Friday, September 24, 2010

Crap Continues

John Raese's latest pitch for becoming the next senator from West Virginia is an attack against his opponent, Governor Joe Manchin (D).

Obsessing against health care reform (i.e., "Obama Care"), the ad claims that the reform is going to result in $400 billion in Medicare cuts for seniors.

According to FactCheck.Org, however,

The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn’t keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.
The article even goes on to cite AARP's Myths vs. Facts:

Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare.

  • Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.
  • Fact: Health care reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or "doughnut hole" so they can get better afford the drugs they need.
  • Fact: Health care reform will protect seniors' access to their doctors and reduce the cost of preventive services so patients stay healthier.
  • Fact: Health care reform will reduce costly, preventable hospital readmissions, saving patients and Medicare money.
  • Fact: Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare program.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is This All They Have?

The death of Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) has left it up to the 2010 mid-term election to decide upon his successor. While it's sad that Byrd remained in office until he died of old age, you have to say that the man had class. Unfortunately, class is something sorely lacking in one of the contenders for his seat.

Morgantown millionaire John Raese is once again running for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket.

His platform is simple: he's not going to be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, which is another way of saying that he will be a rubber stamp for the "Party of No." He wants to go to Washington to stop deficit spending. That's something that pretty much every Republican says they'll do, but what they actually do is an entirely different story. He wants to repeal health care reform. Is this because of a public outcry, or is it because large employers may be subject to fines if they don't provide health insurance for their workers? And he wants states to be able to protect themselves. Protect us from what?

You hardly have to read between the lines of Raese's biography to see what kind of person he is. Yes, he's a "businessman," but he inherited these businesses from his parents. He has a B.S. degree in education from WVU, but I doubt he has ever set foot in any classroom. His record of public service is virtually non-existent, unless you count a brief stint as W.Va. Republican Party chairman. So can you believe him when he says that he wants to work for you?

These are the credentials of someone who thinks he can fill Robert Byrd's shoes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Non-Overlapping Visions

In my wandering about the web the other day, I came across the term "non-overlapping magisteria," which I had not read before. Yes, I don't get out often enough. A quick highlight and right-click of the term took me to the Google, where definitions abound.

According to Wikipedia, non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA, for short) is a term espoused by Stephen Jay Gould:

The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty).
I've offered Gould's direct interpretation here -- the actual Wikipedia definition is a bit abstruse to me.

More succinctly, science and religion occupy two irreconcilable realms of human experience.

Now, back to Google. Just a line or two down from the Wikipedia entry is a Conservapedia entry. Conservapedia, if you don't know, "is a clean and concise resource for those seeking the truth. We do not allow liberal bias to deceive and distort here."

So, to avoid deception and distortion, Conservapedia has this to say about NOMA:

The idea of Non-overlapping Magisteria proposes to separate science from religion, with each to govern independently in their respective domains. Science gets the what and why, while religion gets meaning and value. (See also fact-value distinction.) The idea is opposed by those who see God as the Author of science (see Creationism).

It is an apologetic put forward by liberal evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould. [1] Gould described NOMA as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion."

Magisterium is defined as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution" and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."

This theory is demonstrably faulty because it is obvious that the intelligent design of the universe would leave behind perceptible evidence allowing the existence of God to be inferred without reference to faith. (My emphasis) Furthermore the NOMA principle would directly contradict Biblical evidence of miracles which if observable by scientists would be demonstrably true.

To embrace NOMA would be to consign the entirety of scripture to metaphor and storytelling (me again: and your point is?).
Now here I was thinking that Wikipedia was being abstruse. I'm trying to parse the fourth paragraph: This theory is demonstrably faulty. I.e., this theory is wrong; here's why... "because it is obvious." Question: What's obvious? Answer: That God has left behind perceptible evidence of his/her existence. This evidence is apparently so obvious that we are not going to explain what that is. Ah, but wait: this evidence -- if observable by scientists -- makes it demonstrably true. So we only need to transport a scientist to biblical times. If we could, ipso facto, this would be observable. Air-tight logic.

And you laugh at me for believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster! (alternately)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Bug in Heaven

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake - Augeries of Innocence
After seeing someone else's macro picture of a Lilly of the Valley flower stalk, I was inspired to duplicate the feat. I have an increased admiration for the photographer now, because I've learned how hard it is to find just the right stalk and just the right angle.

The difficulty, you see, is in being able to get a whole row of those little white blooms to stay within focus -- difficult to do when the row is low to the ground and in an arc.

To make the following shot, I turned the center rod of my tripod mount around upside-down and suspended the camera low to the ground. It was breezy and it was still difficult to focus because the camera was so low to the ground.

What's interesting in this picture, however, is if you zoom in on the top-right flower you can see an insect inside. I'm not sure this time if it's an ant like the one on the Periwinkle. It looks smaller, and the sharpness is just not good enough.

It's an amazing world out there, right under our noses.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Natural adaptation?

Yesterday evening, I was trying to get a decent macro photograph of one of the lovely blue periwinkle flowers by the side of my house. I was dissatisfied with the results, however. The ground level and angle was difficult for my tripod, so I tried hand-holding the camera.

Although none of the periwinkle pictures were noteworthy, I discovered an interesting thing on the computer screen that I had completely missed at the time of shooting. In the center of the periwinkle bloom was a little red ant.

What's interesting is that if you look closely, you'll see that the ant is facing away from the camera (shy thing). However, there are what look to be two dark eye spots on the abdomen.

I cannot help but wonder whether this might be a natural adaptation to fool a potential predator into thinking that the foraging ant is facing towards it, rather than blithely away.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wild wild life

Want to save your endangered wildlife? Here's the cause for you: endangered species condoms.
Through a network of more than 5,000 volunteers, the Center for Biological Diversity is distributing 350,000 free Endangered Species Condoms in all 50 states to highlight how unsustainable human population growth is driving species extinct at a cataclysmic rate.
Be sure to check out "The Condom Packages" on this link. There are sample packages with various mottos:
  • Polar Bear: Wrap with Care... Save the polar bear

  • Snail Darter: Hump smarter... Save the snail darter

  • Spotted Owl: Wear a condom now... save the spotted owl

  • American Burying Beetle (for that special someone): Cover your tweedle... save the burying beetle

    Not to be outdone, here are my suggested entries:

    There is a niche to be filled here. The web page also has a U.S. map link, where you can click to see the location of volunteer distributors. West Virginia has only 1 to 10. Apparently a good man is hard to find.... or is that vice versa?

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    New hominin

    Today's scientific buzz is about the discovery in Siberia of a finger bone found in a cave. Based upon DNA analysis, scientists have determined that the human-like creature, living between 30,000 and 48,000 years ago, was distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans.

    From the finger, scientists were able to reconstruct the appearance of this human-like creature:

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Putting a byte back into hard drives

    A good article in Ars Technica: Why new hard disks might not be much fun for XP users explains a lot about the technology behind hard drives and how that is changing. It also includes a second partition devoted to explaining how manufacturers are trying to overcome the current 2TB partition limit.

    I never really considered that digital data is actually encoded as an analog signal. Magnetic data on a hard drive is supposed to be 1s and 0s, but magnetism can be unreliable at the microscopic level of a hard drive platter. Those 1s and 0s have to be stored in larger groups, so that if a few individual bits flip, the end result will still be mostly 1s or mostly 0s. Error checking is introduced into each section of data, and that overhead means that only about 81% of a disk can consist of your data -- the rest is error checking. New drive technology is striving for 4% overhead, so that you'll get to use 96% of the disk drive.

    And Windows XP won't support the new drive format.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    The carpenter is a tool

    So, I got a decent tripod and a nice set of Cokin filters for my digital SLR. Now all I have to do is to figure out how to take decent pictures.

    Last Friday, I shot this panorama from the building where I work.

    Raw, f/5.6, ISO 400, using a polarizer and a graduated filter. Compared to my earlier panorama attempts -- hand-held camera and no filters -- this picture sucks. The sky is noticeably grainy at 100% resolution, and you can see obvious vertical bands where the photos were stitched to create the panorama.

    What caused these problems? I'm inclined to think it's the filters, because they're the major difference from previous attempts. As a matter of fact, I quickly discovered that the filters were wreaking havoc with my camera's autofocus -- unlike all previous attempts, I had to disable autofocus and shoot this with manual focus.

    This is a classic example of how better equipment does not assure better photographs. :-(

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    THE filter set for cameras

    I've recently plunged into the world of digital SLR cameras, albeit on the cheap end. As a sign that I haven't been keeping up with photography trends and technology, I've only recently become aware of Cokin filters.

    The concept behind Cokin filters is brilliant: instead of investing in screw -on filters for all of your different sized lenses, you can invest in a filter holder system that adapts itself to different lens sizes.

    I discovered, too, that it's often possible to acquire nice Cokin sets on eBay. Although the Cokin filters on eBay are predominantly the larger professional "P" series, one can occasionally get the amateur "A" series on the cheap. I saw a couple of such set go for the starting bid when I jumped into the fray. I, too, got my set on just the first opening bid.

    I got the adapter/holder for my 58mm lens size, plus a very nice assortment of filters:

    • Close-up +1
    • Close-up +2
    • Close-up +3
    • Polarizing
    • Gradual G2 (two of them for stacking)
    • Gradual Y1
    • Gradual T2
    • Gradual M1
    • Parallel B
    • Warm (81 B)
    • Star 8
    • Fog 2
    • Blue (80 A)
    With just a few exceptions, most of these filters cannot merely be replaced by PhotoShop effects. All of the gradual filters, for instance, are very useful for toning down strong light, such as from a bright sky, so that a landscape can be better exposed. I think I'll have a lot of fun using the close-up lenses with macro photography. Those, alone, are worth the cost of the entire package.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Early Misdeeds Evident

    A January 20 Scientific American piece titled Endangered Species: Humans Might Have Faced Extinction 1 Million Years Ago says that the early human species -- including Homo erectus, H. ergaster and archaic H. sapiens -- were down to about 18,500 breeding individuals.

    According to genetic evidence the early human population faced a major setback about one million years ago. It is thought that the diminished genetic diversity one million years ago suggests human ancestors experienced a catastrophic event at that time as devastating as a purported supervolcano thought to have nearly annihilated humans 70,000 years ago.

    According to Pat Robertson this was another act of god:
    Something happened a long time ago in Haiti Africa, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French Homo erectus. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French Homo erectus. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Windows 7 and Canon Utilities

    After my modest success with installing Windows 7 on my home computer, I spent my Monday morning at work installing Windows 7 there. Because I sometimes use my Canon camera at work, I brought in the software CD for EOS utilities.
    When I tried installing the software, however, I encountered a dialog that said "Installation program of EOS utility requires administrator privileges." The problem was that I am the admin on this machine! I don't know what that difference is between my home and work environments that would cause this to happen. I tried the "run as administrator" command, and I tried compatibility modes.
    When I googled the error message, I got one hit: The solution, which worked, by the way, is a doozy. Get a load of this:
    1. When you receive the error , DON'T click the "OK" button.
    2. Navigate to the following path: "C:\Users\admin-user\AppData\Local\Temp\".
    3. Inside this directory, you should see a directory named something like "CanonUPW_000". Copy this whole directory to another location.
    4. Then click "OK" on the installation program error on the screen (which removes the directory you just copied).
    5. Open the directory that you copied in the last step and navigate to the following location: ".\CanonUPW_000\INST\INSTALL\COMMON". You should find an "Install.exe" file in this directory.
    6. Open the properties of this "Install.exe" file, then select the "Compatibility" tab.
    7. Select the "Change settings for all users" button and select the "Run this program in compatibility mode for "Windows XP (Service Pack 3).
    8. Under the "Privilege Level" section, select the "Run this program as an administrator", then click OK twice.
    9. Execute the "Install.exe" file. The installation should start and finish successfully.
    Great googly moogly!