Thursday, April 29, 2004

Found an interesting news article off of IP.

The gist of the article is that some local Iraqis who don't take to kindly to cleric al-Sadr and company's shennanigans have started taking matters into their own hands by conducting some ambush style killings of Sadr thugs...

Now, I'm not a real fan of murder, but, I see the beginnings of Iraqi self-reliance right there... Some might say "why doesn't the US make things safer so these people don't have to act like vigilantes?"

I say we've got people who a year ago would have been terrified to speak badly about anything in their community for fear of the secret police now going out and actually doing something to clean up their streets... sure it's a bit rough and tumble, but Iraq is a pretty rough and tumble place right now.

Now all we need to do is destablize Iran a bit more, and we'll have our new die-hard allies for the next half a century... maybe more if they follow the Japanese model...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Ok, I know I must have some readers who are good at math...

I'm trying to determine if there is a mathematical solution to the following probability problem.

Consider two players each rolling n dice (to make it simple, consider a two sided dice, with a 0 on one side and a 1 on the other... however, if a mathematical solution is possible, it should apply to dice with greater number of sides).

Player1 compares the value of his d1 roll to Player2's d1 roll. If he rolls higher than Player2 he wins; if not, he loses. Player1 now compares his d2 roll to Player2's d1 roll, and the same win or lose determination is made. Player1 compares his d2 to Player2's d2 and the win or lose determination is made.

In general terms then, Player1's roll n is compared to Player2's rolls n-1 and n. There are therefore 2n-1 possible win-loss events to be determined.

The question is, is there a mathematical method of determining the probability of Player1 winning w times for any given n number of rolls with a dice of d sides, without having to resort to actually simulating it and plotting a histogram?

Even though this has the same number of interactions as two opponents throwing n-1 pairs of dice and comparing their rolls, it seems that any answer is going to be much more complex than the simple (p + q)^2 probability involved in that problem.

If you have any thoughts or insights, please let me know!!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Brief update to the stats page in the Armati section based on the games we played in Chicago last weekend.

Rome and Sparta dominate their period opponents, while Rome is pulling away overall in number of wins. It seems as if Athens will need to rely on her navy, and Gaul will likely remain subdued if current trends continue.
I'm not one for chain letters or the like, however... this is only taking up space on my website, and you're not obliged to look at it in your inbox.. and i thought it was somewhat interesting...

Step 1.Grab the nearest book.
Step 2. Open the book to page 23.
Step 3. Find the fifth sentence.
Step 4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

"The information is derived principally from three-dimensional ultrastructural reconstructions of spermatocyte nuclei (Wandall and Svendsen, 1985), but also from descriptions of spermatocytes that were spread, stained to reveal the synaptonemal complexes, and examined by electron microscopy (Wandall and Svendsen, 1983)."

Have fun with it...

And bonus points if you can tell me what book was closest to me when I did this...

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Entertaining weekend... won't bore you with the detailed accounts of valiant Spartan shield walls standing against oncoming hordes of tall, tattooed, semi-clothed Gauls... Instead, I'll bore you with some pointed thoughts about radio, and some rather less well aimed thoughts about the trip in general.

18 hours of solo driving gives a man a lot of free air time. Having not yet made the advance to XM, and having forgotten to requisition Di's cd(or mp3)-player-to-car interface kit, I was forced to turn to the constantly changing contours of the FM and AM frequencies. Constantly changing not simply because I drove under the occaisional bridge, but because it seemed that just as a station got interesting, I started driving out of its signal range. I was mostly unimpressed by the musical fare offered by the FM bandwidth, so I ended up listening to a lot of talk and news on the AM.

Listened to commentators from across the spectrum. Caught some O'Reilly somewhere in KY. Listened to Hewitt and Hannity in IN. Was bemused to find that Air America had evidently managed to pay up through the end of the month, and listened to it in Chi-town. Even caught a bit of Rush on the way back home in IL.

Although it's old news now, some thoughts on AA. It's as bad as Rush... haven't listened to him enough recently to say it's worse than Rush, but it's definitely as bad. Three observations:
1. Conspiracy theory seemed to be given at least equal weight as actual substantiated fact. By both callers and hosts.
2. Rather obvious disdain for the US population... at one point referred to as "dumbassiffied". It rather surprised me that there were callers at all.
3. Group identity politics (and sterotype based jokes) seemed out in full force.

Oh yes, and Al Franken is not at all funny.

The most listenable portions of the broadcast that I heard were some of the guest commentators... both hosts and callers seemed entirely off the wall... I hope that AA does not represent the mainstream of our democratic party...

Now I can't discount the programming's possible value for entertainment (in the same vein as Rush)... but OTOH, those who find the notion of guillotining those on the other side of the aisle entertaining... well... they might be more comfortable in la premiere republique.

As a point of comparison, it seemed that the derision of AA was focused first on Bush and cabinet, and second on anyone who voted for him or even thought that he ought not be impeached. Rush OTOH, (perhaps having established a greater rapport with those he knows as his audience) directed his acid against "the elites". At the very least, Rush's approach seems a bit more politic, offending only those who would self-identify as "elites" (probably a small or even empty subset of those Rush would similarly identify)... AA seems poised to offend everyone who doesn't already think they are smarter than everyone else... ie. the vast majority of post-adolescents. Their loss I guess...

After having seen him advertised on lileks all the time, I was interested to hear Hewitt, and though I only caught a little bit, I rather wish he was syndicated here in Nashville. Really though, I'm much more likely to get news and opinion from the web than the radio anytime I'm not in my car. :)

On a more gruesome note, this trip saw more roadkill than I'm generally accustomed too... Racoons, skunks, possums... a deer or two... some rather less identifiable melanges of fur and flesh. What was most strinking to me was a stretch of perhaps a hundred miles in southern IL and western KY where there seemed to be a dead animal every mile on the mile.... all neatly lined up on the side of the road. It made me wonder why most roadkills seemed to be lying on the shoulder... it seemed unlikely that they had been hit there... I surmised that corpses on the side of the road represented animals grazed by vehicles as they began a highway crossing attempt... forced back, they likely succumbed to internal injuries or bleeding rather quickly.

Those animals that made it to the highway center before getting hit?

Well.. their remains would likely have a much shorter halflife on the centerline.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I saw a poster advertising a medical school seminar while I was walking to work today... see if you find it as unsettling as I did.

First there was the title -- "Really Alternative Medicine: Theraputic uses of Cannabalism in History and Culture" (emphasis in original)

Then the two professors giving the presentation were listed.

At the bottom of the poster it simply said "Lunch will be served."

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I'd like to find a sociological study of marriage in Europe...
I wonder if there is any appreciable amount of cross-border marriage in Europe these days. Essentially everyone who has been in American for more than two generations is likely to be a crossbreed of some sort... somehow I just don't get the idea that the swedes and the germans are mating back and forth... despite the proliferation of mass transit across the continent, I don't picture the Europeans as being any less insular than in any other age... perhaps I'm wrong though...

On the other hand, I'm not even sure how many Europeans are actually getting married these days...

Friday, April 09, 2004


I've got Coach Z singing "Gimme a chance to do a hip-hop dance" on an endless loop in my head!!!

I'm going crazy!!!

If you don't know what I'm referring to you are to be pitied...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Prepare for stream-o-consciousness style posting...

I'm rather confounded at the moment.

Various intellectual doubts I've considered over the past months have all been refuted or rendered unimportant. More visceral doubts and fears have been turned away. I've got loads of experiential evidence that points to God making my daily life better. I'm convinced that I cannot do anything worthwhile without him. I'm certain that existence itself is unimportant in his absence. Every sin I see in myself is something I want to get out of.

So why can't I pick up my bible or pray... at all?!

After thinking the above while I was walking home from work, I decided to pray. I was concerned about our boys in Fallujah. I prayed for them, I prayed for Iraqis. I was somewhat uncertain about what to pray in regards to al-Sadr's thugs and/or Baathist bitter-enders... could I really pray for their quick deaths? Certainly that would improve the lives of everyone else around pretty quickly. Should I instead pray that they be quickly captured?

Was there any possibility that they might be saved via capture? Or were they so conditioned to being thugs that they were beyond repair? The broader question came up... was it possible for someone to be beyond redemption? How could one know?

My uncertain conclusion is that no doubt God has a better handle on it, but that is little guidance for how to deal with other humans.

I had another thought on the walk back to work... God faces a rather difficult task in interacting with humans. If he communicates via a voice in a person's head, because it is so outside the realm of normal experience, they might doubt its veracity... if it happens all the time, other people might doubt the person's sanity. If God actually comes as a person, people may deem him insane, and even if they don't go that far, a bunch of people won't even stick around to hear what he has to say. (This has been tried once). If the very essence of our existence were to be God's person, then if we attempted to excercise free will and disbelive in God, we'd essentially cease to exist... a very tough problem...

the SNES is still a great system...

Friday, April 02, 2004

I've added a new sub-catagory of links on the right side...
Space links...
I've got three up for the moment, and perhaps more will follow.
It would be nice to be able to retire to mars... the lower gravity would make broken hips a distinctly less likely scenario I think... on the other hand, retirement to mars would likely be permanent... it would be hard for an old person to regain the muscle mass necessary to survive back on earth.