Friday, December 25, 2009

When I get bored I think about blogging...

...And luckily for you guys, I'm following through. I have been thinking about starting this blog up again. I'm not exactly sure what to talk about yet, but I think I'm going to try to get something regular up here.

So, for now, consider this my "Hello World 2.0"

Signing off


Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right"

Yesterday, the Society of Notheists at Purdue University held a Pastafarian Preaching Day in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day. The purpose of having such a day is to illustrate how stupid it sounds when you encounter people like that of ANY religion and how we must always consider the validity of the beliefs being espoused by even the most sane and attractive crew of scurvy buccaneers you may come across.

It just so happened, as we were planning on having our preaching day, we discovered two very important facts:

1. Talk Like a Pirate Day was on a Saturday this year...which was an incredible bummer.
2. Gene Levy Brother Jed was making his annual visit to Purdue the day before.

In the effort to make the day as awesome as possible, we decided that our Pastafarian Preaching needed to occur in tandem with the visit by our equally furry-eyebrowed, twice as hilarious arch villian.

The days passed and Jen decided that this day must be documented with the latest in high tech devicery...a video camera. She managed to rent one from our school library and then discovered, to her chagrin, there were no storage media included with said camera. Unfettered and still heartened from the amazingness of the day, it was decided that, as we were to be on our way to campus that morning, we would stop and purchase an SD card to store the videos on so we could be in our appointed spots at 8:50 with plenty of time to set up.

And so we sallied forth that glorious Friday morning dressed in full pirate regalia (or in my case, a bandanna, eyepatch, and jeans), we crossed campus facing the jeers and chortles of our passing fellow students and made our way to the local campus bookstore to find out that the place didn't open until 9.

After we set down, we were able to have a brave soul run back and acquire our sorely needed storage medium. One of the hallmarks, every year, of this event, as I see it, is when we pull out the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti monster and preach from it. It is superbly well written and infinitely hilarious. Last year, when I did it, by the end, I was surrounded by people in bathing suits bowing down to me. It was absolutely glorious.

During a passing period, it was insisted that I repeat my performance this year...where it would be recorded for posterity. I pulled out my best preacher's voice and laid it on thick. A beautiful piece of work for everyone who walked past.

Afterward, I went to go get a drink of water and came back to a puzzled-looking Jen fiddling with the camera.

"Do you think it might be possible for you to do it again later? I don't think it recorded."

My heart sank. I had class all day and I was only really supposed to be around until 10:45 so I could properly prepare for the math class I teach at 11:30.

In between classes, I learned that a news van had stopped by, Brother Jed had finally showed up, and I was missing all of it. On the other hand, I taught about quadratics and completing the square, so not all was lost.

Luckily I had an hour between my last two classes and I was able to stop by, listen to Brother Jed make a fool of himself, and ride the Boilermaker Special.

The highlight for me, amazingly enough, occurred in this small span of time between classes. We had just exited the Boilermaker Special and moved back to watch Brother Jed and his fantastic pimp cane.

When suddenly, we noticed two men clad in spiffy shirt and tie ensembles.

YES. The Mormons had come to campus the same day...and they disliked this detestable man as much as we did. Finding common ground and coming to some sort of unholy temporary truce, we took on Brother Jed together!

Far be it for me to ever say anything nice about the Mormons as a whole, but the two guys we were with that day were incredibly nice, down to Earth people.

All in all, a very good Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Also, Re: Desperado
Salma Hayak causes traffic accidents. RAmen.

PS: Check out Politics and Pucks for even MORE blogging on this event!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Winner for most epic moment:

Just when I thought things like me getting an A on Afronova on Standard and passing a song on Challenge for DDR or actually surviving a ropes course was a feat of athletic genius, here comes Roger Federer to explain to me why I need to spend a few more years at the gym:

While we're on the subject

Because I don't want to add any more to that previous post, let me just say:

WTF, Kanye West. WTF. Nobody cares what you have to say.

Not enough to see that cretinous display, anyway.

Please go back to your mansion, put on your shutter shades, and spend some time alone with that one special person who you love more than anybody else. YOU.

And don't come out until you've grown a set of tact. KTHXBAI.

ETA: Fixed link. Viacom took down the video I linked to. =P

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mark needs exercise + Serena Williams

So today I found out a few very important things:

1. Being upwards of 40 feet up in the air and only supported by a small piece of rope connected to a harness designed to prevent me from having children and a plastic hat is, indeed, as scary as it sounds...especially when heights are not your strong suit.

2. Serena Williams was fined and lost a match for cussing out a line judge.

3. When I am on a zip-line, I scream like a girl.

Let's start with thing one, shall we?

Awesome thing:
Today, my fraternity took a trip to the High Ropes Course for some team building exercises.

Not so awesome thing:
The place was incredibly aptly named. That is, it was VERY HIGH and consisted of an inordinate number of ropes.

That being said, I had never done anything like this before...and being the young, gung-ho go-getter that you all know me to be, I jumped on this like a fat girl on cake.

That's all well and great, but there are two things about me that make this activity incredibly non-conducive to my way of life:

I become incredibly uncomfortable in situations where many people are in close quarters and in high-stress situations. I also am incredibly afraid of heights. Not just afraid of heights. We're talking "I sometimes feel uncomfortable sitting on my third story balcony" afraid of heights.

Needless to say, being at something like fifty feet in the air standing on metal wires and rope is not my cup of tea.

And yet, for truth, justice, the American way, and mostly trying to not be called a wimp, I went. I bit the bullet and I went for it. It was horrific, to be sure...but I got through it and I feel so awesome about myself!

Will I ever do it again?

Not any time soon, thanks very much.

Secondly, let's talk about Serena Williams.

Holy crap. I've say it before, and I'll say it again...Don't piss off people who have authority over you unless you are willing to pay the consequences.

Okay. I know it was a bad call. It's unconscionable, however, to act like that on the court. While she probably deserves what is coming to her, they should probably at least think about taking into account previous good behavior.

Friday, September 11, 2009


So, I figure I might as well start off with something that should haunt EVERYBODY'S dreams. Thanks to a friend of mine for bestowing this image upon me. *shiver.*

Apparently, it seems, Tantus, a company who makes sex toys has decided to take on that new fangled Twilight fad that's going around.

Behold, The Vamp.

Yes. It sparkles.

Also, I shit you not, the following words appear in this order on their site:
(emphasis mine)
"Yes the The Vamp retains hot and cold temperature. Toss it in the fridge for that authentic experience."

Authentic experience?? You know what, I'm not even going to think about it.

Here. Have some people talking about it who aren't me.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Well well well, look who has come crawling back! That would be me, by the way.

So school has begun, and I think I will start having time to do a daily blogging thing again soon. Probably sometime this weekend I will begin again and try to fit it into some sort of daily regimen. I've been trying to be big on that what with almost being out of college. I work very well if I have a nice routine.

So, here's a shout out to whoever reads this to say that I haven't died just yet.

I will return and in full force.

Thanks again to all of you...especially those of you who actually contacted me to tell me that you miss me. =P

I appreciate it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

School? Oh dear.

It's that time once again, ladies and gentlemen--that time when men cry like young girls and everyone else sort of snickers at them:

School is back in session!

This semester, I am taking "15" hours of classes.

I put the number 15 in quotes because...well, let's take a look, shall we?

Ordinary Differential Equations - MA 36600 - Back when I was still in Chemical Engineering, I took a semester class called "Linear Algebra and Differential Equations." The class was, effectively a Differential Equations class geared towards teaching you the material in as engineeringly friendly as possible. Unfortunately, the Math Department doesn't find that class particularly helpful for actual Math it is necessary for me to retake it.

Introduction To Creative Writing - ENGL 20500 - I'm particularly excited about this class. I haven't had the chance to stretch my creative muscles in a while. I may end up posting some of the better works up here on the internet for all to see. This is a class that I am taking to fill up my English requirement.

Elementary Psychology - PSY 12000 - This is sort of a seat filler. I'm only taking this class because I need another General Education class...and this seemed to fit the bill.

Symphony Orchestra - BAND 111 Normally, I'd be in Philharmonic, but I have a conflict with my classes, so I'm stuck in the evening orchestra. On the bright side, so did half my cello section. This means, among other things, that we get to play the Overture to William Tell. This is flipping fantastic and I cannot wait.

The reason there is a conflict with Philharmonic Orchestra is because of...

Seminar On Teaching College Algebra And Trigonometry - MA 48400 - I'm so freaking excited about this class. This semester, in addition to discussing pedagogical methods of Math, I get to TEACH a section of MA 15300--Precalc.

This is going to be fantastic. I am also, it seems, going to be paid to grade my section's work. This is also fantastic.

HOWEVER, this is going to be the most time intensive thing I've ever done...Orchestra is always incredibly time intensive due to the amount of practice outside of class that needs to be done to not sound like crap, but this class will probably take the cake. I already have a lesson plan due Monday...I should probably finish that later today...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Soundtrack of my nightmares redux and life update

I haven't had much time to post recently. I apologize for this grievous breach of the blogger-bloggee social contract.

Here's why!

I went home this weekend! The always arduous trip home via Satan's Waiting Room I-65 was actually not anywhere near as bad. Only one traffic jam caused by gawkers at an accident.

Today was, surprisingly, very busy.

I got a hair cut in fact, I got them all cut. ha ha ha ha. I'm only sad that this now makes the avatar I've put up everywhere (thanks Jen) somewhat obsolete. Bah. Oh well.

I figured, I'd might as well get my hair nice and groomed considering the fact that I will be starting teaching in 7.5 days. It might, at least slightly, lend some sort of credence and ethos to my lectures.

Most importantly, I saw a one woman show written and performed by Alison Vodnoy, a friend of mine I haven't seen in years. We were in diapers together and now she's a big star! Hooray! If you happen to be in Hammond, Indiana tomorrow sometime around 2 PM, please consider going to see it at the Towle Community Theatre. It's great, she's AWESOME, and it's TOTALLY worth paying the 15 bucks to go see it.

Tomorrow is a wedding...and then Monday is a dentist appointment (ick) and then back to campus to laugh at all the marching band people as they stand outside sweating for hours on end. =D

To make up for my absence, here is some mindfuckery. Enjoy.

ETA: Mindfuckery doesn't get red-lined as a misspelled word. That's hilarious.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why I love science:

It's stuff like this that makes science so amazing and beautiful.

Thanks to @godlessgirl for finding this and tweeting about it!

Zen Part 2: Non-Attachment

Kitano Gempo, abbot of Eihei temple, was ninety-two years old when he passed away in the year 1933. He endeavored his whole life not to be attached to anything. As a wandering mendicant when he was twenty he happened to meet a traveler who smoked tobacco. As they walked together down a mountain road, they stopped under a tree to rest. The traveler offered Kitano a smoke, which he accepted, as he was very hungry at the time.

"How pleasant this smoking is," he commented. The other gave him an extra pipe and tobacco and they parted.

Kitano felt: "Such pleasant things may disturb meditation. Before this goes too far, I will stop now." So he threw the smoking outfit away.

When he was twenty-three years old he studied I-King, the profoundest doctrine of the universe. It was winter at the time and he needed some heavy clothes. He wrote his teacher, who lived a hundred miles away, telling him of his need, and gave the letter to a traveler to deliver. Almost the whole winter passed and neither answer nor clothes arrived. So Kitano resorted to the prescience of I-King, which also teaches the art of divination, to determine whether or not his letter had miscarried. He found that this had been the case. A letter afterwards from his teacher made no mention of clothes.

"If I perform such accurate determinative work with I-King, I may neglect my meditation," felt Kitano. So he gave up this marvelous teaching and never resorted to its powers again.

When he was twenty-eight he studied Chinese calligraphy and poetry. He grew so skillful in these arts that his teacher praised him. Kitano mused: "If I don't stop now, I'll be a poet, not a Zen teacher." So he never wrote another poem.


Moral of story: If you want to do something particularly well. Don't do anything else you enjoy for the rest of your life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

For those of you who were out of the loop on this one:

Being in Alcoholics Anonymous involves you admitting defeat to your alcoholism and embracing a higher power to help you through it.

I can only assume that Narcotics Anonymous works much the same way.

You would think that giving up personal control in this situation would be a terrible idea. Shows what we know...

In related news, there is an alternative called The Sinclair Method which uses an opiate antagonist in conjunction with continued drinking to reverse the endorphin conditioning that causes the addiction in the first place.

Cool! So a scientific-based method of quitting versus a religious method of quitting.

Guess which one I think is probably better for you!

Daily dose of wtf

There's something about a group of rabbis not allowing two people to marry each other for NOT BEING JEWISH ENOUGH that seems somewhat ironic. I may have hit Godwin's Law on this one, but it is incredibly hypocritical.

The uproar in question happened when Nico Tarosyan, a man who had moved to Israel from Russia, was deemed to be unfit to wed Olga Samosvastov who was, it seems, a "Proper Jew." *sigh*

So, what is it that they ended up doing? They said "Fuck you, we're marrying anyway!" Good for you both!

It is bad enough, I think, that marriage in Israel is solely at the discretion of the religious institutions.

But to give the power to the Ultra-Orthodox rabbis? Wow. Terrible idea.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Walking tour of the Creation Museum Part II: The Quickening

I apologize for the various and terrible quality of the pictures you are about to see. Enjoy!

This picture is likely highly indicative of the rest of the museum. Let's see what happens, shall we?

Those sharp claws on his feet are for slicing lettuce. There is a salad spinner behind the sign.

Mel Brooks decided to make a special guest appearance. He was displaying the fifteen ten commandments.

Maybe there IS hope for this museum after all! *shifty eyes*

"Om nom nom nom nom"

This lamb looks like he's scared of being raped.

"Really? Vegetables?"

Did I mention that these wax dummies look way too eerily realistic? If they spent as much time actually providing substance to their exhibits as they did trying to make eerie, lifelike dummies, they'd give the Smithsonian a run for its money.

There was not enough room to finish the sentence. It should have read, "The world's not safe anymore for people with IQs above 10 with museums like this still being funded!"

Here we see two people particularly angered by the paparazzi. Apparently they weren't willing to sign the release and their pictures were used anyway!

After killing his brother, Abel, Cain has to sneeze like a motherfucker. Abel's first invention, pepper spray, doesn't work anywhere near as well as he'd have liked.

Completely undecided as to what this was telling us not to touch, we hands-on Atheists decided to begin investigating. It turned out that nobody cared...except maybe the one guy. You'll see him.

Discovered by one of the members of the party with which I was touring the Museum, we come to the real heart of the issue. There is nothing on Earth besides the United States and, perhaps, part of Canada and Mexico. It is a stunningly accurate commentary on the educational system of many religious areas of Kentucky.

The museum was kind enough to embolden some of the more important words of this quote from one of the books of Peter. I think we could do without all the rest of the empty text. "Willingly ignorant word of god" seems to be good enough for me.

Here we have what I can only imagine is Hebrew...sort of.
It's time for a quick Hebrew lesson.


Let's begin, if you will humor me, from the right side. Hebrew is written right to left. Let us begin with the awkward blob of letter that looks like a K who has seen better days. THIS IS NOT A HEBREW LETTER. Awesome. If it is supposed to be a tsadi or an aleph, it is a tsadi or aleph made exclusively of fail.

Next, we come to the letter Resh. The only problem with this letter is that it has been flipped 180 degrees.

Thirdly, we hit the Hebrew letter Vov which is both correctly oriented and in the proper proportion. Let's move on. Nothing to see here.

Fourthly, we have what is called "Fey." Besides the fact that the letter is the mirror image of how it was supposed to be, it is fine...except for one thing:

This is Fey in it's so called "Final" form. This letter, if it is to be in the sentence AT ALL, should be switched with the letter farthest on the left...which is funny because that letter is a Fey also! It is also flipped over itself.

So, creation museum...whatever you were going for didn't quite work.

EDIT: Jen got the video of me explaining this at the creation museum. I am aware I pointed the wrong way when I mention the end of the word...It had been a long day. Spare me please. =P

Friday, August 7, 2009

Walking tour of the Creation Museum Part I

As you all know, today was the infamous visit to the Creation Museum. I'm going to try to, as best I can, give you a small sampling of the many wondrous exhibits that were to be found.

Let us begin with the main foyer.

Here we can see what I can only assume is a brief reenactment of that ever-so-famous scene from The Dark Crystal. Here we can see a young Gelfling child who is trying to hide, with little success, from two Skeksis. Or maybe not...I honestly can't tell.
Remember, people, Skeksis are armed and considered dangerous. Do not pet the Skeksis.

Following the Jim Henson memorial, we find God's ode to linguistics. I always knew he loved alliteration. This just proves it.Following the English department, we move into geology. It seems that there are two uh...*conflicting* theories on how fossil layers were formed. Of course, we know that God's Word must be correct. I mean, seriously now, look at how much more efficient God is than those silly processes. Who can argue with those numbers!? WHO, I TELL YOU?!?!

I'll continue this later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

OMG Trip tomorrow!

It is currently 11:50 and I've been attempting sleep for the past two hours to no avail. Oh well, perhaps I'll get a jump start on tomorrow.

Tomorrow is going to be amazing. I will be traveling with Jen and a few other friends to Ohio for the Creation Museum/SSA convention!

This coupled with the recent completion of moving across town to the new apartment has sort of discombobulated me.

If any of you are interested, in addition to the pictures from the Creation Museum and the SSA convention, I'll put up some fantastic pictures of the swanky new pad.


while (!asleep)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Critical thinking. You should has it.

By now, everyone should be sick and tired about my constant ranting and raving about critical thinking, thinking for yourself, logic, et cetera et cetera et cetera...

I'm a maths guy. It's what I harp on and how I survive. And as a teacher, even more so because I am charged with the task of teaching OTHERS how to think critically.

YES. Your children will be in my hands. Fear for the future.

A friend of mine recently sent me this story written in the style of a Zen lesson. I think it sums my views on critical thinking up very nicely.

I hope you enjoy it!

Proving Infinity

I'm going to put on my pedant hat again today and talk about a concept that we all know and love...or maybe not so much love depending on your math skills.

Let's have some personal background to this logical exercise first:

A year ago this September 19th, the Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University SONTAPU, lol held a sort of mock-evangelical rally for the Flying Spaghetti Monster* to try to convey a message. This message was: "Unverifiable claims aren't true just because you cannot disprove them.

Throughout the day, we drew larger and larger crowds. The various people were eliciting emotions ranging the gamut from "lol" to "Alright!" to "What on Earth are they doing?" to "OH LAWD BABEH JEEBUS HELP ME!!!1!1!eleven"

In the corner, however stood two people. One was holding a video camera and the other was talking, perhaps if narrating.

After I read a chapter of the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in my best "Preacher Voice" I went to go get some water and was stopped by these guys to talk.

It became clear very quickly that these people were not here to get the poop on what we were doing and why we were doing it, but I talked to them civilly. They asked me how I felt about God and what I, myself believed.

I told them. As a scientist and, much more specifically, a Math major, education classes be damned, I had very specific ideas of what I would need to be persuaded to the side of the believers. That is to say, PROOF. Logic. In order for me to stand up and say "There exists a higher power." I need to see a written proof with QED at the end (although now, I think I'd also accept the heavens parting and having God himself send me on a quest a-la Monty Python).

"How about infinity?" was the response. "Can you prove infinity?"

"Well...prove infinity itself? Hmm...I'm not sure I, myself know how to do that. I suppose you could go through the route proving that the integers have no upper bound and are therefore infinite."

This, of course, didn't help. Eventually, they moved away from Math onto subjects that they were more properly coached on and that I didn't have enough real training in to properly bullshit mine their arguments. I made eye contact with other people from our group in the traditional, "Shit, shit, help me! They won't stop throwing bullshit at me!" fashion, allowed someone else to get caught up in the argument and then bowed out claiming various excuses.

But, it got to me. Infinity. What does infinity mean? We use it in math all the time, don't we? Calculus is basically built around the concept of infinity, isn't it? Differentials...integrals, Reimann sums...The infinite and the infinitesmal are all around...well...sort of.

Infinity is a somewhat wooly concept...and by somewhat wooly, I mean completely incomprehensible. To have an infinite quantity of something is physically impossible. It's a contradiction of terms, really. If you have a quantity, you have quantified it. How can you quantify something that is, by definition, inquantifiable? Well, that's precisely it. You can't.

Infinity is not a thing. It is not a measurement. It is not, really, even a state of mind.

Infinity is, in all senses, the impossible we can never and WERE NEVER MEANT TO reach simply by the very nature of the concept! It's not even a benchmark that is merely set too high.

"But, Mark," You say. "There are so many other concepts that we can't actually see that we use all the time, too!"

"Well, yeah. Sorta."

"I mean, you have imaginary numbers, transendental numbers, even, perhaps, NEGATIVE numbers are also abstract concepts that we are surrounded by in math that we don't actually argue with."

This is very true. You probably couldn't find -1 apple, or 2i dollars in your wallet...and I'd love to see someone come up with exactly pi of something.

However, in each of these situations, regardless of their abstractness, we use them because they appear in nature. Even imaginary numbers have a very useful practical application that translates into something tangible. Just ask your friendly neighborhood electrical engineer. I'm sure he'd be glad to point you in the right direction.**

The point is that infinity is really the only one of these that doesn't get a real, practical analog because it doesn't exist on its own.

Infinity is a tool, certainly, but not something that can be proven.

*Yes, they're bowing down to me. It seems that, on the same day, there was a flash mob. They were going through and taking showers and brushing their teeth in all the fountains on campus. There is a small fountain right by where we were holding our event.

**Just make sure he's bathed recently.***

***I'm just kidding. I love you all. Please don't kill me with your trebuchets.


Perhaps I'm alone on this because I tend to value human lives over...well...pretty much everything...but THIS action by a bunch of Muslims in Pakistan bothers me to no end.

I don't care WHO does it, but when it comes right down to it, the Koran is a book. While I think all books are important and no book should ever be burned...

It is not okay to kill someone over a book--or several someones...especially when the book is widely printed.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a shame that someone was stupid enough to burn a book even partially...but to kill them in retribution? That's thousands of times worse.

I cannot imagine one situation where I'd be okay with someone being murdered in retaliation for burning a piece of literature.

Yes, it's terrible to burn books. I, more than anyone, can talk about this because, as I'm packing, I realized that I probably have more books than anything else I have combined. (Seven FULL boxes of books and counting.) HOWEVER...when you are reacting to burning of books (especially books with no substantive value like religious texts) in this manner? Unacceptable.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I am a big fan of PostSecret. I think Frank Warren was a genius for starting this, so every Sunday, I look forward to seeing the new ones that he's posted on his blog.

This week, one of them gave me pause.

I've been thinking about it for a while now. What exactly does it mean to be bored with atheism?

Is life boring because you feel it has no deeper meaning? Does the person feel the world shallow without a god? Is it uncomfortable to lack ritual?

I am sort of tangentially atheist. Yes, I'm atheist and proud of my desire to learn more about the universe and my insistence that nothing should go unchecked...but I don't define myself by it. I am simply Mark the aspiring math teacher, the musician, and perhaps someday the superstar blogger but I don't see myself as Mark, the atheist.

This is not to say it isn't right to do so...I just don't have the desire to myself.

So, I don't understand why someone would become bored with atheism. Is there really nothing else to do during the day besides not believe in the existence of a god? Is it that time consuming? I have shit to do! Classes to teach, video games to play, blogs to post...I've got enough to keep me occupied that I don't see the need to spend three hours a week in a church...or a monastery (yes? no?) if the picture is any hint as to the religion.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are feeling bored with life, read a book or go outside and play.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

He lives!

I swear I'm not neglecting the two people who read this. I'm just sitting around on my ass when I should be packing and moving to my new apartment!

If I can find my camera, there might be pictures!

In other news, continuing on the subject of Cops Who Do Stupid Things, I found this article on reddit today that I felt everyone might want to see.

It seems that two cops pulled a guy over for swerving, searched his car against his will for narcotics even though, it seems, the dog found nothing, and then left when they didn't find anything.

I hope something comes of this. WTF police? There are better ways to meet your quota! Just spawn camp in this South African harbor!

Friday, July 31, 2009

I loled

Jen sent me a comic today and I laughed really hard. The strip comes from a blog called Coelacanth Diaries written by the talented Stephen Collins.


Time for America's Favorite Game!

You Might Be a Racist If!

You might be a racist if... send out a mass e-mail referring to Henry Gates as a *ahem* "banana-eating jungle monkey."

That is all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I just got God-Rolled.

I'm trolling Reddit to find some sort of goings on around the Interblag to talk about and I stumble upon a youtube video called "How Big is the Universe?"

"Awesome!" I think.

I've always been an astronomy nerd. The cosmos are awesome and I enjoy nothing more than looking up into the sky at night and thinking about what awesomeness lies beyond this solar system and how Kepler's Laws apply to them. *cough* Sorry...when a math geek is simultaneously an astronomy geek, you occasionally lie awake at night wondering if you could represent the gravity sink of a black hole with a differential equation.

Simultaneously, when you have a math geek who is a music geek, you try to graph sinusoid functions of the music you play.

It's a hazard. I'll say that much.


The video basically goes through and (on a log scale) gives you an idea how long it would take to be able to see the entire universe out of the side of the cockpit and provides you with a tour along the way as various milestones of visibility hit.

This is cool. I'm alright with it so far. There's the occasional grammar mistake; but, whatever, the person is obviously not American (Or so I hope) so I am very tolerant. It provides cool pictures, at any rate. Finally, we have traveled outward for about 10 billion years and we can now see a theoretical view of the entire universe with entire galaxies as mere specks of light.

And just as I'm looking at this wonderful view of the universe and all the things in it, I get a gigantic kick in the balls as the caption on the screen appears:


If you also watched the video, here's another to cleanse your palate.

Thank you and goodnight.

Torah Technical Institute? Really?

Apparently, Illinois plans to give millions of dollars to religious institutions.

What bothers me is the first one on this list...


First of all, REALLY? I love my people, but sometimes you get some idiots who have no idea how to name a school.

Second of all, there's no actual record of this place existing, it seems.

One would wonder, perhaps, why people are in such a kerfluffle over the separation of church and state violation instead of the OBVIOUS MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME GOING ON IN THE ILLINOIS GOVERNMENT?

I am a big fan of the separation of church and state, it's true, but I'd rather see people getting money for places that occasionally do good than find out that it was a big scam on the tax payers.

Maybe Bernie Madoff should have taken a lesson from whoever wrote this bill!

Math Time

Apropos of nothing, I want to talk about the Brouwer fixed point theorem.

This theory states, basically, there is at least one point on that function that sends the point to itself. That is, there is always at least one point x such that, for a function f, f(x) = x.

I find this property of life so unequivocally awesome that I have to talk about it.

What this theorem shows is that regardless of how you manipulate the world around you, something will end up back where it started.

Let's start simple...

1. Imagine you had a flat map of your country sitting in front of you...or, indeed, dear reader, go get one now. Were you to drop it on the ground, there would be, without a doubt, one point on that map that was directly above the point it represented no matter the scale of the map as long as one sat inside the other.

2. Alternatively, take two pieces of paper with identical pictures on them, crumble one up and place it on top of the other piece of paper. At least one point on the crumbled up piece of paper would be sitting above its corresponding point.

3. Let's say you had a cup of coffee and a spoon. After stirring your coffee, there would always be at least ONE atom of coffee in that cup that was in the exact same place as where it began.

4. This property is also the reason why you could never have a tie in a game of Hex.

As for the proof itself, it's omfg a head tripsomewhat difficult to understand if you don't know the jargon*.

The proof is normally done by contradiction--that is, we try to prove the opposite (i.e. that there are no fixed points) in the hopes that we find a result that shouldn't exist.

Effectively, we begin by saying "Assume there is no fixed point" and then try to "break" the proof using what we already know. If we can show that saying there is no fixed point is absurd, then there can only be one recourse...that there is at least one fixed point somewhere.

Interestingly enough, later Brouwer rejected this proof because he felt that all proofs must be "constructed." That is to say, he felt that proof by contradiction was cheating and that if you are going to prove something, you should do it directly--which he did end up doing for some proofs, including, eventually, the Fixed Point Theorem**.

I hope you feel more enlightened now.

*I know the feeling quite well. My first time being given this proof was in a special guest lecture about the history of proof. It whizzed by me so fast that when I copied it down, even now it makes no sense...which is a terrible shame.

**Which was, I'm sure, awesome for him. Even I don't want to touch that one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I love Conan.

Here's why:

This is outrageous! I have a wallet!

Ukulele Orchestra - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

As a musician, I am always happy to find awesome performances on crazy instruments.

I was so excited to find this fantastic video. I hope each of you enjoy it as much as I do.

Rule #1 for not going to jail: Don't piss off the cop.

Let me say, I am all for free speech. If you want to call my grandmother a whore, you are welcome to. You will just have to deal with the fact that I may want to punch you in the face. Repeatedly.

Everyone knows that actions have consequences...or they should.

If you are a professor at Harvard, you should probably have a sense that yelling at a cop will probably NOT LEAD TO SOMETHING GOOD.

Did the officer do something wrong? Well, according to state laws, yes he did. Gates was arrested for something that wasn't illegal. I'm not even going to touch on racial motivations. Perhaps it was, perhaps not. The idealist in me wants to think that it wasn't, but the cynic in me says that, in the end, it probably was.

HOWEVER, I cannot, with an honest conscience, even think about putting an ounce support behind someone who is stupid enough to yell at a cop--right or wrong.

Maybe it's just me, but the idea of pissing off someone who has more power than me, both legally and physically; has a gun; and could probably beat the shit out of me otherwise is not appealing in any way.

Don't believe in working on a Sunday? DON'T GO OUT TO DINNER.

First of all, the gall one must have to tell your server up front you aren't going to tip her because you don't believe in people working on the Sabbath?

I wish I had those cajones! Of course, I'd be using them in a safer going out to fight bears...instead of trying to get this reaction from the staff.

At least the Jews are less hypocritical about the prohibition to not work...well...sort of.

Speaking as someone who has spent a very long time studying the bible and the laws inherent therein, it simply baffles me that people who consider themselves "religious" would think it is okay to do something like this...Academically, anyway. From a practical standpoint, I've come to terms with it.

What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009


The noise this turtle makes will be the soundtrack of my nightmares for at least the next three days.

This is probably NSFW...because it's a turtle raping a shoe.

Donate to charity!

Blogathon has come and gone. We've all lost sleep over it and gained many lulz. But if you enjoyed yourself, please think about donating to charity. There are many charitable organizations to which you could give your money.


Oh, videogames.

Now, if you know me well, you'd know that I'm not particularly good at video games.

When it comes to video games that I excel at, there are only two major types:

RPGs and Music Games

The latter is self explanatory once you understand that I've been playing the cello for approximately twelve years as of this fall (as well as violin when I was three, vocals when I was in elementary school, and I've had a smattering of piano lessons).

The former has a lot to do with the fact that while they require strategy during the parts that were there to kill you, they don't necessarily require that you be particularly expedient about it or even graceful...Especially for turn based games such as the later games of the Final Fantasy series. In Final Fantasy 7, I basically had to hold down the x button and cure when everyone got low on HP. Not that even this is necessary anymore.

In Final Fantasy IX there was a slight strategy upgrade in that people were, once again, specific in their now I had to actually watch the screen during boss battles instead of spamming the X button while I went into the other room and made a sandwich.

The first (and last) really reflex intensive video game that I was any good at was Goldeneye 64. The reason for this was that I was able to go room by room and kill the baddies one at a time, systematically. I beat the game, but my times were all abysmal because of how slow I was.

Nowadays however, I feel bad even holding FPS games in my hand because of how bad I am at them.

I am physically unable to play these games because, when I play, I have to process what is going on around me. I don't have the coordination to master games like Halo, et. al. because they're too fast-paced for me.

The other type of games that I find impossible to play well are Puzzle Games. I can't think that fast. Tetris, I have less of a problem with because it just involves fitting pieces together, but games like Columns that are color based simply baffle me. According to Jen, it may be genetically linked to my gender...however I am not anywhere near qualified to make a statement regarding this fact. I'll leave it to her to post on this in the near future.

Also, I lost to my 6 year old brother in Mario Kart 64.

In conclusion, I am a terrible gamer who only plays video games in a very small niche. This will not change any time in the near future and I only somewhat consider myself less of a person for this being the case.

Guest Blog Repost: I'll pray for you

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Still alive, here's Guest Post #5!

The question was “How you feel when people say 'I'll pray for you' because something bad happened to you?”

In the end, it's a tough question to answer.

On one hand, the people that say these things to me don't understand that it means nothing to me whereas they firmly believe that their prayers (if they end up doing them at all) accomplish something that they obviously cannot. Of course, I would much rather they try to hire the best doctor/lawyer they could to help me out.

On the other hand, however, knowing that they are intending to pray for me to their god in a way that does not inhibit me from getting better means that they care. They certainly care enough to feel empathy for me in my time of need. It's not up to them to try to upgrade my situation on their own. They are not expected to pay my hospital bill unless it is their fault to begin with that I'm there.

So, while I would not like to have to deal with a chaplain coming to give me my last rites as I'm dying, I will appreciate every prayer, useful or otherwise, that people can spare. It may not do anything on its own, but I will be comforted by the fact that there is someone out there somewhere who cares about me in my hour of need.

Guest Blog Repost: Atheism is not a religion

Here's another one I did that became pretty controversial. I would like to thank Frank for bringing up some fantastic points. Perhaps in a few days I'll comment on them myself. In the meantime, here's the post.

Maybe we can drum up some controversy over here too!

Note: I was not particularly sober at this point, so I'm not going to vouch for the watertightness of my proofs here.

Hey everybody!

Post #4 from Mark!

Beer tends to make me more introspective (Being that it is Blue Moon, I'm also incredibly happy.), so I'm going to dust off an old topic that SHOULD have been laid to rest years ago; but, unfortunately, still pops up around occasionally.

Comparing Atheism to Religion:

Let's begin with a very cliché opening statement:



a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the
universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman
agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual
observances, and often containing a moral code governing the
conduct of human affairs.

a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally
agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian
religion; the Buddhist religion.

the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and
practices: a world council of religions.

the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.

the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter
of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

Neglecting 3, 4, and 5 because they are incidental to the argument, I want to go through and explain the rest of these. Surely you, dear reader, will agree with me that, assuming these are the only definitions of religion, if I can show Atheism does not fall into any of these categories (each statement, therefore, is conjoined by an “or”), I will have proved Atheism not a religion. Hooray Analysis classes! I wonder if I can re-write some of these definitions as actual mathematical statements.

Also, this is taken from Random House Dictionary. Credible source if I say so myself.

1. Let's start with “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief concerning the cause nature or purpose of the universe} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists regarding the nature of the universe} Then if Atheism is a religion, X ^ Y =/= emptyset

I think we can all agree that Atheism has only one actual concept associated with it: The disbelief that there exists such a thing as God. There is no universal belief as to how the universe was created, what it looks like beyond what we can see, and, especially, the purpose of said universe.

The rebuttal usually comes in the form of the following: “What about the Big Bang? It is generally assumed that if a person does not agree that a god created the universe, it began with 'The Big Bang.'”

Certainly. This is a commonly held theorem by many people. The concept of The Big Bang Theory (which is also a REALLY awesome show, by the way) is, indeed the best we have so far. Years and years of testing, measuring, and pondering have been done and this is the only theory that has stood the test of time. Also, this theory was first hypothesized by a priest. So, the church SHOULD be with us on this one. More importantly, Atheism has nothing to do with guessing at the origins of the universe. I'm sure there is at least one Atheist somewhere who is convinced that Aliens are responsible for some reason. Atheism and scientific thought are not necessarily synonymous.

i.e. Assume that X^Y=/= empty set.

But the infinite intersection of Ya, where a is a subset of A where a is contained in A= {All the atheists in the world} (A is the spanning set of Y where A is all the atheists in the world and Ya is the set of commonly held beliefs of all atheists regarding the nature of the universe)

Ya = {empty set} Therefore, X^Y = empty set.


“esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of

human affairs.”

I'm sure we can leave this as an exercise.

2. “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Again, because Atheism has no particular collection of beliefs, there is no set of beliefs to agree on.

Don't pull the kind of crap with me that says, “It takes FAITH not to believe in God.”

Pointing out that religions have no real case to prove that God exists is NOT a belief. It's merely an observation of a logic flaw.

The proof for #2 is nearly identical to #1.

6. “Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.”

Let me break this up into two sections starting with the latter first.

“A point or matter of ethics or conscience”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a statement regarding ethics} and Y = {God does not exist} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Atheism says the following: GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

This is not, and I repeat, NOT a statement regarding ethics in any sense.

i.e. God does not exist is not contained in X. Therefore X^Y = empty set.

Part 2:

Something one believes in and follows devotedly

I have never met an Atheist who has spent their life devoted to the thought that God Does Not Exist.

Our thoughts on the existence of a god does not rule our lives. It does not even, normally, play anything more than a tangential part in who we are. I am Mark and, yes, I am indeed an Atheist. HOWEVER, more importantly, I am a teacher, a musician, I have brown hair, I was born in September and I like long walks on the beach. I am devoted only to living my life as I feel it needs to be lived. The only difference in the way my life will be lived compared to if I weren't an atheist, is I'd be spending more time in Synagogue. Given the amount of free time I now have on Saturdays, I can live my life 3 hours more every single week.


Guest Blog Repost: Friendly vs. Outspoken Atheism

Before I repost this, note that this post was not intended to call anyone out. I am simply taking the two most common archetypes of Atheist and making them as extreme as humanly possible.

One might rather use the adjectives "Passive" and "Militant" or some other pairing of words that are the opposite of each other (and, perhaps, more apropos). I chose not to do so and, in the end, offended people who I respect. It was not my intention.

Here's the post!

Another guest post from Mark:

Now that I've had a little bit of booze in me... I don't know much about Christmas, but Bailey's, Peppermint Schnapps, and chocolate milk is fine by me.

My hat goes out to Jen here. I would not be able to blog every half hour. I don't have that many things to say.

That being said, here's Guest Post #3 from me!

I was asked by Jen to discuss the difference between the so called “Friendly Atheist” vs the so called “Outspoken Atheist.”

Here, I think, are the pros and cons of each at their most extreme:

The Friendly Atheist is sort of seen as the apologetic atheist. They are there to be a spokesperson of atheism to religion. As a result, these people tend to be less outspoken about their own atheism in hopes that they can act as ambassador to the religious.

On the other hand, we have the Outspoken Atheist. The Outspoken Atheist is out there to let people know that he exists and doesn't care about your shenanigans. If you say or do something stupid, they will let you know because they're Atheists and they are the guardians of logic and the path of scientific enlightenment.

I think it is possible to conserve the best traits of each. It is possible to be an Atheist who is quite staunch in his beliefs and not be a dick about it. Certainly you may come across people with stupid beliefs. However, in my opinion, if they aren't bothering you, it is perfectly fine to leave them the heck alone.

As a general rule, when I meet a person, I try to judge them on their merits. I am, indeed willing to ignore the faults of a person if I find they are a positive influence on my life.

For example, a very close friend of mine, “Barry,” is very religious. He went to a school system run by a Baptist church and is a very active member of his congregation and a very religious individual. However, as a person, he is an incredibly good one. He's a talented musician of many stripes, an incredibly intelligent person, and an all around good guy. As a result, I have no problem with him as one of my closest friends. Sure, we disagree on certain things, religion being tantamount among them, but that is a small part of our relationship. We recognize that we have an incredibly different opinion, and recognize that, in the end, we are unlikely to change each others we don't bother mentioning it. Incidentally, he helped to build the museum that we are going to in two weeks. (LOL *cough*)

It is possible to be an ambassador to other faiths without compromising your integrity just as it is possible to be outspoken without being intrusive.

When it comes to these two archetypes, I don't think they need to be different.

Guest Blog Repost: Mark on Math

As many of you don't know...what with most of you just meeting me for the first time and all...I am currently an Undergrad in the school of Math at Purdue who is pursuing a degree in Math Education (because, frankly, it's running away from me and I really want to catch it.)

What this means, for those of you who are not both studying at Purdue OR in a secondary education major, is that I am a Math student who is forced to take six relatively perfunctory education classes in addition to nearly ALL the math classes.

As a result of this particularly rigorous number of math classes (and a few awesome ones I've taken just for the lulz), I've been given a very good understanding of what is necessary to come into these classes and not leave the room crying every day. Let's just say, I didn't have a very excellent background in Math before I came to Purdue and started off on my path to become a math teacher (after, of course, a year and a half detour through the Chemical Engineering department. *sadface*).

Granted, my Calculus and Trig. skills are fantastic, my Algebra skills are awesome, and my Geometry skills are...well, not awesome but I made it through the class and, by the end, had totally made up for the terrible beginning.

“But...but Mark!” You say. “Isn't that Math?”

Well...sort of.

Those things are the sum total of Math in the same way that taking baking soda and vinegar and mixing them together is chemistry.

Sure...these are things you do IN math and things that require math but what is missing is the theoretical aspect.

WHY do these things do what they do? Why does the Calculus do what it is supposed to?

This part of math is called “Analysis.” It mostly consists of “Proofs.” That is to say, the mathematic reasoning behind a given theorem.

The problem is that back in high school (and it seems most high schools nowadays) provide little to no actual analysis backing...specifically because of how state standards are set up. In order to continue functioning as a school, its students must score at certain levels on their standardized tests. As a result, teachers don't always have the option of including logical reasoning and proof as a part of their curriculum.

This is really freaking sad.

To me, this strips Math of all of its science! There is no inquiry. It's just become history with numbers.

This next semester, I will be teaching a class here at Purdue. MA 153 for those in the know and Algebra and Trigonometry I for those who aren't.

I fully intend to sneak in as much logic and reasoning as I possibly can. My students will not just know WHAT they're doing, but I'll actually explain to them WHY they're doing what they're doing and WHERE it comes from so they can understand HOW to do it on a higher level than they might were they just to get equations and algorithms thrown at them.

Until later, this is Mark signing off!

Guest Blog Repost: A Jewish Atheist

During Blogathon, I made a few guest posts. I figure, to get me started, I'll repost those.

Hey everybody, I'm doing a guest post or two while Jen goes and does some sciencey thing. Perhaps PCR?

Unlike Jennifer, I was born into a family with very specific, if not particularly stringent, religious beliefs. I was born into an incredibly Jewish family complete with a grandmother who escaped the Nazis. While we didn't spend a lot of time going to synagogue during the year, we celebrated each holiday with gusto and nominally kept kosher (while we didn't go out of our way to find explicitly kosher food or have separate sets of dishes, we didn't mix milk and meat together or eat specifically unkosher food (pork, shellfish, et. al.) as a rule.

Being the bright young mind I was, I tried to absorb everything I could...I started reading at 3, I owned a set of Childcraft encyclopedias. By the age of ten I knew more about biology and astronomy than people who graduated high school.

Religion, to me, was just another subject of knowledge...granted, one with a slightly more all-encompassing /something/ to it. By the time I was of Bar Mitzvah age, I knew more about MY religion than some of the older people in our synagogue. I was not only learning the requisite readings and prayers for my Bar Mitzvah, but I was studying, wholeheartedly, to be the Chazzan for the Musaf service on Saturdays.

However, throughout my time becoming more and more involved in Judaism, I began to hit more and more snags. I remember many situations in which many of the standard beliefs of Judaism began to conflict with what I knew about the world.

At Hebrew school one day, our teacher (the rabbi's wife at the time) was teaching us about some of the old stories. She told us that, according to the Torah, the world was created in 7 days. I raised my hand.
“That's symbolic, right?”
“No, Mark. That's really how it happened.”
“Huh. Kay.”

On Rosh Ha Shana (The Jewish New Year) the leader of the kid's service mentioned the world being 5759 years old. At the time, I thought he was joking. Sure, the Jewish calendar was calculated from a different starting point...but that doesn't mean that's when Jews thought the universe had REALLY started...right? Uhh...Right guys?

As I got older, it was becoming infinitely obvious that Judaism did not have all of the answers...however, for the most part, I wouldn't bother it and it wouldn't bother me. I stopped going to synagogue, where I had been faithfully going every week with the excuse that I had a lot to do on, music, and continued on with my life...still Jewish. Eventually I would be convinced to try a cheeseburger...and then bacon (actual, delicious pig bacon...) and then lobster and eventually I came to college. It wasn't until I put a word and some actual thought behind it that I really discovered I was an atheist as opposed to simply a Jew who didn' anything.

Even through my atheism, there are still parts of my Judaism I have yet to, and probably never will, give up.

I will always have Passover, Hanukkah, and a few other holidays even if I have to focus more on the humanistic aspects. The music I remember from my studies will always remain a part of me. I have no intention of giving up my Judaism...regardless of WHAT I believe.

This was post 15 of 49 of Blogathon at Blag Hag. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

A blog by any other name

Hello, world! It is I, your humble blogger Mark. For those of you who have been redirected here from Blag Hag (where I got my start for Blogathon), thanks for stopping by.

I had a difficult time naming this blog. Much to my distress, I don't have anything in particular that I know enough about such that I could simply name it "Math Nerd Blog" or "Music Geek Blog"

Sad really.

So I asked my dear friend, The Blag Hag, for some help. Needless to say, she wasn't...but it made for some terrible hilarious conversation!

Jen: Make a pun out of Webster's Dictionary
Jen: =P
Me: XP
Jen: if you were just writing stories Webster's Fictionary would be good lol
Me: lol
Jen: if it was about sex Webster's Licktionary
Jen: movies, Webster's Flicktionary XD
Jen: lol
Jen: sorry, bad puns are what I do, I mean, I AM writing at "Blag Hag"
Me: true.
Jen: Webster's Schticktionary
Jen: XD
Jen: that looks awful
Me: If it were porn, Webster's Dicktionary.
Jen: If it was dating advice, Webster's Slicktionary
Jen: If it was racist, Webster's Spictionary
Me: If it were a medical site, Webster's Sicktionary
Jen: If it was stupid, Webster's Thicktionary
Me: If it were a genetics blog, Webster's Cricktionary
Jen: lol
Jen: If it was about practical jokes, Webster's Tricktionary
Me: If it were an entomology website, Webster's Ticktionary.

Yes. That conversation happened. I fear for the future of the world.


Apparently, in order to understand why this is funny, you should know my last name is Webster. Go figure.