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.