Thursday, April 27, 2017

Engineering Idiocy

So an electronics guy in Oregon showed evidence he says proves red light cameras don't always work right. On some right turns, it will show people doing something illegal even though they actually don't. He showed his research at a national traffic policy conference. Then he took it to the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering, who immediately set out to correct the flaws in the camera system.

Just kidding! They fined him because they said he called himself an engineer when he wasn't one, and if he wasn't one then what he did wasn't engineering. So there was absolutely no problem whatsoever with the cameras, because all of the people who paid money so they can call themselves engineers in the state of Oregon said so. Or at least the board that handed out the licenses they paid for did, anyway. They contend that the state of Oregon has control over who gets to use the word "engineer" to describe themselves.

Just in case you thought California had a monopoly on stupid state government actions with a Pacific exposure.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prize Thoughts

Your Templeton Prize winner for 2017, Alvin Plantinga, is considered responsible for a great deal of the presence of religious thought in modern philosophy. Plantinga didn't hold with the idea that a religious person -- including a Christian such as himself -- had to leave his or her faith behind when considering the issues philosophers consider.

Congratulations to Dr. Plantinga, and here's hoping the prize continues to annoy Richard Dawkins.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Science-ish Variety

-- A lot of the hoo-rah over the "March for Science" indicates a poor understanding of science? Color me shocked.

-- Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci, is best-known today for the numerical sequence that bears his name. You start with 0, then 1, then the next number is the sum of the previous two numbers (so, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8...). Now, this sequence was actually known long before he lived in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. His actual major achievement was convincing Europeans to ditch the III's, IV's and XVIII's of the Roman system and adopt the Hindu-Arabic numerals we use today and employ the zero to denote positions such as tens, hundreds, thousands and so on. He demonstrated the simpler system in a book called Liber Abaci, which had nothing to do with candelabras but showed everyday folk how to use the new system to calculate in everyday life. While appreciated by many for his work, the fact that Liver Abaci also introduced "the word problem" into math is held by some -- most students doing homework -- to tarnish his legacy

-- Physicists have created a "superfluid" which has the property of "negative effective mass." Essentially, that means it reacts in precisely the opposite way you would expect: Push it left, it goes right. Although this is the first time such a substance has been created in a laboratory, most parents say that their children frequently demonstrate the exact same characteristics. And note: The substance acts like it has negative mass; it doesn't really have it.

-- Playing Monopoly in Klingon? "I have a house on that property. You owe me rent." "I burned down your house and slaughtered all of its residents. I owe you nothing."

Monday, April 24, 2017


-- The United Nations continues to demonstrate its worthlessness as it names Saudi Arabia -- a kingdom in which women are permitted next to no legal rights -- to its Commission on the Status of Women. The Saudis join Iran as "one of the countries that have no damn business at these meetings except as targets of resolutions condemning their treatment of women." The Commission's newest member recently established a Girls Council chaired by Princess Abir bint Salman, who was required to address its initial meeting by video because she was not permitted to be in a room in public with men to whom she is not related.

-- I have criticized tennis player Serena Williams for her lousy attitude and general ability to be an amazing jerk. But she demonstrated restraint and class in responding to some really ugly comments by former Romanian pro Ilie Nastase. Vlad Tepes was quoted as saying, "Thanks for taking some of the heat off, Ilie."

Oops. Missed It!

Saturday marked the 39th birthday of the Mission from God, as John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and a band loaded with talent debuted "The Blues Brothers" on Saturday Night Live.

If you'll pardon me, I need to go save the St. Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage and determine whether or not I am on Lower Wacker Drive.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Such a Deal!

Although I've never published a book myself, I have friends who have -- some through self-publishing outfits and some through the traditional means.

Since it's their business and not mine, I've never asked what they made on royalties or what they were paid in advance. But you want to bet that if I did, none of them would say that they cleared almost four-fifths of a million dollars on a book that sold about three thousand copies?

Which goes to show that I should become friends with New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who declared that figure as income on his tax returns. Because everyone who likes to write should have a friend who can clear $245 a copy in author royalties on a book Amazon's listing for $13. Or at least should have that friend's agent.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Spent some time driving on the state highways over the last couple of days and noticed a sign before entering construction zones.

Obviously, those areas can be very dangerous for workers and motorists need to pay careful attention when driving through them. It's one of the reasons speed limits in the zones are so much lower. Bright orange signs, lights, traffic cones -- several things are in use to alert drivers to their need to slow and watch closely.

But one sign, I'm not sure of. "Don't hit our workers! Avoid $10,000 fine," it read.

Because not severely injuring or even killing another human being through inattention isn't reason enough?