Friday, June 29, 2007

Ray Allen to Celtics

You know, Ray Allen graduated from UConn before they won their first NCAA championship. Which was in 1999.

Ray Allen was a great player. But he's on the wrong side of 30. What we are seeing here is the phase of a franchise known as "desperately trying to win before the GM is fired".

I sure as hell hope the C's have some play other than "play Ray Allen alongside Paul Pierce". Um, guys? They play the same freakin' position!

Jeff Green is going to be a good pro. And he would have made a better fit for the Cs than Ray Allen will.

I just don't get it.

Well, maybe next year the Cs will win the lottery. They certainly will have plenty of chances to do so. Trading a young, healthy, good player for an over-the-hill shooting guard was pretty much exactly the opposite of "useful". Let's face it: Danny Ainge has no plan here. He has no idea of how he's going to build a winning team, in what order, and which players are going to be the most useful. The Roy-for-Telfair trade of last year's offseason is still hurting the Cs.

Well, at least Ainge is doing his part to bring quality basketball to the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

la belle France

Oh, isn't Blogger clever! I'm in Paris, so all of the messages here are in French! I can modifier le code HTML, sauvegarder maintenant, or publier le message blog!

In France for two weeks, including a jaunt to Montpellier. I plan to finish up in Carcassonne, a city planned in the Middle Ages in anticipation of the tile-based German game that is popular today. I've got the camera but I left my mini-disk drive at home.

So, I will be attaching old photos from France and pretending they are from this trip. It's a chateau named Chambord, one of the many from the Loire valley.

Friday, June 15, 2007

and the semifinal

Not bad, eh?

I suspect he'll win.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paul Potts

He works at the Carphone Warehouse

He was even better in the semifinals. I'm looking forward to his performance in front of the Queen on Sunday.

Monday, June 11, 2007

English words to bring to America

A co-worker asked me which "Englishcisms" I might use in the States. I had thought of some that I cannot quite remember. The only one that came to might was "fancy", in the meaning of "being attracted to a person". But it's a bit more than that: there are numerous women that I think are attractive that I don't really feel drawn to in that way. "Fancy" captures what we used to call "like like" in middle school. As in: "I know you like her, but do you like like here?"

Trying to remember other words...the obvious candidates are out: lorry (truck), jumper (sweater), boot (trunk), trainers (sneakers), maths (math), not to mention all the words with extra 'u's (labour, colour) or which have 's' instead of 'z' (any -ize word like compartmentalize).

But there are a few other Anglicisms that I think are worth using in the States - if only I could remember them.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

a snarky religious post

I usually don't wander into alt.atheism types of arguments, because, to be blunt, I haven't heard a novel argument against atheism is over twenty years. I tend to be of the Dawkins school that views the entire God brouhaha as a way of creating mental blocks in human beings that are used as mini-taboos to block certain patheways of thought. I think, furthermore (and I don't know if this agrees with Dawkins because, um, I've yet to bother to read him) that these tendencies in the human mind probably have had some evolutionary fitness, as people have historically been so predisposed to self-destructive ways that only deep taboos against certain types of behavior have enabled sub-populations to survive. And, as any population geneticist will tell you, a trait that gives even the slightest fitness advantage will rapidly spread throughout the population.

So I tend to think people are hardwired for the possibility of doctrinaire religious thought - though this is hardly a rigorous theory.

In any case, I was pointed by PZ Myers to an excellent article about the semantic differences between the terms "atheist" and "agnostic" by Trevor Burrus. Most of the comments were along the usual lines of thought for atheist, but there was a brave soul who was pushing a doctrinaire Christian line. As an exerise, I decided to tackle his claim. It wanders a bit. Here it goes:

JK Jones:

The laws of logic are universal (absolute, consistent over time from one person to another and one place to another).

Presumably this is true. But we really do not know this to be true. Indeed, as far as I understand modern physics, all of the laws of physics are constrained to only be true when various prerequisites are in place. Or, to put it differently, we can only observe the laws of physics as having existed from a certain point on after the Big Bang.

And those are the laws of physics. While I tend to think that (d(Mathematical Truth)/dt) = 0, it’s not really something that we could ever test.

One example is the law of non-contradiction.

Non-contradiction is an abstraction. It’s not completely clear that it holds for the physical universe, though it certainly appears to.

These universal laws require an explanation.

Uh, why? Where did “require” come from?

A Christian can provided an explanation for the universal laws of logic: an unchanging God upholds them in His being and knowledge.

That’s really not much of an explanation, if I may say so. It just beggars the question about explanation by creating a circular loop. Existence needs explanation, so there must be a God upholding existence. All the questions about the mysteries of existence have merely been shunted off into the blind ally of this “God” fellow. The “God” entity is interesting because no truth claims are made about it and no actual physical existence is postulated about it. Indeed, almost nothing testable about “God” is said at all.

This is not very close to “an explanation” in my book. It’s just a rhetorical trick - a way of stopping arguments. Usually the people who use the God argument block up all sorts of emotional drives with this idea, and can only respond with anger and/or indignation if the area is probed.

You must supply an alternative explanation for the universality of the laws of logic before we can even disagree on any subject.

I think you’re getting way ahead of yourself here. For starters, the “laws of logic” is a field of mathematics. Many people do very good work in this field without ever referring to a Christian God. Why do you think this is the case? Indeed, one of the seminal consequences of 20th century logic was the realization that certain truth claims are independent of well-devised systems of mathematical axioms and their consequences (aka ‘theories’). Indeed, one can describe fairly comprehensible mathematical postulates (e.g. the Continuum Hypothesis) whose truth or falsity is independent of the commonly used axioms of mathematics (aka ’set theory’).

Here is my take on this: people who want to assert something as being true need to first create a framework where the statement can be comprehended, and then they can describe the framework upon which the truth or falsity can be judged. This is a completely different point of departure than what you are doing. From a logical standpoint, you have simply arrogated to yourself your personal theory of comprehensibility (aka ‘the God Hypothesis’) and are now demanding that any competing theory meet your criteria, and, if it doesn’t, your theory must hold the day by default.

Well, that certainly would be a sweet position to have in the world of abstract nonsense, but I haven’t seen anything to grant you such a default position in the universe of hypotheses. To the contrary, I think that, if you want people to believe in your God hypothesis, the heavy lifting is up to you. You are the one making a truth claim about the nature of the universe, after all.

Otherwise, I’ll just continue on with the assumption that logic can only be accounted for by the existence of an unchanging God.

Logic just is. It doesn’t need a God hypothesis to validate its existence, unless one comes to the table making this demand, as you do. Your demand that your God hypothesis be granted equal standing with the “laws of logic” strikes me to be as unjustified as my nutty neighbor’s demand that his sun-worship be given equal status with the “laws of logic”. Neither his Apollonian beliefs nor your Christian beliefs have ever demonstrated any tangible relationship between their truth claims and the “laws of logic”. Indeed, the situation is worse than that, as the “laws of logic” usually make a fair mess of your religious truth claims, when they are applied with vigor.

If the laws of logic do not apply…

Oh, we needn’t worry seriously about that…

…we cannot even have a conversation because no ideas can be communicated.”

So now all communication skills are tied into your pet metaphysical theory. That’s a neat trick!

If the laws of logic do not apply, we cannot evaluate ideas and systems of thought for internal consistency. If the laws of logic do not apply, we cannot even make generalizations about what we perceive.

(Aside: you are granting more permanence to the “laws of logic” than I think is justified. Indeed, my perspective on the nature of thought suggests to me that logical reasoning is far more complex than would be understood by your epistemology. After all, we know via Godel that any finite mathematical theory will necessarily be incomplete. I suspect that the actual truth content of the abstract nonsense which undergirds the universe is far more rich and complex than is implied by your brutish invocation of the “laws of logic”.)

Rational – “pertaining to or attributable to reason or the power of reasoning”


Truth – “conformity of assertions to fact or reality”


Both definitions are from The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary.

Yes, Webster was a good West Hartford boy. I prefer his work to the OED, but that is because of my Yankee upbringing.

I’m waiting for the point where the elevation of the Christian God to a supreme place in metaphysics is in any way related to the various claims about epistemology that you have made. I fear I would have to wait for quite some time.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

brit lit

About two months ago, I decided that I was burning through Terry Pratchett too quickly, and that the stories were starting to blur together. Also, there is a limit to how many times I can watch Rincewind run away in terror and still find it humorous. So I decided to "improve myself" by reading a few classics: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

Brief reviews from my middle-brow perspective.

The Canterbury Tales: a mixed lot of pompous and raucous stories. The stodgy, respectable stories got a bit dull and excessive after a while, while the racy ones were amusing. I found the Wife of Bath to be anti-climactic after years of having heard her built up. But times change, and these days she's wouldn't be considered so rebellious or novel. I enjoyed the overt depictions of corruption in the clergy. Then there's the tale about Griselda, the woman who suffered in silence while her lord and husband hid her children from her for twenty years, pretending that they had been killed. Um, bad role model. Repulsive story.

Basically a mixed bag. A good view on medieval life in England.

Great Expecations: I had seen the modernization of this story with Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Robert deNiro, so I knew roughly what was going to happen. I also watched the recent Masterpiece Theater version of Bleak House at roughly the same time. My previous expose to Dickens had been restricted to A Christmas Carol, which is just a silly fantasy, and A Tale of Two Cities, which wasn't very compelling to a 14-year old. Let's just say that Great Expectations the book was much better than I was hoping for. I'd thought of Dickens as being just an author of serialized stories about the poor in London in the 19th century, but he does quite a bit more than that. His ability to define all the class distinctions in England is masterful, but he also is very good at drawing characters.

And that brings us to Wuthering Heights. Like many people of my generation, my first exposure to this song was from the Kate Bush song. (Ohmigod this video is priceless! Kate Bush makes Elaine Benes look like a controlled, restrained dancer in comparison.)

I've always loved this song, but I wonder how I would have felt if I'd seen the video a long time ago.

A few years later I saw the film with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. That was quite tedious! My first inkling that perhaps Olivier was overrated.

Anyway, the book was reasonably good, and I can see why people like it so much. It's hard for me to do this, but it's important not to view it through a realist's lens. I'm very tempted to dismiss Wuthering Heights as "a lot of emotional misfits get sick and die". Certainly Brontë doesn't show the variety of human experience that Dickens does. But I can also see why this story became iconic for Romantics. There's a lot of stuff going on in this story, even though the writing isn't as polished as it might be.

I was really stunned to read the entire history of the Brontë's. Wow. They all died young - out of a family of six, not one made it to the age of 40!

Muppets at homeland security