27 October 2006

PZ Gets Worked Up

PZ Myers on Pharyngula got all worked up today when someone told him he has a God-shaped hole in his heart. I've been told that before, too, but my reaction wasn't a gloriously lavish and righteous sermon meandering forcefully and poetically from a simple snarky response to the original evangelical statement ("My first thought was to reply that no, I have a perfectly intact heart thick with good strong sheets of muscle"), all the way to an attack on theologians and apologists who are out of touch with religion in society, a statement of solidarity with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, and a rallying call to atheists to wear their God-shaped holes with pride. He must have snapped and really boiled over about this one because it's a long post but he didn't even bother putting most of it below the fold; it's all on the main page in all its glory.

Labels: , ,

17 October 2006

The value of looking at the final draft when you are a distant 2nd author

Without lifting a finger, I got a new paper published this month in an engineering journal based on the research of me and another former grad student at my old department. The paper is just recycled stuff based on a conference paper I wrote a year and a half ago. In turn, that conference paper was just what I could scrape together from the stuff that wasn't heavily featured in the papers that me and the other grad student were already in the process of publishing. My prof, it seems, just got around to publishing this paper a little while ago without telling me or the other grad student that he was doing it. I just found out about it the other day when my prof emailed me about doing another conference paper (ASIDE: turns out he's unable to provide funding for me to go to the conference nor provide financial compensation of any sort, so there's no way in hell I'm busting my butt for a month to write that).

The problem arises in that my prof didn't ask me to review the paper before it was published. Now, I trust him when it comes to the data and discussions because he was a very hands-on supervisor and understands everything I did at least as well as I do. But there are some things that he just doesn't know. For instance, in the author contact information, he decided to enter my information for me, since he knows where I am and what engineering firm I work for. Problem is, he got confused, and instead of giving my company's address, he gave my real home address. So now, whoever goes to the journal website and views the paper's abstract can come drop by my crappy apartment. Fanfrickintastic.

Labels: , ,

16 October 2006

So I Referenced an Axe-Murderer

Over at Staring At Empty Pages, there is a post about Ken Ham's twisted (but commonplace among Christians) view that morality only comes from God. A good post, btw, but not really what I want to talk about. I want to mention a particular line in the article: "Here we have the core of the fallacy: the argument that the only thing keeping us from becoming a society of wanton ax-murderers is the literal belief that Bible...."

What's with referring to any hypothetic generic homicidal person as an axe-murderer? I do it too, and I think most people do as well. I have an old friend from highschool who's drivers license photo looks like a police bulletin for a wanted criminal, and we referred to it as making him look like an axe-murderer (Plus the fact that he likes axes and often looks like a murderer, but meh?). When I got in a heated discussion about religious stuff with my wife's pastor, I exclaimed that in his view, me (an athiest) is a worse person than an axe-murderer who is Christian (and he agreed, and didn't seem the least confused by my reference to axe-murdering). Axe-murdering as a concept even spawned a title for a crappy Mike Myers movie.

But why axe-murdering? Most murders, as far as I know, aren't commited with axes. Some are, but I think guns, knives, and even cars would be more popular than axes. From the US Department of Justice, it seems that most murders are committed using guns, with a decreasing number committed using stabbing or slashing weapons (axes are here, and it's too bad that the figures don't differentiate between the various cutting/stabbing weapons), blunt objects, or other stuff. Maybe there is a certain extra brutality trying to be conveyed with the connotation of murdering someone with an axe rather than a gun. And knife-murderer doesn't have the same ring to it.

Labels: ,

CotG #51 is up

Carnival of the Godless #51 is up at The Greenbelt. Woohoo.

Dang, I better get around to posting something carnival worthy.

Labels: ,

Philosophia Naturalis #2

I got an email from Charles Daney at Science and Reason, thanking me for linking to the inaugural Philosophia Naturalis carnival. Not that anyone other than me actually read the carnival because of the link I created, and not that I had time to do more than just skim over the articles myself, but anyhoo, it was a nice gesture. I've added Philosophia Naturalis to the carnival blogroll for future reference, and the link to issue #2 is here.

Labels: , ,

11 October 2006

Figures, I'm just a Tool

Over the holiday weekend, me and my wife went back to our hometown to eat gobs of gobble-gobble, and gobbled we did. But on Thanksgiving day itself, we decided to go for a walk through the university campus that we both went to. We walked behind the civil engineering building where I did my masters, and I looked in to see if they still had some of my old, used (read: horribly broken in a hydraulic actuator) specimens lying around. Of course, this being a mere 1.5 years since I finished my masters, they were of course still there. But as I was pressing my head up to the window, I suddenly noticed my old grad student colleague Amr there working on his stuff. I guess since he's Muslim, he doesn't really care at all about Thanksgiving. Amr is doing a PhD with my supervisor, and we've helped each other out countless times. He saw me, and we went out front to chat and catch up (his wife is pregnant, and he thinks he's got about 3/4 of a year left).

Anywho, it was nice catching up with him, but lo and behold, I get to work Wednesday morning, and what do I find but an email from my old supervisor, asking me to write a paper with him for a seismic engineering conference based on some of my old research. My guess is that Amr talked to my prof on Tuesday, saying that he ran into me, and that jogged my prof's memory. "Hmm," he though,"I haven't used him in a while... I can squeeze yet more blood from that stone. I'll email him tonight." And, hence, here I am with an email on my computer asking me to write a paper.

So will I do it? I don't know. I don't really want to go to a conference again; it's just in Ottawa, and I don't know where I'd get financing for it. Conferences are expensive: $850 for the conference + accomodation at about $160 a night. I don't want to go to the effort of writing, especially since I've got a job to worry about, and very little free time as it is. And frankly, I don't think my research is even all that applicable to the topic. Sure, my system I studied in my masters has potential seismic applications, but I didn't really study it in a seismic kind of way, so other than the concept, I really have little to talk about. Plus, it's been over a year since I've even looked at any of my research, so I don't remember a thing about it.

I asked my brother. He said I should demand money.

I guess I'll have to email him back sometime today. I'm just afraid to because it never ends with this guy. When it comes to finding more work for his students to do for him, he's like the frickin Energizer bunny.

Labels: ,

Alpha: Encouraging Questions?

My wife just signed up to participate in an Alpha course. For those who don't know, Alpha is a program offered all around the world as basically a primer in Christianity, from a generic Anglican evangelical perspective, to educate new recruits, provide reinforcement for Christians who want reassurances that they are justified in what they are believing, and to try to close the sale on people who are curious about Christianity but aren't quite believers yet. It's designed to be all-inclusive, and downplays the doctrinal differences between the different denominations, even Catholic, though its bent is generally Protestant in nature. My wife has been a generic Protestant Christian for a while, but has been unsettlingly ignorant about many of the church's teachings and history. Even though I think it's all a load of horse pucky, I definitely encouraged her to go, partly because it gives me time to play a computer game (Icewind Dale 2) that I've been meaning to play for years, but mainly because she needs to learn more about Christianity to get herself thinking about it. Yes, I know that a brainwashing in a church program is not exactly thinking, but I've tried talking to her about doubting Christianity but she doesn't buy any of it if it comes from me. Basically, I'm hoping that one of the non-believers, the "seekers" as they are often called, will bring up a problem and get her to think about it. Well, last night, it did happen.

They were discussing the topic of limbo, or purgatory, and whether either exists. The seeker noted that in that week's sermon, the pastor had said that when Jesus returns (a la Revelations), that all the faithful, living and dead, will be raised up into heaven to join Jesus. But at the time in the Alpha course, they were reading a passage that said that the faithful when they die immediately go to heaven, such as the thief who dies with Jesus. She wanted to know which it was. Do the faithful have to wait in limbo until Jesus returns? Do they get to go straight away? My suggestion was a Star Trek-like time distortion, where the souls of the dead enter a wormhole and immediately skip straight to the end times. My wife told me I was a nerd. So what is the answer?

Answer: Sorry to disappoint, but the program leader didn't know, and neither did any of the participants. They wisely decided to do further study. I don't know the answer either. I'm too lazy to do the research now, and hopefully, my wife will search it out.

Anyway, it's nice to see some people actually looking, and looking hard, even in the face of herd-like brainlessness. This is a nice start, and hopefully my wife will start using her brain more and more, and get away from bible-thumpin brainwashing.

Labels: , ,

04 October 2006

Been Sick...

I spent the end of last week visiting relatives (well, in-laws) then I got sick (a really bad cold that laid me up for a couple of days), and, well, I've been playing a computer game that I've had for a couple of years that I've never gotten around to playing until now, and hockey season is about to start again, so yeah, that's basically a way of saying that I'm a lazy bastard so I haven't posted anything in a while.


Me and My Brother are Nerds

Today I received a cry for help from my brother - a simple, one line email:

"I'm out of books."

I replied: "That's a cry for help. I'll bring you Ancestor's Tale this weekend. That should keep you golden for about a month. I might bring you two books, just to be safe, because after that I'm not coming home again until birthday. Then you get another 2 books."

Yes, we are both nerds. And my dad's a nerd. When any special occasions come along, we just exchange nerd books. We have an extensive library of nerd books.

Speaking of that, I'm pissed off. I bought The Ancestor's Tale paperback (the nice british version) at Chapters at full price, ~$23 CDN a few months ago. I went back there last weekend and found a whole slew of the softcover version of the hardcover (full glossy pages, lots of extra colour illustrations) in the bargain area for $10! Ten freakin dollars! Pissing me off. Anyway, I bought a copy just for the pictures, and I'm going to give that to my brother when I go home for Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. Of course, after he's done reading it, I'm taking it back. If he wants his own copy, I'll give him the paperback version.

Labels: ,