Saturday, July 12, 2008


Some of these hosts have been consecrated; some not. Can you tell which? Carl from Atlantic City can.

I'm not sure how else a person could distinguish them-- the Church certainly doesn't claim a chemical distinction. I think anyone expecting that the host is going to turn green and be emblazened with 'Christ was here' is a nut. But my experience of the Eucharist-- of that spiritual distinction-- has been profound and life-altering.
There are more cracker threads at Pharyngula than I can count, each with bajillion posts. You will not believe your eyes.

Added: The crackers need a few friggin' lazers on their heads. Then they could say convincingly, "U THREATEN CRACKERS?!! OMG U IZ SO DED!!1!" But that's beyond my time and/or shoopin' skills.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dear baby birds

Please stay in your nests until you grow a few working feathers. There are cats and others down here ready to eat you.


Monday, July 7, 2008

The rock wall analogy

Imagine laying a natural rock wall without mortar. Good rock walls minimize the empty space between the rocks. Bad rock walls leave a lot of empty space and tend to fall apart.

To lay a rock wall, you start by setting some rock. Then you appreciate the empty space beside it. Then you look to your rock pile for something that will best fit that empty space. If you're slow and careful you will probably build a pretty good wall.

But imagine building not just a good wall but the best wall possible given the stones available. Could you accomplish this? I don't believe I could.

If you've ever constructed a rock wall, you've likely had the experience of discovering a spot that would be perfect for a rock you've already set. Ugh! Sometimes you'll unpack a little of the wall to get the rock for that space. But the unpacking sometimes creates new spaces that are hard to fill.

It's just too difficult predicting at the outset where each rock should ideally be placed.

Now, imagine you've got a large steel box in the shape of the wall you're building. The box sits on top of a platform that can be made to vibrate. Put all the rocks in your pile into the box and let the thing vibrate a while.

Q: Which wall will have less empty space in it, the human designed wall or the wall that results from vibration?

A: The vibration method will have a better outcome. Here's why:

1. Rocks that share large surface areas will vibrate less than other rocks, thanks to friction.

2. The variation in movement among the rocks allows for a kind of natural selection: rocks that don't move will "pass on" their stability to future rock arrangements while mobile rocks will continue to bounce until they find a snug spot.

Evolution is like an adding machine that can add together all sorts of interacting forces all at once. We find this process hard to understand. As humans, we can only add two numbers together at a time. So we look at evolution and we call it "random" because we can't see all the interacting links. But it isn't random. It's complex.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why listen to the experts when you can listen to ME!!!11!!

Nice article on Neurologica: Deconstructing the Cranks.

Here's a quote:
Holly also demonstrates the true arrogance of those who equate their tangential knowledge with expertise. One theme I promote in this blog is proper humility when dealing with areas of knowledge in which one is not an expert. This does not mean you cannot have an opinion - but one should fairly account for the consensus of expert opinion and be wary of those who casually dismiss it.
I like that last bit enough to make it a rule of thumb:

Before going into the details of some personal opinion, people should summarize the expert consensus. If they can't do that, they must be told to STFU.

Time is money - life is short - lurk moar - and so forth.