28 September 2006

All the answers. And stuffed cats

Whenever I'm online and I want to be entertained for a few minutes I go to The Straight Dope archives and read a random column.  Cecil Adams knows everything, and if he doesn't he'll find out for the sake of the Teeming Millions.  For some reason, my all-time favorite is this one.

Oh, and I recommend the webcomic Achewood.  It's about the world of stuffed animals in California.  I identify most with the character of Roast Beef, a cat.

Also, I hate the word myriad.

25 September 2006


I never thought I would, but I have reconsidered my opinion on teaching intelligent design in public schools after reading this open letter to the Kansas school board.  (Why on earth does all the subsequent hate mail seem to come from Christians?)  I still believe that private schools should be allowed to determine their own curricula, but intelligent design does indeed deserve to be taught along with evolutionary ("it's only a") theory in government indoctrination camps public schools.  My mind is open . . . I may even join the FSM church.  They may have the answers.

13 September 2006

Birthday math

I was planning on posting about turning 30 at the time I was born, 01:29, but I fell asleep too early.  I woke up around 08:00 and quickly posted, then changed the post time to 01:29.  Cool.

But today I started wondering when exactly I really turned 30.  I mean, birthdays don't take leap years into account.  There are 97 leap years every 400 years, because a year is a leap year if it's divisible by 4 unless it's also divisible by 100, except that years divisible by 400 are leap years.  For example, 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was.  So the number of days per year on average is (303 * 365 + 97 * 366) / 400 = 365.2425.  Multiply that by 30 to get 10957.275, the number of days between my birth and the moment I really turned 30.  There were 7 leap days between 9 September 1976 and 9 September 2006, giving 10957 calendar days total.  So I really turned thirty 6 hours and 36 minutes (0.275 days) after my birth time of 01:29, or 08:05, which is coincidentally about the time I posted anyway.

From now on I'll be honest about my post times.

09 September 2006


My third decade is over.  It wasn't what I would have expected, but it was a damn good one, certainly the best yet, and I think my fourth will be even better.  I often think about the past, and even wish I could relive it, but it's funny how life becomes easier to enjoy as I get older, even as it gets more complicated.

Today I'll be celebrating my thirtiness the same way I celebrated my twenty-fiveness: playing cricket.

03 September 2006

Time to piss off the right

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"    — Douglas Adams

"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."    — Napoléon Bonaparte

". . . [W]ere we to take every word of the Bible literally, we would be in deep trouble with ordinary financial transactions, we would still be defining and murdering witches, our diet would be, to put it mildly, circumscribed, slavery would be politically correct and our agriculture would be in a mess.  I find it curious how selective and sex-obsessed Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalists of all persuasions can be."    — Peter Maxwell Davies

"It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, 'mad cow' disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate."    — Richard Dawkins

"I think it is more interesting to live not knowing answers than to have answers that might be wrong.  I have approximate answers, possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I'm not absolutely certain of anything, and there's some things I know nothing about at all—like whether it means anything to ask, 'Why are we here?'  I might think about it for a little while, but if I can't figure it out then I'll go on to something else.  I'm not afraid of being lost in a mysterious universe with no purpose, which is the way it is, possibly.  It doesn't frighten me."    — Richard Feynman

"And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter."    — Thomas Jefferson

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth."    — H. L. Mencken

"Much of what passes for religious faith today amounts to a side bet, covering a vague belief that 'there must be something' or that man needs to believe (especially when in foxholes)."    — Herbert J. Muller

"To rest one's case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one's enemies—that one has no rational arguments to offer."    — Ayn Rand

"We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes."    — Gene Roddenberry

"The splendour of human life, I feel sure, is greater to those who are not dazzled by divine radiance."    — Bertrand Russell

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful."    — Seneca the Younger

"It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."    — Mark Twain

"Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense."    — Voltaire

"To believe that consciousness can survive the wreck of the brain is like believing that 70 m.p.h. can survive the wreck of the car."    — Frank Zindler

01 September 2006

Movie game theory?

Why do all movies have the same ticket price at each theater?  You'd pay the same price to see a Lords of the Rings movie in its first week as you would for the Garfield sequel in its last week.  Why don't theaters reduce the price late in a film's run (or even early for an unpopular movie) to pull more people in?  Surely most movies have a point at which it makes more sense to lower the ticket price a little than to let the audiences dwindle until a new movie comes to take its place.  (If a showing is expected to be almost empty, it might even make sense to let people in free to sell more junk food.)

Maybe it's a prisoner's dilemma:  One movie that had its ticket price reduced might extend its run and end up making more money, but if every theater used the trick for every movie, moviegoers might start waiting for the lower price and reducing the gross revenue for every movie.  Maybe the studios realize this, if only subconsciously, and never allow theaters to use the trick in the first place.  (I used to see $1.50 late-run movies all the time in north Austin, but that place got leveled for a new Walgreens, and I've never seen a discount theater here in St. Louis.)