Feb 172017
 

Ugh. I feel several points dumber for having watched this. I shudder to imagine how idiotic I’d feel if I paid money to see the full thing.

It is pretty sad that so much time, effort and resources are expended on patently false nonsense. More than a century after the facts become universally available that shoot down the pillars of the argument here, people still trot this rubbish out. Sigh. But then, centuries after communism was shown to be disastrous, people still trot it out. Millenia after the Earth was shown to be spherical, flat Earthers still exist. Astrology. Ghost hunters. Dowsers. It seems that being objectively, provably false just makes some ideas immortal.

Especially sad that it is readily shot down, line by line:

 

 

 

 Posted by at 11:41 pm
Jan 302017
 

Last night news broke that gunmen had shot up a mosque in Quebec City. It was all over the news, on CNN and online. It was very quickly declared an act of terrorism (hard to argue that shooting up a group of random civvies is anything but), but apart from a death toll of five and the fact that two shooters were arrested, there was a distinct lack of data. I watched the news and poked around online for a while hoping that some details would come out, but apart from a whole lot of people screaming and speculating, there was nothing. I assumed that when I woke up this morning, CNN would lead off with the details about who the shooters were.

So I wake up, turn on the tube and see… nothing. They’re yammering about Trump, bitching about Friday’s executive order, showing Chuck Schumer crying about it, showing protestors doing what they can to inconvenience as many uninvolved people as they can. A few other news items, but I haven’t even seen them mention the Quebec attack. It’s dropped completely off the radar.

Last night the speculation ran rampant in various places that the shooting must have been carried out by white supremacists, Canadian Trump supporters, right-wing Quebecker nationalists… *some* form of alt-righter. Take a look at the comments HERE if you’ve a mind to. This morning all I can find is some sort of rumor that one of the shooters was of Moroccan origin, which would *tend* to argue against this being one of those long hoped-for (on the left) right-wing terrorist acts. The names *seem* to be Mohamed Khadir and Alexander Bissonnette, indicating that terrorists are finally getting in on the diversity bandwagon.

But CNN at least doesn’t seem too interested int he story now. It’s almost as if they have decided that it doesn’t fit their preferred narrative anymore.

UPDATE: It seems now that there is only a single suspect in custody, Alexander Bissonnette, who does seem to fit into the alt-right/white nationalist stereotype. Huzzah!This story can now be readily discussed on the news, I suppose.

 Posted by at 10:18 am
Jan 282017
 

President Giant Middle Finger has been busy signing executive orders left and right. Friday he signed one banning the importation of refugees and such from a few specific countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The idea, apparently, was to preclude the arrival of Jihadis who want to commit acts of terrorism in the US.

On the one hand, he is enraging the left and causing them to expend substantial effort, energy, time, political capitol and funds in protesting. Every day he signs an executive order that causes the causeheads to rant and rave; this by itself is neither good nor bad, though given how wrong and generally silly the leftist causeheads have been these last few decades I’m generally given to support whatever they oppose. This, of course, is pretty much what led to the Trump Presidency in the first place. Many leftists have taken the opportunity to crank up their hysterical hypobole generators all the way to eleven, such as:

As Trump severed the torch-bearing arm from the Statue of Liberty and the US went dark overnight on Friday…

The US went dark? Trump chopped the arm off the Statue of Liberty? Huh.

However, the refugee ban is problematic for a few reasons.

Firstly, it seems to have been slapped together without a whole lot of thought given to some of the ramifications. Thousands of legal US residents who were out of the country – such as former Iranians who have gone back to Iran to visit family – are now kinda up the creek, unable to board planes back to the US. Worse, it blocks Iraqis who aided the US military – translators and guides and such – from coming to the US. Unlike the vast majority of the “refugees,” those Iraqis who worked for the US are exactly the people we *should* be importing… not only do we want their kind (i.e. people who want to work for our interests), it is *right* to rescue those who have served our cause.

Second, while the nations on the list are understandable, there are some nations mysteriously left off. What about Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Turkey? These countries crank out the jihadi whackos as fast as the others… and they have a history of actually getting terrorists into the US.  It has been pointed out that Trump has no business dealings in the nations he’s banned… but he has substantial dealings with nations he didn’t. Hmmm.

And on another matter… during the inauguration protests, a limousine was vandalized with spraypaint then set on fire. There were a few layer of irony here. First the limo was spray painted with “We the people.” then set on fire. Which mean the protestors were setting “we the people” on fire. Second… the owner of the limo? Guess what. Muslim immigrant. Way to show your support, folks.

 

 Posted by at 9:51 pm
Dec 232016
 

So the UN finally got to pass an anti-Israel resolution. This sort of thing usually doesn’t happen,because the US is usually there to veto this sort of thing… but there’s only a month left to the Obama administration, and I guess he figured he has to stick as many knives in as many backs as he can in the time he has.

The summary of the resolution is that Israel is bad and wrong for building on “occupied territory.” Where this sort of thing *really* fails is that people who want to see Israel destroyed consider Israels own capital city, Jerusalem, as “occupied territory.” The US abstained from the vote because according to the current administration Israel building on territory that is not a part of any recognized nation is against the “two state solution.”

Here’s my solution: A “three state solution.” Israel should just go ahead and build settlements. But those settlements would *not* be a part of Israel if they are built on territory that wasn’t part of Israel *after* the 1967 war (which means that Israel keeps Jerusalem, duh). They would, instead, be a *new* nation. “New Israel,” or “Israel-Two,” whatever. This would have two benefits:

  1. New Israel would serve as a buffer zone and bullet sponge for Israel. It would be populated by Israelis who are ok with the notion that they will be constant targets. Over time this would produce an especially hardy breed of badass.
  2. As New Israel grows, the land available for the hypothetical nation of “Palestine” shrinks. This would be an incentive for the Palestinians to stop screwing around and get serious about the business of become a nation – which would include finally coming to accept the existence of Israel – before they lose ever land square inch of land to New Israel.

One potential business opportunity for the New Israelis would be mining operations. The settlements might dig *big* moats around themselves, perhaps 20 feet deep by 20 feet wide (potentially filled with genetically engineered crocoboars or some such). The dirt and rock could then be shipped through Israel to the Mediterranean, where it would be used to help build Israel out *westwards* and increase the land area.

 Posted by at 11:46 pm
Dec 092016
 

I noticed a few things during my aerospace engineering career:

1: The engineers *tended* to be more “right of center” than the general local population (this was especially true when I lived in California)

2: The engineers *tended* to be less religious than the general population.

Note the repeated use of “tended.” I’ve known outright hippie engineers, tie-dyed and all. I’ve known seriously religious engineers, to the point of taking a year off of work to go to the Maldives and try to convert the local Muslim population to a brand of fundamentalist Christianism (note: I doubt he had much success, but he at least returned alive). Still, at least the places I’ve seen, the general tendency was to be neither very leftist nor very religious.

I’ve mentioned this before. But I’m bored, so I’ll drone on about it again, because this is my blog and I get to do what I want.

The lack of religiosity among aerospace and mechanical engineers makes sense to me. Engineers need stuff to work… and they need to know *how* it works. A description of how some machine is supposed to function is not supposed to include at any part in the flow chart or documentation the phrase “and then a miracle occurs.” Magic and miracles are alien to the engineering experience. There may be joking about “gremlins” and the like, but, trust me, if some machine keeps failing and the team leader in charge of explaining why actually argues that “gremlins” are the root cause… they’re getting another team leader. Similarly, the god hypothesis is not helpful in design or analysis of much of *anything.* And people tend to not believe in or put much faith in things that provide no utility. This may mean that some people become less religious as they become trained as engineers, and it may mean that some people who are less religious gravitate towards engineering.

On the political front, I think one area *might* explain why engineers *tend* to be less left-leaning. The confluence of right and wrong with certainty and uncertainty.

For an engineer, there can be high certainty that something is wrong. Rare to get high certainty that something new and complex is right. Example: you can be quite certain that building the leading edge of your spaceplane out of pot metal is the *wrong* answer. For a skyscraper in a region prone to hurricanes and earthquakes, a structural framework made out of cast iron girders held together with tin rivets is also highly likely to be the wrong answer. The *right* answer for these problems will be the result of a lot of analysis, and even then there will be some level of uncertainty. The more difficult the problem, the more certain you are about “wrong,” the less certain you are about “right.” This leads to a certain form of conservatism.

For a sort of cliched leftist, though, there is often a different approach to right and wrong. We’ve all seen wacky stories about notions about not teaching children that “4+4=9 is wrong” because it’ll hurt their feelings, or not to tell someone that such-and-such behavior is “wrong” even though common sense and 6,000 years of history and a whole lot of YouTube videos inform us that there are very often immediate unfortunate consequences of such actions. In essence, for this world view there is very low certainty about “wrong.”

Now, obviously almost everyone, including even the wackiest leftist, will generally recognize that Behavior X is a bad idea, that they themselves would not engage in it. But then the whole thing about “cultural relativism” kicks in, and they start making excuses. And of course, “diversity” is terribly important. But for the engineer, this reasoning is nonsensical. The principles of engineering apply worldwide. The same laws of physics apply over there as apply here. And diversity? In short… who cares. Whether the other engineers in your team are black or white or Asian or men or women or gay or straight or atheist or Christian or Muslim… F equals MA. Every friggen’ time. If one of your fellow engineers decides that the the rules of statics and dynamics don’t apply to him because he’s not constrained by what some dead straight white males said generations ago… it’s time to consider shaking up the roster of engineers on your team.

Summary: for engineers, magical thinking is not useful. And get used to the phrase, “No, you’re wrong, and here’s the math.” Read it. Learn it. Live it.


The idea of expanding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) is flawed. Because in art “there are no wrong answers.” STEM fields, on the other hand, are *filled* with wrong answers. There is an infinity of wrong, with just rare islands of right. Try doing Math without that understanding, and you’ll end up profoundly useless.

That said, it’d be a good idea to have STEM and A cross paths from time to time. A whole lot of art *needs* proper engineering. That Statue of Liberty, for example, wouldn’t stand up without structural engineering; skyscrapers designed wholly by engineers would probably be a bit on the dull side. But to assume that Art actually fits into STEM? That there is a Wrong Answer.

 Posted by at 6:41 pm
Dec 012016
 

Here’s an interesting, if brief, piece on how various religions might handle intelligent aliens showing up:

How Will Our Religions Handle the Discovery of Alien Life?

For each of the rather few religions described, two reactions are described:

  1. Can the religion handle the idea of intelligent aliens
  2. Will the religion try to convert the aliens

The Buddhists, for example, are presumed to be perfectly cool with the idea of ETs, and will not be overly interested in converting them. Jews will accept aliens just fine, and have no interest in converting them. Muslims will accept aliens, but *will* want to convert them. Creationists will have some serious difficulty in accepting aliens. Catholics seem to be a mishmash.

Not listed: Mormons, Hindus, Shinto, standard Protestants, various pagans. And then there are the newage religions, the modern UFO cults, the Scientologists.

Feel free to speculate away!

 Posted by at 5:23 pm
Oct 292016
 

Thirty years ago, Russia sucked because Godless Communism oppressed people who believed differently. Now that Russia has flip-flopped and welcomed religion… they still oppress people who believe differently. Witness:

Russia jails atheist blogger for hunting Pokemon in church

Ruslan Sokolovsky has been charged with “offending religious believers and inciting hatred,”after posting a YouTube video where he plays Pokemon Go in a church.

The history of Russia… yeesh. After centuries under the thumb of the Czars, the Russian people finally rise up, toss the aristocrats into vats of acid… and promptly replace them with *Communists,* who were even worse. After 70 or so years, the Russian people rise up and overthrow the Communists… and replace them with the like of Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. At first this seemed like an improvement, but if it is, it’s beginning to become less and less of one.

 Posted by at 3:52 pm
Oct 242016
 

Jack Chick Passes Away

Jack Chick was 92 and the creator of a large number of downright loopy comic-book-like “tracts.” They railed against anything he felt wasn’t supported by or was in opposition to his extremist Christian views… Muslims, Jews, atheists, Catholics, evolution, Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, and especially the occult, including Dungeons and Dragons.

On one level, Chick Tracts are funny. They are eminently mockable, and for those billions of us who don’t agree with their worldview, they are just plain silly. But there is a substantial dark side. Chick started railing against D&D in the mid 1980’s, convinced that role playing games were actual portals to dark forces. This contributed to the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and early 1990s, a shameful period when many lives were ruined by panic-mongering charlatans.

 Posted by at 5:39 pm