly Pyne of Tooele quote, I did not make it up or add to it at all. Who’s religious intolerance does she believe the pilgrims were escaping…Buddhists? That the whole Christian vs Christian thing mixed with politics was an important motivator for the pilgrims appears to have been lost on her.


I can picture in my mind the idyllic scene that dominates Pyne’s take on American history. After being driven out of Europe by Atheist Satanists the pilgrims can finally relax beside the warmth of a fire made from books and witches. Maybe they can roast marshmallows? Smores?


The second is more pedestrian. Pyne asks (again with the rhetorical question, she likes this literary device a bit too much) “Was it not those same forefathers who also wrote the Pledge of Allegiance and put in it “one nation under God?”.” Well no, it was not the same folks Holly. The “One nation under god” was added in the 50s with support from tail-gunner Joe McCarthy commie hunters. Any surviving pilgrims would have been around 300 years old at the time.


Pyne caps her tirade off with a plea for perseverance “As long as there is a believer in any part of politics, God is there.”. Are we running out of believers in politics? I do not believe that ignorance is in danger of underrepresentation in American politics. With crusaders like Ms. Pyne I do not foresee a future where ignorance is in danger of eradication.


I ran across mention of the DKE in a blog I happened across. The idea was intriguing. The more ignorant or incompetent a person is the more competent or intelligent they see themselves. I was initially struck by the idea that the DKE explained my long winded - poorly edited writing style. After reading Ms. Pyne I believe the DKE is making history in the US.


I will most certainly be on the lookout for DKE in the future.


“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
— Bertrand Russell


“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
-Charles Darwin





Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The scarlet letter

I have been eying Richard Dawkins' OUT campaign for some time. The scarlet letter is a marvelous symbol with delicious literary allusions. I should wear it proudly, and I have decided to put it up on this blog.

I was initially hesitant for several reasons.

The first reason is the unfortunate verbiage. OUT campaign sounds like a gay rights group. I'm not sure why Dawkins chose this name. It was not a good choice. Mathew Shepard was killed a few months after I moved to this little town in Utah. The community he was tortured to death in was not too dissimilar from the little town that sits outside my door, quietly blanketed with holiday snow. Gay rights activists have fought a sometimes loosing battle for justice and understanding that deserves, at this point in history, to be made special from other (even worthy) causes.

The second reason was the fear of inadequacy.  The statement "Just because something can be written in a grammatically correct sentence does not mean it is true" may be worthy and true.  Coupling my reasoning with my lazy editing style may work out to prove the converse.

I also do not want to entirely reform my lexicon in one fell swoop to be more accurate in spiritual-like matters.  I wish to be more concerned with talking about things than talking about how I talk about things.  The terminology of life is linked culturally to the terminology of the spiritual. To take the statement that “the Zen Archer is the bow, the arrow and the target” literally is laughable. To ignore the statement's message about shortcuts in mapping perception to action is to ignore a hard-learned lesson in directing human action. The Zen archer statement is incorrect and useful. I will probably use similar shortcuts in my descriptions of activities.

The reasons I do want to put up the scarlet “A are numerous. I appreciate the collective reasoning of the new atheism. I want there to be a better future for my kids and the morality and thoughtfulness of the atheists I have read and spoken with appears the purest force for developing it. There are many other reasons that I will save expounding on for the future.

The reason I wanted to do it now are fairly pedestrian. On December 15th the local newspaper published a syndicated column by the editorialist Daniel B. Kline. I'm not a big fan of Mr. Kline. He probably writes far better than do I, but his opinions are often limp-wristed and apologetic. His Deist-centric piece on his preference for keeping religion out of public schools was in no way objectionable. He did spend an inordinate amount of wordspace on espousing now culturally normal belief in a god is. But he is the sort of writer that, when he espouses, usually does so about things he thinks are normal. A real modern Norman Rockwell opinionsmith. That's surely why they reprint him in the local newspaper.

On December 20th (it is a biweekly paper ), on the letters page, there were four letters roundly criticizing Mr. Klines piece. They went so far as to threaten ending subscriptions because the paper had printed Mr. Klines opinion. Mr. Klines latest article was NOT printed where it would have normally been.

A sampling of the opinions follows:

“I can’t watch the very few who agree with him whine their way to destroying the important truths that, since the beginning, have been the glue which holds this great country together. It sickens me to see the decline of moral values, increase in crime and destruction, and general loss of hope that is creeping into the hearts, minds, and actions of Americans. An argument could easily be made that as these trends began to rise, our belief in God began to decline.” Aaron Spilker, Stansbury Park

“If, as Kline states, most Americans believe in God, then why must the majority bow to the minority professing secular religious beliefs?” Catham Beer, Tooele

“I love your paper, but I’m sick of the politically correct crap prevailing from the immoral minority. Wake up before you print that kind of garbage again. God will some day bring us down like other powerful societies throughout history.” Dave Brunelle, Stansbury Park

“The word is called faith. Faith in God is what gives everyone hope and a sense of well being. Kids need that.” Jan Wishart, Grantsville

This is a sampling not just of opinion but of the force that would silence dissent and enforce conformity. Atheists may be a minority but we are one of the fastest growing most intelligent and potentially powerful minorities in the US. We live amongst you and we are wear the faces of those you know and trust. I will put up the scarlet letter "A"!

Also, since this is a mostly anonymous blog entitled Adult Onset Atheist there is really nothing more to fear by linking in. I love grand, mostly empty, gestures of defiance.



Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy April 6

Today, in Utah, much celebration called Christmas will take place. Interspersed among the pagan symbolism (Christmas trees etc) and materialistic indulgence (presents under said Christmas tree) are notions of the tortured god-made-man-made-god called Jesus. The ugly “Jesus is the reason for the season” signs will only be put out by the baptists, but most Mormons will tell you that Christmas is the birthday of Jesus. Unless you ask them about April 6th.

Some Mormons may even say they do not know about April 6th. Some pretend that it is erroneous.

Since the interface between Mormon belief and observable reality is a constantly changing vapid morass of conjecture it is not surprising that something as concrete as a date becomes blurry. This is surprising as the April 6th date is established in Mormon scripture (as opposed to the generally used December 25th date which is kinda made up). The Mormon scriptures may be so ambiguously written as to throw even those to whom they were written into doubt, but the Mormons also have living prophets. Two living prophets (Lee and Kimball) spoke of April 6th as the birthday of Jesus. This means that, should you get confused by the scripture, god spoke directly through his prophets to tell you when his son's birthday was.

That should be pretty strong stuff, if you believe in the prophet-scripture-faith thing at all. That so many people who call themselves Mormons deny or avoid this seemingly concrete mapping of their revelation onto the calendar is interesting.

If the local WalMart could be convinced (Just like they have been convinced to have an LDS book section up near the registers) to promote Christmas in April I think it might catch on. Perhaps I could be more blunt and state that the unique perspective on Christmas, that when we celebrate it does not actually mean anything , is an opportunity to emphasize those things we truly believe. Those things being that we like a god who does stuff (like the pagan gods who make trees and seasons) and more than that we like the stuff that god makes (Particularly X-Box games).

Now I do not hold that the concrete specifics of a religion make it any more or less believable. The idea that everything could be the result of happenings in a galaxy long long ago and far far away is just as palatable as any more local myth.  I am always amazed at the problems associated with mapping things that supposedly shaped all everything with actual dates and times. For instance, if the world was created in a day, then what date was that exactly? I've been told it was a Tuesday in October. Shouldn't there be celebrations in October for this; “World start day” or “let their be light day”?

Even if it is not spring the days are getting longer in this northern hemisphere. This is reason enough to celebrate. I've been in favor of the idea of pushing Christmas back to the solstice so it could be centered in an observable phenomenon. However you look at it a celebration in the darkest of winter months is a good thing. One cannot blame the Mormons for re-arranging their worship calendar to get a holiday in winter. However, one can point and laugh. It is always good to have laughter at parties, even Official Holiday parties.

"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!" - Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Frog eyeballs

The Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) have come in and are as interesting as I could have hoped.  I have created a recipe for Chia fresca, but the truth is that they are so simple to use that a recipe is a formality. 

Chia fresca is supposed to be another miracle drink.  The seeds are magic and are available as the direct result of re-discovering ancient ritualistic truths about mankind.  Presumably the truths were revealed by ancient Gods or astronauts.  I have trouble following these things but there is often a connection between aliens from outer space and colon health (and you wondered why the anal probes?).

I would not be surprised to see Chia patches and tonics marketed for all sorts of things in the not-too-distant future.  The seeds are readily available, very easy to grow, and currently a second-rate cash crop in parts of south America.

The nutrition information is somewhat impressive.  Lots of Omega 3s, antioxidants, calcium, other good stuff.  I'm not sure the seeds would work as a primary food source. The Tarahumara apparently use them as an energy drink on their very long (100 mile plus) runs. 

The cost of the Chia seeds is similar (slightly less) to that of other energy drink options.  I thought they would be worth a try.

The basic method I use for them is:
Put a 50ml scoop of them into a 1 liter water bottle.
then add enough powdered energy drink of choice to make 1/2 a liter of drink. 
then add 1 liter of water.
cap and shake.

It is important to shake the bottle for a while as the seeds can clump irreversibly when beginning to swell.  Usually I can shake the bottle for a couple of minutes, let it sit for 15 minutes, and shake it again to successfully prevent clumps.  The bottle is then left in the fridge overnight to get the best consistency.

The consistency is the coolest thing about these.  The seeds swell and produce a gelatinous sheath, kind-of like a capsule on a microorganism.  The effect is that the drink looks like it is full of the eggs of some kind of amphibian.  I like it.

I have tried to make drinks with a similare consistancy using basil seeds.  The Basil seeds I have gotten from local Asian markets did not work well.  Perhaps they were not fresh enough.  These Chia seeds have produced my first real success in making what I lake to call a "frog eyeball" drink.  I picture Macbeths witches slugging the stuff despite the fact that they clearly ask for "eye of newt and toe of frog".  Somehow "Newt eyeball drink" or "frog toe tonic" did not work for me.

I've tried to picture the final product for you bellow.  The picture on the right is un-augmented.  On the left I've stained the gelatinous sheaths with a black dye.  The scale and concentration of chia seeds are roughly the same.





The recipie:

4 TBSP Chia seeds
1 TSP Lime juice
2 TBSP Honey
1 Liter water

Monday, December 21, 2009

Zeno's paradox

Zeno's is a particularly unsatisfying paradox for me. By Zeno of Elea's paradox I describe a generalized version of his most popular two (the arrow, and Achilles and the tortoise)

Firstly it makes you work to get what it is about. The recursive paradoxes are much more inviting in this regard. Who cannot be sucked in by the “this statement is false” paradox. After thinking about this recursive paradox for a while you can at least be comfortable in the knowledge that the only time you have wasted is the time actually spent thinking about the paradox itself.

Secondly there are several apparent solutions to Zeno's paradox.


Zeno's paradox is traditionally told as some sort of question concerning a really fast Greek god racing a turtle or some great Greek warrior like Achiles running to someplace famous. The details are not important. My favorite explanation of it is embedded in a joke.


  An engineer, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist went to a dance. Shyly they positioned themselves against a wall where they had a good view of the dance.
  The mathematician sighed heavily and said “I wish I could go ask one of those people sitting at that table over there to dance with me, but it is impossible.”
  “Why is that?” asked the theoretical physicist.
  “If I go halfway over to the table, I will still have halfway to go” replied the Mathematician.
  “Yes” Said the engineer.
   “Then if I cover half the remaining distance I will still have a quarter of the way to go” Said the mathematician.
  “Yes” Replied the engineer.
  The mathematician continued “I can then cover half the remaining distance, but a 16th of the distance remains.”
  The theoretical physicist chimed in “Everytime you cover half the distance to the table a small but calculatable amount of distance remains.”
  “Right!” said the mathematician “So it impossible for me to go over there and ask for a dance”
  The physicist was about to commiserate with a “too bad for us” when the Engineer got up and walked over to the table.
  The physicist and the mathematician watched in amazement as the engineer asked a particularly attractive young lady to dance, proceeded to dance with her, gave her a lingering kiss, and then came back to their place on the wall.
  “How did you do that?” asked the physicist in awe.
  “Although you were correct I calculated that I would be able to get close enough for any purpose I could think of”.


I like the joke because it is one of the very few I can think of where the engineer gets the girl. Of course with competition like a theoretical physicist and a mathematician the odds are seriously stacked in his favor.


The crux of the paradox is that infinite division creates an infinite number of pieces. Any number can be used. Any situation where the finite measurable quantity could conceivably be infinitely divided can be used. The purpose this paradox is used for most often is to introduce the infinitesimal. A common place to hear it is in introductory calculus. The trouble is that as soon as some people hear it they are thinking in terms of solutions and not of the backdoor introduction to the elusive fluxion.


A couple of solutions are:
  1. The mapping solution. Suppose you tell Mr. X that he can find the special something against the far wall of a room, but instead you put it about three quarters of the way across the room. Mr. X dutifully covers half the distance to the far wall, knowing he will never reach it. He then covers half the remaining distance. Before he can move you run up to him telling him to reach down and pick up the special something.

    In this solution you know that Mr. X's proposed infinite path must cross through specific identifiable points (in this case I identified the three quarters point) along the way. You simply map the destination to one of these points so that Mr.X and the special something are coincidental.
  1. The multi-dimensional limit solution. This is the solution most desired by teachers of beginning calculus. In this one the engineer is pictured as traveling at a constant rate of speed. He travels half the distance across the room in one minute (it is a really big room). He then covers half the remaining distance in 30 seconds. Half the remaining distance in 15 seconds, half the remaining after that in 7.5 seconds. In this way as the chunks of distance get infinitesimal so to do the periods of time taken to traverse them. One can then show that if one adds up this infinite set of numbers it can take no longer than one minute to traverse the second half of the room.

    Here the number of parcels in one dimension are offset by the size of those parcels in another dimension. If I were teaching introductory calculus I would pause at this point and introduce several notational schemaes.
  1. The improbability solution. This solution may be my favorite because its heart it is fraught with complexity. What do we really know, and when do we know it? When the poor paradox-ed individual leaves from their starting point the questions of their existence are small with respect to the question at hand. We can identify a ratio of their size to the size of the distance traversed. For any reasonably sized distance that ratio is quickly stood on it's head. When the distance to be traversed is close to the size of the traverser then aspects of the traverser become important. How far have they really moved? If they breath in and their chest expands have they moved again? If they breath out are they moving backwards? Even if we shore up our paradox with some lame stipulation we do not keep trouble at bay for long. Due to the nature of geometric progressions we are soon at the size where surface irregularities rule. The border of a human, at the microscopic level, is not precise. Cells slough off, bacteria move around, strange growths blossom. Are the chunks of skin raining off the mover still part of them? The nature of the verbal tricks needed to maintain our paradox are week at this point, but more trouble awaits. Soon we are at the scale of the atom. Is the individual as large as the distance traveled by the furthest electron orbit associated with the atom closest to the destination? Since that orbit is well described as a probability cloud that extends around neighboring atoms (including those in air molecules) how do we draw a line? Are we to be cavalier and arbitrarily choose one? If we do this then aren't we arbitrarily creating a paradoxical structure. What does the paradox mean if we are to depend on arbitrary decisions in order to maintain it? We become subjective. To person B the traveler has passed into the sphere of the destination. Person C (who is more interesting than persons A or B) notes that there is a certain probability of calculatable physical interaction even before the traveler started across the room and could be said to have arrived even before leaving.

    Persons A and B often wonder why they ever invite person C to their parties.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Micah 1:8

Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls.
(KJB)

I've always liked this bible quote because it sounds like something said at the start of a great party.   People asure me I take it out of context.  I've read it in context and do not remember anything particularly interesting about the context.  I submit therefore that I do not take it from context; that I liberate it willingly from the confines of context.  freed thusly it speaks more of the awesomeness of life.

 I ran along the beach last week and felt like my breath, labored and raw as running makes it, was the whistling of mythical beasts.  How I would like to hear them wail and howl at the sky.  Dogs cry the moon to earth and taunt the tuneless crooner in the same voice.

I ran into several things that would make great starts for a metephorical discusion. two of them:

1) I found a dead possum.  It was laid beside the road, half under a bush.  On top of it were laid some bunches of rough yellow flowers.  Each bunch was the size a child's hand could gather.

2)  I developed a blister on my insole while running.  In order to run the next day I put a "medicated" bandaid on the blister.  The medication fused with the raw blistered skin ripping it off and leaving a oozing sore when it was removed.

Two things happened that pleased me to the point of giggles.

1) Someone uploaded an old poem of mine into wikipedia and I found it quite by accident.

2) I moved some emotional detritus from a corner of my mind and found a dear friend.

Some people say that to be an atheist is to pull yourself from the flow.  Some would demand that feelings are logic-ed away in the same breath that dispels an awkward god.

We are made of the stuff of stars and we shine.  Our lives that create love are made of the stuff and we move like massless particles.

I looked for the green flash again.  I have yet to convincingly see it.  However, in looking, I have seen things like this:



Monday, December 14, 2009

Yes Santa there is no snow

Every-time I even think about southern California I get a feeling of crushing loneliness.

I don't have a good reason for this. 

My memories of the place are filled with all night conversations
and coffee jitters till dawn. 
Of uncompromising love
and a strange season-less beauty. 
Of salt and sand and sunburns and scents.

When I landed for my week here it was raining.  The 405 and 101 were moving at about 15MPH and the trip to Oxnard took hours.  The world beyond my tunnel of vision and the taillights of the car in front of me was gone.  I was alone, surrounded by people in cars.  What better way to re-connect with the feelings of alone and unwanted and unloved and other un-ness.  It is easy to hate LA and its environs.  It gives a name and substance to the source of my feelings, however inaccurate the identification is. 

One thing about knowing the plans for the future is that I can make coincidental plans.  This time in soCal I was going to make things different.  This time I had a plan. 

Like many of my plans most of it fell through.  First I tried to contact old frineds from LB but those I could find had moved and others I could not find or could not meet me half way (it is a really long way from south Orange County to Ventura).  I also tried contacting a couple of friends who had moved to LA.  Of course contacting people you have not spoken to in 20+ years is more of an affront than a pleasant surprise. 

The next phase was to convert the landscape into a more personal terrain.  If you have ever driven in LA you know that the world changes when you leave the freeways.  Locally they call the non-freeway streets "surface streets" as if you are coming in from an extra-planetary orbit when you exit onto them.    My plan was not to just leave the freeways and tool around on planet LA but to come into intimate contact with the planet's surface.  I was going to do this by running, specifically a race, along the streets of an unfamiliar city. 

The race that co-incided with my schedule was the "Santa to the Sea" half marathon. 

To me, as an atheist, there is something intriguingly sublime about the Santa concept.  The concept is steeped in the terminology of belief.  People even sport "I believe" buttons at this time of year.  There are long-winded stories and movies and songs about believing in Santa.  But even the people who most fervently identify with the believe in Santa verbiage in no way actually believe in Santa.  I think this is cool.  I also think it is a subtle way that society exposes how people can express belief in something like a theist god without believing at all.

At the last minute I reconsidered running in the VFF and used my "regular" shoes.  The race went very well.  I finished in the top 90% and ran a PR.  This 68 year old man with a T-shirt that said "100 marathon club" passed me in the last mile.  I would STRONGLY recommend taking up running if you do not now, especially if you are significantly slower than I am.

The ultimate purpose, that of emotional grounding, was exceptionally well achieved.  There are elements of being human that can be manipulated to make life more enjoyable.  I have often looked at things and asked myself "what is really going on here (WIRGOH pronounced and sometimes spelled WeirGo or WierdGo)"?  Luckily I have not succumb to the engineering disease, but I do bear scars from it.

In the past few years I have more aggressively applied the WierdGo principal to life.  Many times this principle works better for life issues than for things.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Period three implies chaos

Today I went into AOD's school and did a short presentation on Chaos. I've always liked chaos as a concept.
Chaos passes through the times in life where the unstable mixture of frustration and confusion and rage have been ignited by a spark of love. The devastation left by this conflagration leaves tiny fragments of life, each of which bears a similarity to the whole. The deeper you look the greater the number of similar patterns emerge. As you zoom out to try and take in the whole the patterns fit together in a jumbled superpatern with familiar resemblance to each piece. Because the fragments fit together it is not as if the world has broken; more like a veil has been removed and detail beyond the powers of human resolution are revealed.
Of course in going in to talk to AOD's advanced Jr. high math-class I take a slightly less maudlin approach to the subject. I also wanted to avoid the use of complex numbers. So I found a really cool little program and rewrote it cludgily (word?) to run on Linux and printed up a giant multi-page Mandelbrot poster. I am too embarrassed of my own code to post it, but here is a link to the original coder. Perhaps I'll post a picture of the poster if I go back to school before it gets destroyed. Something about being in a Jr. High at all that makes my skin crawl. All I really know about Jr. High is how to engage in trouble so profound the very mental state of the delinquents is eroded. Often we must not teach from our own experiences, but instead from the things we read in books.
The Mandelbrot set is such an easy concept considering it is infinity complex. The way I presented it was by 1st going over the Koch curve, Menger sponge, a few nature fractals and then the logistic equation. I then presented the following equations:

Which I described as iterative functions. I presented the output generated by iterating from a couple of closely spaced points (carefully chosen so one of them was in the Mandelbrot set and the other was outside). The picture looked like this:

I explained that I would put a black dot where the starting point of the spiraling-in iterative path began. “This black dot” I said “is IN the Mandelbrot set”.
I had this projected on the wall, so instead of going into the Pythagorean distance formula to determine the deviation from the starting point I picked up a meter stick and began to measure the distances right on the wall. This created a dramatic pause, filled only with mad gesticulations by a middle aged man. Then I exhaled the statement “when these measurements exceed two we count the number of iterations it took to get here”. I turned to the audience and changed the slide to a spectral rainbow with a scale of integers beside it. “I then look up the number of iterations on this arbitrary color scale and color in the dot.”
“The”
I paused
“result”
I changed the slide.
“of filling in all the dots outside the Mandelbrot set on the Cartesian coordinate system is this”

“...and if we zoom in here”
I pointed to a small box on the slide
“we get this”
and I put up this slide.

“And if we zoom again we get this.”

“Again and this”

“and this”

“again”

“again...”

I thought it went over OK. Perhaps I get a little to theatrical for a third period Jr. High math-class. Of course “period three implies chaos”.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cycling Tube Boob


Cycling should be boring to watch, and I'm sure for many folks it is. This is natural. The act of cycling is simply the act of pedaling over and over and over again. Sure there is much more amazing scenery in cycling than say basketball.But what goes on should be mind-numbingly dull. one guy pedals while other guys pedal until one goes a little faster...wow.


I can set up my rollers and pedal away for hours re-watching Fabian Cancellara win the 2006 Paris Roubaix, or Tom Boonen win the 2005 tour of Flanders, or my favorite...watching Floyd Landis win the 2006 Tour de France.


When I watch movies on my rollers I turn the speakers up loud so I can catch the dialog. With the cycling I am as likely to be listening to Jimi Hendix as Phil Liggett.


I'm not much of a fan of cycling. I kinda follow it. I was very pleased that Cadel Evans won the 2009 world road race, but I did not find out for a couple of days. Most sports writing bores me to tears. Yet I can watch what should be one of the world's most boring videotaped events with my attention glued to the tube.


Part of it is the exhaustion. Changes in body English or bike control as well tuned athletes are ground down by their own effort. The cyclists are not performing they are expending themselves. Little changes in position alter the amount of power they must generate to maintain speed.


I've watched a couple of marathons and they are not that intriguing to me. The runner tries so hard to conserve energy that the signs of exhaustion and effort are subtle. When the mobile cameras get in close to show what the runner's face looks like they always appear to me to have a “get that camera out of my face” type look. It is not just the exhaustion that makes cycling so interesting to me, as marathon runners also exhaust themselves fully in their discipline.


Perhaps it is the drugs. The riders' not mine. Is “doping” the same as “using”?


This season's marathon training coupled with my gym membership have robbed me of important bicycling DVD time. When I get back from CA the Kestral is going on the rollers and the covers are coming off the DVD's. I have this one of a guy called Alberto Contador (Stephen Colbert says his name means “douchebag” en Espanol) winning the 2007 TDF. I hear the "flying chicken" is in rare form that year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Star Wars Jesus

Just the other day I made contact with an old friend. Perhaps I would be better to say a friend of old as I had not communicated with them for a couple of decades. In the communication there were several allusions to things of a “spiritual” nature. For no particular reason this made me think of Star wars Jesus (SWJ)
If there was a Jesus that I could really like it would be SWJ. Bleeding cross Jesus and fatherly overlord Jesus actually make me a bit nauseous. The bible pounding poorly defined “you must repent Jesus” often causes me to imagine the late stages of tropical skin diseases.

I am so very pleased that SWJ has become so very popular these days. There are even some folks trying to codify SWJ. They have written a book.

The SWJ I am talking about is the Jesus that is everywhere and nowhere at all. You simply “have to believe” and have “moral thoughts” attributed to SWJ and you can go to heaven. Let the force be with you. A couple reasons why I like SWJ are these:
1) It requires a personal moral compass to exist. Right and wrong exist independent of SWJ and she simply augments this. I like it when people believe it is necessary to know the difference between right and wrong. I do not like it when people say believing in a mythology anoints them with “moral truth”.
2) It is so ephemeral that it can be mapped onto physical attributes of the universe like simply being or the interaction of mater and energy. It is almost the fabric of the universe itself and is therefore as undeniable as chanting OM.
3) It’s existence relies on a self referential positive thought device that is probably quite healthy (mentally speaking).
In fact the only reasons not to like SWJ is the terminology, and perhaps an unfortunate allusion to iron-age mythology. If an alien had no idea what the vestigial terms meant when they had SWJ described to them it would sound pretty cool. It might be a bit pedestrian, as theoretical constructs go. As a mental exercise it could rank up their with Yoga or TM.
I don't think SWJ is a new or compelling idea in and of itself. SWJ is more of a sign of a theological coming of age. The secularists did not have many new ideas when they ushered in a age of liberal theology but they opened a window in society that let people look out. I think SWJ is such a window for our age. I can only hope that SWJ matures from a vague set of notions to a firm religious doctrine taught and canonized. The major obstacle to this is that SWJ is by her very nature a vague set of notions.