Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Show Me the Science

Daniel Dennett has an op-ed in the New York Times concerning "Intelligent Design".

The salient point: Other than crackpots, nobody doubts quantum theory or relativity, despite the fact that they have a hard time understanding it. In contrast, evolution presents a fundamental problem for those who don't understand it - it removes one of the best reasons we have for believing in God. Those who can't adapt their beliefs to include evolution must therefore attempt to discredit evolution. And, with the vast majority of Americans making due with high school science, it's not a difficult job.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Signing Checks to Ward Off Double Pneumonia...

Holy crap.

I've been down for three straight days with pneumonia. I had been feeling just a little sluggish on Sunday evening, but then at 4 in the morning it felt like someone hit me in the ribs with a baseball bat. But, I had "stuff to do", so I went off to work, and to collect the family van which was in the repair shop.

At work, no improvement was noted, and a phone conversation with my doctor's office led to a recommendation of immediate medical attention.

So, 1 chest x-ray and 3 blood samples later, there I was bent over the exam table accepting 1.2 million units of penicillin in my derriere. I don't even know what a "unit" of penicillin is, but I know 1.2 million of 'em hurt like the dickens. Unfortunately, during the required "stick around to make sure you don't die of an allergic reaction" period, my vision went all gray and I had to lie down.

This did not do wonders for my doctor's opinion of my ability to drive myself home, so a large drama involving lots of children being driven needlessly about the greater bay area unfolded that evening. 1.2 million thank yous to Alex and Cherlene for getting me home that evening.

And then two days of complete bedrest.

Just another wonderful week...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

The Onion lampoons Intelligent Design most unmercifully. Gems include:
...there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.
Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.
"Traditional scientists admit that they cannot explain how gravitation is supposed to work," Carson said. "What the gravity-agenda scientists need to realize is that 'gravity waves' and 'gravitons' are just secular words for 'God can do whatever He wants.'"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Valley Press Headlines

This weeks' headlines in the Valley Press, the official newspaper of the San Lorenzo Valley:

Historical Society to Hold Quilt Show
Well, let me grab my scraps and a needle!

BCRPD (Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District) Elects New Board Member
Her platform: Sprucing up the facilities behind the fire house. "There's not even an identifiable name on the building... and the interior of the building needs to be painted and brightened up."

Felton Library Friends Art Contest
Support your local library!

Drive-By Shooter Arrested
Ooh. Sounds serious. Oh, wait: "...responsible for drive-by shottings, with a BB gun..." Phew, almost thought it was Watts for a second.

Pets being shot in BC
Well, it was one pet. Shot with a pellet gun. In the foot. But that vet bill is $800!

Old Grocery Outlet Store in Felton to be Renovated
Rite-Aid will be moving in. Fear the Wal-Martization of our valley!

Boulder Creek Loses Beloved Resident Georgina Locatelli
Local Character dies at 80.

Page 2 - Crime Watch

  • Motorcycle Crash
  • Thieves Steal Valuable Bikes
  • Valuable Backpack Heisted
  • Quarry Gate Torched (someone burned some gasoline on the driveway.)
  • Routine Stop Reveals Loaded Guns
  • Guy Was Really a Gal (public intoxication)

Fareed Zakaria: The Interpreter

I've become an admirer of Zakaria via his appearances on The Daily Show. This is definitely going on my ReplayTV queue to see if I like it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Study Describes Bar at Center of Milky Way

More details sussed out about the bar of our Milky Way galaxy. We will never be able to escape the galaxy far enough to observe the shape directly, so it is interesting to me to see how they can infer the shape from observations internal to the galaxy.

The Prior-Art-O-Matic

With just the click of a button, you can invent something! This nifty idea generator will make you rich. Here is just one of the ideas it gave me:

Design #4161538497

It's a lunchbox that's made from recycled cardboard, detects explosives and is twenty feet tall.

When Mommy is Big...

Apparently Laurie and Sabina had a conversation this morning about what Mommy would be doing today (some work as an extra in a film.) I heard about it second hand from Sabina.

"Is Mommy still in the movie? Is she small?"
I'm sorry, Sabina, I don't understand the question.
"Well, Mommy says they are going to put her in silly clothes and then she'll be in a movie. She has to be really really big to be in a movie. Then, when she's small again, she can't be in the movie and she has to come home and be our Mommy."

I don't know where she was going with this, but it was apparently very important that Mommy "get small" before she came home.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Optical Illusions

In depth exploration of many optical illusions. I particularly like the Rotating Snake, Bounce (a combination optical/aural illusion), and the Hollow Face effect, as seen at the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.

Jury Duty: Body of Evidence

(NOTE: This case is now resolved, so I am free to discuss details.)

The following day, we had opening arguments and evidence. The broad strokes: Police office notices a speeding car, clocks the car for a few blocks, then turns on his lights. Driver does not pull over, but makes two turns, then pulls into a driveway and (at some point) gets out of the car. As the police officer pulls up, he thinks, "I've been to this house before!" He recognizes the driver from a previous encounter. The driver walks towards the house, the officer orders him back in the car, fears the situation is escalating, and calls for backup. The officer gets the driver headed back to the car, at which point the driver doesn't sit in the driver's seat, but leans in and starts going through the glove box. Backup officer arrives and thinks "I've been here before! On a different occasion than the first officer! And last time, I had the guy in handcuffs!" Eventually, the police get the driver away from the car, take him to the ground, and hand cuff him.

The charge was California Penal Code 148 (a) (1) - Resisting, Delaying, or Obstructing Officer.

The points of disagreement were: When did the defendant see the police car behind him? How far towards the house did he walk, when he did go back to the car, did the officer grab him and help him along, or did the defendant start back before the officer started "pushing" him? When backup arrived, which officer should the defendant obey? Did the backup officer allow enough room for the defendant to comply with his orders? Was excessive force used?

That last one was important - if excessive force is used, then the officer is not conducting his lawful duties, and the defendant is innocent.

What was not in dispute is that the defendant got out of his car instead of staying to talk to the officer. The officer recalls that the defendant immediately got out and started walking away, but the defendant says he only got out after the officer was "berating" him about not stopping. So, he stood up to talk to the officer man to man.

Unfortunately for the defendant, his attorney was a public defender, and appeared to be fairly new to the profession. Some things that should have been pressed on cross examination were not. For example, it turned out that a third officer who arrived at the scene and testified also returned to the house later, but the defense did not use that to establish the legitimacy of the defendant's claim of injuries suffered during the arrest. That may have had some impact, but in deliberations the amount of force used was found to be reasonable anyway.

The fact that the defendant did not dispute the key point of getting out of the car and walking toward the house, and that he generally appeared to be a very controlling sort of man, made it hard for us to acquit him. There were general credibility issues with him on the stand as well.

Despite the defense's assertion that excessive force was used, we found that it was obvious that the police were carrying out their lawful duties and that the defendant's actions that night resisted or delayed those officers, making the verdict guilty.

Our hope is that the judge will offer some type of anger management therapy to enable the defendant to live the next two years of his life without four more visits from the police.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jury Duty part deux: Voir Dire

Voyeur dye-er. That's what the judge said. Is this Latin? It looks French, but boy would francophones be pissed if it were.

The process of selecting the jury in a minor case appears to be "throw some jurors on the wall and see if they stick." The judge starts by asking if any of us have friends in law enforcement and so on, which might lead us to pre-judge the case. Similarly, if we personally know any party to the trial which might interfere in our ability to be objective, they want us gone.

The judge was uninterested in letting anyone go because they had slight prejudices, if they said they could put aside their distaste of police, or their admiration for the officers in the town in which they work. But boy did the lawyers ever latch on to those jurors. You're outta here! I don't need no stinking excuse, get gone now. Thanks for your service.

A less scrupulous potential juror could probably just say "That guy looks guilty" or "All cops are bastards" and get out of service. Damn my need to be honest under oath. Hey, that makes me wonder - has Bill Clinton ever been on jury duty? Just a thought.
After dismissing only about three or four potential jurors, we had twelve jurors and one alternate.

And that was it for the day! Come back tomorrow, please.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Jury Duty

So today was my first day of jury duty. I find it a little annoying that the state can just call you and say "Thou Shalt Be Here, Monday at 1 PM" and make it so. Jury duty and the draft always seemed to me to violate the 13th amendment, which reads:
1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

But, my company pays me for time taken for jury duty, so once again I tread the path of least resistance.

This morning at 11 AM I was to call to find out my duty for the day. It turned out that I had to report at 1 PM. But, did I have to report to the nice, close courthouse in Santa Cruz? The one next to all the nice restaurants and shops? No! I have to go all the way to Watsonville, which is the armpit of Santa Cruz county. My lunch options appear to be a Burger King and a Carl's Jr./Green Burrito hybrid. At least these guys have an airport (the only one in the county, unless you count Bonny Doon.)

At 1 PM, I filed through the metal detector into a one room courthouse. There is apparently one judge at the courthouse in Watsonville, and the dingy courthouse appears to be built on a budget. I waited in line to give the clerk my slip of paper identifying me. She did not check my ID, which to me indicates a less scrupulous, more wealthy potential juror could hire someone to take his place. I counted about 60 prospective jurors.

In due time the judge arrived, and I must say he was very personable. He had the clerk call out 18 names, and wouldn't you know it, I was one of them. Juror #11, that's me.

Next episode: Voir dire!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

This American Life | A Little Bit of Knowledge

The July 22, 2005 episode of This American Life demonstrates that a little knowledge can be dangerous.

Act Three (starting at about 30:00 into the RealMedia recording) is the highlight here. Crackpot Bob Berenz comes up with a New! Theory! Of! Physics! that demonstrates that Einstein and Newton were complete losers.

John Baez appears and discusses his crackpot index, Alexander Abian, and Archimedes/Ludwig Plutonium.

Live Action Paperboy Movie

Pranksters subject a driver to a Paperboy style gauntlet of ninjas, fire-jugglers, skateboarders, tire rollers, and remote controlled cars.

Intelligent Design - a Real Alternative to Evolution

The Debate.

I don't know about you, but I'm convinced that a world such as ours could not have arisen by chance. Hail Odin!