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!