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User Journal

Journal Journal: Truth or truth survey

Have you ever:
(x) smoked a cigarette
( ) crashed a friend's car
( ) stolen a car
(x) been in love
(x) been dumped
( ) shoplifted
(x) been fired
(x) been in a fist fight
(x) snuck out of your parent's house
(x) had feelings for someone who didn't have them back
(x) been arrested
(x) gone on a blind date
(x) lied to a friend
(x) skipped school
( ) seen someone die
(x) had a crush on one of your internet friends
(x) been to Canada
(x) been to Mexico
(x) been on a plane
( ) purposely set a part of yourself on fire
(x) eaten sushi
(x) been skiing
(x) met someone from the internet
( ) been at a concert
( ) taken painkillers
(x) love someone or miss someone right now
(x) laid on your back and watched cloud shapes go by
(x) made a snow angel
(x) had a tea party
(x) flown a kite
(x) built a sand castle
(x) gone puddle jumping
(x) played dress up
(x) jumped into a pile of leaves
(x) gone sledding
(x) cheated while playing a game
(x) been lonely
(x) fallen asleep at work/school
( ) used a fake ID
(x) watched the sun set
(x) felt an earthquake
(x) slept beneath the stars
(x) been tickled
(x) been robbed
(x) been misunderstood
( ) petted a reindeer/kangaroo
(x) won a contest
(x) run a red light/stop sign
(x) been suspended from school
(x) been in a car crash
(x) had braces
(x) felt like an outcast/third person
(x) eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night
(x) had deja vu
(x) danced in the moonlight
(x) liked the way you looked
(x) witnessed a crime
(x) questioned your heart
( ) been obsessed with post-it notes
(x) squished barefoot through the mud
(x) been lost
(x) been on the opposite side of the country
( ) swam in the ocean Pacific and the Atlantic (x) felt like dying
(x) cried yourself to sleep
(x) played cops and robbers
(x) recently colored
(x) sung karaoke
(x) paid for a meal with only coins
(x) done something you told yourself you wouldn't do
( ) made prank phone calls
( ) laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose
(x) caught a snowflake on your tongue
(x) danced in the rain
(x) written a letter to Santa Claus
(x) been kissed under the mistletoe
(x) watched the sun rise with someone you care about
(x) blown bubbles
(x) made a bonfire on the beach - its not a bonfire unless you can see it from outer space
(x) crashed a party
(x) gone rollerskating
(x) had a wish come true
(x) jumped off a bridge
( ) ate dog/cat food
( ) told a complete stranger you loved them
( ) kissed a mirror
(x) sang in the shower
(x) had a dream that you married someone
( ) glued your hand to something
( ) kissed a fish
(x) sat on a roof top
(x) screamed at the top of your lungs
( ) done a one-handed cartwheel
(x) talked on the phone for more than 5 hours
(x) stayed up all night
(x) picked and ate an apple right off the tree
(x) climbed a tree
(x) had a tree house
( ) scared to watch a scary movie alone
(x) believe in ghosts
( ) have more than 30 pairs of shoes
(x) worn a really ugly outfit to school
( ) gone streaking
( ) gone doorbell ditching
( ) played gay chicken
( ) pushed into a pool/hot tub with all your clothes on
(x) told you're hot by a complete stranger
(x) broken a bone - both clavicles, same day (rugby hurts!!)
(x) been easily amused
( ) caught a fish then ate it
(x) caught a butterfly
(x) laughed so hard you cried
(x) cried so hard you laughed
(x) cheated on a test
(x) forgotten someone's name
( ) french braided someone's hair
(x) gone skinny dipping in a pool/hot tub
( ) been threatened to be kicked out of your house
(x) loved someone so much you would gladly die for them

User Journal

Journal Journal: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design 1

There's been a great number of electron's spent (and a great deal of ink spilt) arguing the debate of evolution vs. intelligent design, so permit me to chime in with a few thoughts.

First off, I think it needs to be kept absolutely clear that this should not be a debate of religion versus secularism. I, personally, practice a religion, Catholic, and believe in evolution as a proven scientific axiom. Having said that, I can understand certain limitations of the proof of it, primarily that of only a few hundred years of modern scientific observation of the current flora and fauna has limited the observable portion of any evolution. Industrial melanism is well-established but it's only the tip of the iceberg of true evolution.

Second, the "proof" of failures of evolution are quite weak. Is the human eye to complex to arise via evolution? Although I have not seen this mentioned, I can speak at greater length about the evolution of language. It is incredibly complex and bears the same marks of intelligent design. It's hard to see what vocal apparatus is used for without speech and why certain developments which actually hinder it's primary functions, getting air to the lungs and food to the digestive track, would occur without language. In short, if language isn't the goal then why evolve a vocal apparatus at all? (See Noam Chomsky for more on this.)

However, this ignores three factors: the random nature of genetic variation, staged development and the "crane" aspect of evolution. Genetic variation is basicly a random operation. In my family, my grandfather's hair went gray when he was 35, my father's when he was 30 my brother is 25 and starting to gray and I have just started significant graying at age 40. No doubt we all have a genetic "early graying" property, but it doesn't seem to be one gene which switches on at 40 (in my case) but instead it would seem to be interacting with other factors, my hair is more like my mother's and her father didn't gray until his 60s. The main genetic effect is there, but the specifics have a degree of random influences.

Certainly, language is a huge advantage for the survival of humans. Other animals are vastly stronger, swifter, have sharper teeth or are otherwise better hunters. In a straight up fight, a human being stands little chance against any number of animals. And yet, for generations, human hunters have not just held back but severely diminished the populations of most major predators; this is a product of our culture which provides us with powerful weapons and transportation. Culture is a product of our language. But language in less culturally developed situations provides no less strong a tool in coordination and education. Because an old wizened hunter can instruct younger hunters, they do not have to rely only on experience but can learn from related events. The hunters can also coordinate thru the use of language; creating a plan, coordinating their actions and modifying their plans on the fly. Each of these four tasks are carried out by non-human species, but language allows humans to greatly enhance their effects. A simplified language, richer than chimpanzees can muster but less than full human language, would still permit all of these advantages over great predators, but be less effective than full human language. Thus, a middle stage in the evolution of the vocal apparatus would provide greater adaptability than the great apes, but lesser than human beings. A halfway goal is sensical.

Cranes are the use of a feature developing for one reason which accidently provides an advantage or usage on a different front. For hunters, the ability to immitate the sounds of different species would convey certain rather obvious advantages. A duck hunter with a good duck call device has an advantage over a duck hunter without. Miming can be a tricky advantage though. Enhanced miming can also aid the educational aspect of language development, a clearer lesson (one with better sound effects) is more likely to be remembered. Better miming, an intermediate goal is linked to enhanced survivability of multiple generations, both while active hunting and while instructing the next generation, and improved language skill; it is a crane, in that it is a gradual development on one front, which provides unexpected advantages on a second developmental front, which ultimately will be more important than the original. The vocal apparatus of human's developed as a means of miming and producing a variety of sounds which conveyed language development advantages which eventually provided the huge advance of language.

Is the human eye so different?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Anti-Americanism

I've noticed a disturbing amount of anti-Americanism on slashdot lately. As an American, and proud of my country, I make the occasional pro-American post here. Lately, it has been getting pounded down, for no other reason than anti-Americanism. I hope meta-moderators can punish this sort of thing. Disagreeing with America or Americans is fine, and I understand most of the world press portrays Bush as a bonehead. Obviously, since he's been elected POTUS twice, he can't be as dumb as the portrayal. And if you swallow what the press tells you so much that you believe the USA is the root of all evil in this world, then you need to re-consider how you are eating and take a class in objective thought.

User Journal

Journal Journal: North Korea's Nukes

I've seen a lot of postings by anti-USA folks cheering for the development of nuclear weapons by the North Koreans. IMHO that's cutting your nose off to spite your face. North Korea is about as paranoid a government as exists on the planet and putting a maniac in charge of a nuclear weapon is seriously adding to the likelihood of millions of people dieing in a truly pointless but short nuclear war. The US will not treat North Korea as an equal and meet them one on one and the US's allies are also highly concerned about the millions of refugees that a collapsed North Korean government would cause.
The USA has no plans to invade North Korea or nuclear bomb it into submission. North Korean terrorist efforts are far too closely scrutinized now to be effective. North Korea is a regional problem, Iraq was an international one.

United States

Journal Journal: US-Europe relations

/i*one entry from a new collection*i/
      Americans, when relating to Europe have always had two modes, both of which are always in action even though one or the other appears more dominant. The first is as Europe's kid brother. It is attributted to Will Rogers ". . . America has never lost a war or won a peace conference . . ." (Said before the Vietnam War.) The second mode is with independent values and a different morality than Europe. American's value self-reliance and independence above a social welfare standard.
      Both modes are always in play even if one seems dominant in particular Americans (say Presidents.) Bill Clinton's need to be loved forced him into the first mode when dealing with Europe. George W. Bush political powerbase demands he play the second. But neither is without the opposite mode.

User Journal

Journal Journal: WMD grief

I have to admit that I am exasperated about the amount of grief in the media and from foreign type friends of mine (bloody Kiwis!) over the USA not finding any WMDs in Iraq yet.

        Let me put it this way: I'll play the previous Iraq government in a game of hide and seek and here are the ground rules.
                1) I need to hide 60 liters of biotoxins (more than enough to kill the population of Europe and the USA). That's approximately the volume of 15 carry-on bags (what my ex-wife travels with.)
                2) I also have to hide 5 nuclear weapons, roughly 5 more carry-ons.
                3) Thanks to the French, Russians and Germans, I have excellent radar and know exactly when your low-level surveillance satelittes are overhead. Ditto your surveillance planes.
                4) I have an area the size of California, with the population of New York to hide these 20 carry-ons in. I have near absolute power over all aspects of construction, administration and economics.
                5) I have $5 billion to excavate tunnels with, hide sites, buy potemkin materials and move these 20 bags around.
                6) You have four months to find one bag.
Go !!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Satelite Imagery

One thing I have been seeing a lot of talk on Slashdot about has been the satelitte imagery of Iraq. What one heck of a lot of people fail to comprehend is that there are two types of spy satelittes: geosynchronous and low-orbit ones.

When we hear talk of counting the hairs on someone's head or the like from orbit, it means from the latter. The problem is, nobody has more than a few (max 30) of these up at any one time and they constantly are falling back to Earth. That means they can't offer continuous coverage and when they are overhead can be plotted quite accurately. Recall the scene of IRA terrorists rushing into tents to be replaced by Libyans in the Libyan desert in "Clear and Present Danger". That was because a low-orbit satelitte was passing overhead.

Geosynch satelittes orbit much further out and are semi-permanent. They can continuosly watch one area, say Iraq, and keep a building under general surveillance, but not produce high detail pictures. They are great for where armies are or general activity level but they can easily be fooled at say following a single truck.

Normal intelligence gathering involves using the geosynchs to target the low-orbits, occasionally re-tasking them into different orbits with different peak observation times to catch the ground-bound bad guys off guard. Again, "Clear and Present Danger."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Stat Translation

All this writing about statistical translation is intruguing (sp) to me. It is in reality, right up my alley. My first master's thesis was on a specific topic in mechanical translation (MT). Specifically, interlinguas. I proposed using a dynamic one which was built up by reading text (aka processing Rosetta stones.) My second master's thesis was on a grammatical model of medieval Chinese, again based on stats, which could be utilized for MT. (Of course, who needs to translate Tang dynasty Chinese nowdays?) My third masters (yes, I am a glutton for punishment) was in stats.
      Now that I am a professional programmer, I can visualize how difficult it would be to put all of this together and actually get reasonable text out.
      I am befuddled why MT efforts have been so dismal. I mean, we've been working at it for nearly 60 years (my first advisor gave me the minutes from a 1951 meeting he attended where several people said 3 or 4 years of work already.) And our most succesful effort is a blind statistical one from USC (mentioned in Slashdot's Romancing the Rosetta Stone.) Stats will take you a long way, particularly with relatively straightforward (grammar-wise) English-Chinese translations. However, the best this effort can ever do is the average of all input human translators. And there are language pairs, English to Inuktatuk (Greenlandic Eskimo) or English to Basque, where this type of approach would just wilt on the fine.

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