Thursday, December 30, 2004

Upset about YOU BLOG READERS

I'm really upset that YOU blog readers have not taken advantage of the Quantum Encryption post that comes just before this one.

It links to a document I spent a decent amount of time structuring, and I think it would be really informative. There has to be SOMEONE out there interested in cyrptography, or at least SOMEONE interested in things like quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (HUP). In the document, I show that the HUP is a property of WAVES!! You don't usually get that interpretation until you're well in the thick of your technical career. It's an important view!

Anyway, if you don't want to read it... fine... just know that you're disillusioning me. :(

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Quantum Encryption

Today on a forum that I read, a question was asked about "quantum encryption" and "quantum computing" and their relationship to more traditional encryption methods. I was happy with the response I gave, so I saved it, polished it, and reposted it on my own web page.

I think it does a good job giving a very simple introduction to Quantum Encryption with a few detailed examples (that end up also providing a commentary on what Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle REALLY says):

Quantum Computing, Conventional Encryption, and Quantum Encryption

The page gives the reader the option to "View Printable Version." That strips away the website side and title bars. That version might be the easiest to read.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Add Search Word Highlighting to Your Blog

As most of the web traffic my home page receives is from web searches, I thought it would be nice to add search word highlighting to those pages. That is, whenever someone comes to those pages via a search result link (e.g., from a google search), the pages would automatically parse the referring URL and highlight the search words.

As I got to thinking about this, I realized it probably was going to be easiest to be done in client-side JavaScript rather than server-side PHP, so I went searching around for some stock JavaScript to do this, and I found some:

http://www.kryogenix.org/code/browser/searchhi/

The neat thing about this is that because it's client-side, I can use it on my blog as well. That way if my blog shows up in a google search, the page will automatically highlight all the search words.

The instructions (given on the page above) are pretty simple. You just have to be sure to add a searchword SPAN class to your style, like this:
SPAN.searchword {

background-color: yellow;
}
Now, that wasn't quite enough for me, so I modified the JavaScript given on the page above to allow me to do "in-page highlighting." That is why I now have a text box and submit button in my sidebar. You can "search" through the currently viewed page for particular words (separated by spaces); those words will then automatically be highlighted.

If you're interested in adding a similar "in-page highlighting" to your blog, view the source code of this page to see what I've done to make it happen. I've had to add a couple of JavaScript functions to my template, and I modified the original searchhi.js and stored it on my web page (the URL is in the source of this page). Of course, it still requires the STYLE addition mentioned above.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Modification to "Nice Guys Don't Have to Finish Last" Post

So on December 12, 2004, I created a post entitled "Nice Guys Don't Have to Finish Last." This was meant to be a commentary on the whining that I was subjected to every day on countless other random blogs. The conclusion of this article is that "nice guys who finish last aren't really nice guys."

Now, I posted this same commentary in a slightly different form on my home page, on which it had turned up in someone's search results (and thus in my web site statistics). I looked at other pages listed along side it, and I found one that came to almost the same conclusion using slightly different reasoning and FAR fewer words.

So I wanted to advertise that at OverOpinionated.com, in the author's Nice Guys article, she shares the same sentiment as my Nice Guys Don't Have to Finish Last post, and so I somehow feel a bit verified.

Here's a quote from her article. Go to her site for more information:
So what are these attributes that "nice guys" have that turn women most women off? To be brutally honest, self-proclaimed "nice guys" often exhibit feminine traits. Even in the 21st century, most women are still looking for macho guys. Perhaps it's cultural or maybe it's instinctual – women look for the best provider and father for their children.

I have some gay guy friends, and I realized that I have the same reaction to gay guys as I do to nice guys. So here's the harsh truth: Nice guys finish last because women detect the same kind of vibe from them as they do from gay men. That's why women love to be friends with nice guys, but are not interested in them romantically.

I can hear the whining and denials already. Herds of nice guys are protesting that they are not gay or giving off a gay vibe. Yes, You Are. Don't blame it on assholes for stealing all the women away from you. Something about you is turning women off, and the sooner you admit it, the sooner you can get past it.

I'm not saying that these so-called nice guys are necessarily gay or bisexual – don't misunderstand me. Nor am I saying gay guys are like these nice guys. What I'm saying is that women pick up on some weakness in nice guys that they perceive as "feminine", so nice guys get lumped into the same category as gay men would in a woman's subconscious -- a folder labeled "Not Husband Material".

And funny enough, even more support can be found at CoN from Jason MacIsaac in Nice Guys Fish Last (And They Don't Deserve Your Sympathy):
Recently, the Nice Guy phenomenon has caught the attention of pop culture. I've seen webpages dedicated to Nice Guys, and there's a lot of sympathy built up for them. I even used to be a Nice Guy. And yet, I have absolutely no sympathy for Nice Guys. Zero. You whiny bunch of losers deserve everything you get.
We are taught to be giving and forgiving. These things are good things to be. But we should also be taught emotional triage. Give your love abundantly to those who appreciate and respect it, and the rest will just have to be ignored if there isn't any left over. We can't save a person determined to drown. So there comes a time when we have to stop rescuing them, and tell them to swim instead.



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"Tidal" and "Tidal Wave"

This is something that's fascinating to me. On CNN today, one of the weather anchors mentioned that it is incorrect to call a tsunami a "tidal wave" because it has nothing to do with the periodic motion of the tides. I thought this was an interesting point, so I decided to look up some definitions to verify that statement. As you might imagine, what I found was shocking. This is perhaps a "bug" in the English language.

Every dictionary definition I can find of "tide" and "tidal" involves periodic ebbing and flowing. In most cases the specific example of periodic motion caused by the gravitational interaction of two massive bodies is mentioned. For example, from Merriam-Webster's definition of the adjective "tidal":
Main Entry: tid·al
Pronunciation: 'tI-d&l
Function: adjective
1 a : of, relating to, caused by, or having tides <tidal cycles> <tidal erosion> b : periodically rising and falling or flowing and ebbing <tidal waters>
2 : dependent (as to the time of arrival or departure) upon the state of the tide <a tidal steamer>
- tid·al·ly

Because "tidal" modifies "wave" in "tidal wave," then that implies that a tsunami is NOT a "tidal wave."

However, "tidal wave" is a special exception that has its OWN definition:
Main Entry: tidal wave
Function: noun
1 a : an unusually high sea wave that sometimes follows an earthquake b : an unusual rise of water alongshore due to strong winds
2 : something overwhelming especially in quantity or volume <a tidal wave of tourists>

And so while it seems like we should interpret "tidal" as modifying "wave," it is more appropriate to think of "wave" as "modifying" "tidal." That is, a "tidal wave" is an unusual wave that is above and beyond the normal periodic ebb and flow of the tides.

And thus, we get the dictionary definition of tsunami:
Main Entry: tsu·na·mi
Pronunciation: (t)su-'nä-mE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural tsunamis also tsunami
Etymology: Japanese, from tsu harbor + nami wave
: a great sea wave produced by submarine earth movement or volcanic eruption : TIDAL WAVE
- tsu·na·mic /-mik/ adjective

So even though "tsunami" means "harbor wave," which almost implies a non-periodic wave, somewhere someone decided to translate it as "tidal wave," and thus we have to come up with silly justifications for using the word "tidal" in this sense.

So the weather anchor was probably technically wrong in what she was trying to convey, but she did hit on an interesting language mess...

So if you want to imply something's gentle and periodic, use "tidal." If you want to imply something is impulsive and infrequent, use "tidal wave."

People Are You Ready? Let's Start the Show.

For anyone who is wondering, the opening theme music to Anderson Cooper 360 is "Callin' Out" from Lyrics Born.

This is also the song played in one of the latest "Bounce" Coke commercials.

That has been driving me nuts for a long while now. An obscure link I found on http://search.msn.com/ led me to the answer.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Neither Agnostic nor Gnostic Mean "Undecided"

After reading really STUPID BLOGS by STUPID ATHEISTS as well as STUPID CHRISTIANS (in the spirit of Christmas), I want to make a few comments.

For one, I'm upset that people confuse "agnostic" and "gnostic." This upsets me partially because they are very much different things, but a big reason why it upsets me is that it shows that few people actually know what a "gnostic" is.

The point of this post is really to stress that being agnostic DOES NOT MEAN "being undecided" or "being on the fence." Being agnostic means believing that the existence of God is equally as unreasonable as the non-existence of God. Being agnostic means believeing that there is NO REASONABLE ARGUMENT EITHER WAY. Being agnostic means not devoting ANY resources to belief in any number of deities as the choice of number is completely arbitrary. Being agnostic means NOT WANTING TO EVER BE ASKED "Do you believe in God?" ATHIESTS, MONOTHEISTS (Christians), and POLYTHEISTS are all EQUALLY SILLY to an agnostic. If an "agnostic" looks down on anyone, she looks DOWN on ALL THREE GROUPS.

Merriam-Webster's Definition of agnostic
a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and prob. unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god


AGNOSTIC comes from the Greek for UNKNOWABLE. It's not that agnostics believe that they'll decide on this issue later; it's that agnostics are not going to decide on the issue. They don't believe a decision exists.

It's like saying... Do giant purple elephants speak with an English accent? Well, there seems to only be a "Yes" or "No" answer to this. An atheist would tell you that it's an ELEPHANT so the answer is NO because it doesn't speak. A Christian would tell you that it's a PURPLE ELEPHANT so we know nothing about it, so because WE KNOW NOTHING about it, we'll assume that it DOES speak with an English accent. An agnostic sees this is a silly question and will not dignify it with an answer.

Now, someone who is "on the fence" and hoping to jump from one to the other is NOT AGNOSTIC but is actually TRULY one or the other. You cannot "pick" your beliefs. That person believes one thing but sees opportunity to be wrong and is uncomfortable with that.

An agnostic isn't on the fence. She's not even on the farm.

Merriam-Webster's Definition of gnosticism

the thought and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis

And a gnostic is completely different.

A gnostic believes that the world was created by the DEVIL when GOD wasn't looking. This is an extremely attractive suggestion. Think about all of the arguments against there being a "creator" that is all good (e.g., existence of evil); assuming that the "creator" is all bad does not suffer from the same holes.

Regardless, asking someone "Do you believe in God?" seems to be similar to asking, "Do you believe in a God in the Abrahamic sense?" After all, isn't it just as reasonable to assume that a creator exists who believed that those who enter heaven are the ones who did not need a god to form their own moral values? In that case, those going to "hell" would be those who needed to believe in God.

So it's a dumb question. Don't ask me if I believe in God. You wouldn't UNDERSTAND my answer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Pop vs. Soda

I found this link on another blog:

http://www.popvssoda.com/

From that page, you can get linked to this AWESOME map. It's an actual image-map. You can click on it for more information about particular areas.

http://www.popvssoda.com/countystats/total-county.html

Here's a shrunken version. Click on the image to get the larger image map.

Generic Names for Soft Drinks By County

On another note, I want to draw attention to another blog that I found today. I've also put it in my sidebar:

Everything in the Known Universe and then some

Saw Katie Today

Christmas Party Today

My dad's office has a Christmas party each year, and friends and family are always invited. That typically means that the significant others of people who work in the office and their kids. Typically the "kids" that go to the party include Katie and Jessica, John's daughters, and me. For some reason I was expecting that this year I would be the only "kid" there. However, I got there and found that Katie, Jessica, and Jessica's boyfriend were there. Additionally, there was a law clerk in his second year of law school who was about my age, so I didn't feel so out of place.

Now, I had a good time there. The law clerk was a nice guy to talk to, and it's always nice to be in on the stories that the guys from dad's office share. There were a lot of laughs. And, as usual, there was a game we all played and all was well.

Katie and Jessica

Now, let me focus a little bit on Katie and Jessica. Katie is my age. She just got her MS and started teaching 9th and 10th grade at a local high school. Her BS and MS was actually paid for by Columbus Public Schools contingent on her teaching in CPS for five years after she received her MS. Jessica is two years younger than me (Liza's age) and is studying to get her BS in something surrounding social work. She plans on getting her MS after that. I think she's following a little bit in her mom's footsteps. Anyway, it turns out that Jessica lives in the same apartment complex as me, and thus she also is in the same apartment complex as Tom. Tom's girlfriend Kim also is studying social work, and it turns out Kim and Jessica (Kim is a year younger than Tom and me (or two?!), and thus a year older than Jessica) know each other. So it's a small world on many levels. (on another note, it turns out my research in engineering is now overlapping with work my cousin, the Georgetown prof, has done in finance... yet again, a small world)

Some History with Katie

Now, keep in mind that Katie is a few months older than me. Ever since I was born, her dad has been pushing us to get married. I remember years ago in high school Katie and I went to the same wedding with our mutual parents. Before that time, it had been a long time since we had seen each other, so I don't think either of us really remembered each other. We both were involved in theatre programs though at our respective high schools, and so as her dad got more drunk, he kept making comments like, "Alright, you play Romeo, you play Juliet; make it happen!" You'd have to know her dad to really appreciate that. Anyway, I asked her to dance during the night. I thought she was pretty cute... and I also noticed she was the only one my age around... so it made sense.

Jessica vs. Katie (and Their Mutual Bad Choices in Men)

So Katie and I both end up going to OSU. We never really talk unless it's at an event that we're accompanied by our parents'. During one of the X-mas parties held at Speeds, I brought two of my friends, and Katie came with her sister Jessica. At that time, Katie was cute, but Jessica was a real knock-out. And Jessica has always been a better talker than Katie too. She's more quick to talk. She's more quick to flirt. Katie is always very quiet; when she does speak, she usually doesn't have a whole lot to say. That's always been something discouraging about Katie. But I knew deep down between the two of them, I definitely thought there was something pretty cool about Katie. And even though it's easy to talk to Jessica, you never get much from what she says. It's very artificial. I don't like that. I don't like that one bit.

So anyway, college goes on, and Katie and Jessica are ALWAYS dating these real dumbasses. As far as I can tell, they both were going to marry dumbasses. Their parents weren't excited about this, but I think we all accepted it as a fact of life, so I just forgot about the both of them.

Updated Katie and Jessica

So I go to this party today and find both of them there. Jessica has really changed. That is, she put on a decent amount of weight. I'm not going to say anything mean; I'm just going to say that she really changed. She brought her boyfriend. He was a real idiot. At one time Jessica's mom bumped into him accidentally, and he made some crack like, "Whoa! Carol, are you coming onto me now?!" What an ass. What - an - ass.

Now, Katie was gorgeous. Katie was absoultely great looking. She looked terrific. And she came sans boyfriend. However, throughout the time we were there, she checked her cell phone a lot. I was pretty sure she was probably just checking with her boyfriend.

(unfortunately, I did talk a bit to Katie and Jessica's mom... and in asking about them, I managed to swap their names when I KNEW BETTER. Oh well. It's not like anything is going to come of this anyway...)

At the Party with Katie

Katie and I got cornered for a little bit. She asked a few questions, but I got the feeling she was only doing it as a courtesy. I was really interested in talking to her, but I just figured she was more interested in hanging with her sister-and-sister's-boyfriend clique. And if she had a boyfriend anyway, I wasn't going to bother showing WAY too much interest for as little as we see each other. So we basically ignored each other the whole time.

So then after the party mom ends up mentioning (for some completely unrelated reason) that Katie has dumped her boyfriend! What?! This girl is single?! Why didn't someone tell me this earlier?! Did you SEE HER?

Giving Katie Some Thought

So then I start giving it further thought. She has to teach in Columbus for 5 years. I'm going to school here for 5 years. She's an MS graduate teaching HIGH SCHOOL and STILL GOES to her PARENTS' office parties.... She's GOT to have the same troubles as the average 23-24 year old finding a date. She was starting to make a lot of sense.

Trouble is I was sure I wasn't dressed to see a girl... but then I looked in the mirror and was really happy with how I looked today. Thank someone for that haircut last week!

So I basically blew it. Hopefully I'll get a chance to bump into her again sometime.

The Joys of Interacting with Single People

Now, really the last thing I need right now is a girlfriend. A major reason (at least that I advertise) why I broke up with Liza had to do with that just being something that didn't belong in my life right now. I'm busy! I have lots to do!

But I still find myself keep thinking about certain girls. Melissa was at the party, and she has that hair... which always makes me think about girls. I was really happy to learn that the law clerk wasn't Melissa's boyfriend or else I would have probably gotten in trouble for the quick glances I took at Melissa.

Anyway, that's the update. I saw Katie. I'm thinking about girls a lot. I wouldn't mind DATING again. I'm a little afraid of more than dating right now. I just wouldn't mind talking to single people more. I **LOVE** interacting with other single people. IT'S JUST FUN.

So it would be nice to see Katie again sometime soon... without looking like a CREEPY CREEPY STALKER PERSON. Yeah, I know. I'm an idiot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Nice Guys Don't Have to Finish Last


[ Interestingly enough, at OverOpinionated.com, the author has come to some of the exact same conclusions that I come to here in her Nice Guys article. I recommend it. In fact, it's a bit shorter than my article and probably packs just as much punch. ]


I'm fairly certain that every day at least three new blogs are written supporting the idea that nice guys finish last. Usually these blogs are written by lonely frustrated boys who long to be more than friends (with someone who perhaps isn't even a friend), but occassionally they are written (or at least quoted) by gals who take pity on these poor guys.

I'm tired of this. It's absurd.

For one, just because a guy is a pushover does not mean he is necessarily a nice guy. The fact that he's passively hating some girl for not coming onto him implies that he's maybe even weirder than the "assholes" his potential dates always end up "choosing" "over him."

But I'm not going to argue that route. By the end of this, I am hoping to show that the idea of a "nice guy" in general does not exist in reality. I'll accept that there are "assholes" out there, but I claim that this idea of a "nice guy" simply does not exist.

Contents

A Woman's Role in Attraction

Now, to start, women rarely are in a position of approaching a man in the same way that a man typically approaches a woman. Women will often purposely make themselves very attractive to a particular guy. Women will often make themselves very available to a particular guy. This is the effort that women typically put into starting a relationship with men. A lot of effort goes into this; it is no small task. And if a woman isn't drawn to one particular guy, she may in general go through a period of looking attractive to a number of guys in order to find out who is available for further investigation and eventually selection.

The Difference from a Man's Role in Attraction

Now, this is very different from the effort guys put into looking attractive to the opposite sex. For one, men primarily are trying to look better (or more unique) than other men. The hope is that this will make them attractive to every woman around. The hope is that the man will gain a reputation for being attractive. A man will devote his entire life to these sorts of ends. It's a broader movement than what goes on with a woman. A woman specifically chooses to dress up or dress down for one particular event. A woman specifically chooses to flirt or not to flirt with a particular guy. A woman is making choices that could go either way. A man is choosing a lifestyle with which he will be consistent until he decides to make another lifestyle change.

[ of course, I realize that there is some blurring between men and women on these things; men do dress up for particular events, and women do choose to lead particular lifestyles just like men... but I'm going to argue that for human beings it's safe to assume that intentions are still pointedly different ]

The Sequence of Events of Attraction

So the sequence of events is that a man advertises his lifestyle. A woman becomes interested and advertises her interest. It is then the man's role to assert his own interest. The woman has put herself out there, and if the man does not respond on her timeline, then she assumes that he isn't interested and she should invest in showing her own interest elsewhere.

Now, of course, misinterpretations happen. People change their mind too. And thus rejections can occur. And thus people have their own safety nets. And things can't move too fast. People have their own timelines.

The Typical Role of the Typical "Nice Guy"

Now enter the timid male. He does not feel confident about the things on the surface that are easy to evaluate. He works hard to show that he's very sensitive on the inside. He works hard to show his intelligence. He works hard to show that he has lasting traits that can be very attractive. And included in those lasting traits is his ability to just want to get to know the girl for who she is, and eventually love her for who she is. She can feel safe around him. He won't approach her unless she wishes for it. But there's where we have the problem! That's not how it works!

The Problem with the Typical "Nice Guy" Approach

If and when the female becomes attracted ot the timid male, she's going to expect him to bite. If he doesn't bite, that makes perfect sense because he's advertised himself as the male who doesn't bite. She might really want him to be the male who didn't bite for other girls but wants to bite for her, and that might be a real compliment to see him bite for her; however, if he doesn't bite, she assumes she's just not his type. He just doesn't want to make that catch.

And so she keeps him on as a friend, and she becomes very comfortable with that. She stops flirting. She just starts being comfortable around him. She discusses other guys with him. This makes sense. He's almost ASKED FOR THIS. By not asserting his affection WHEN SHE WAS LOOKING FOR IT, he's said to her that he doesn't want to be affectionate with her. She quickly gets over it and moves on.

Driving a Steak Between the Typical "Nice Guy" and the Object of His Affection

And so it becomes very weird if and when he does show himself to want more from her. It almost seems as if he has been using her up to this point. It seems weird that he didn't accept her when she wanted him to. And the WORST part is that now that she knows that during all that time where she felt comfortable and SAFE he was thinking about finding a way to get more from her.

So of COURSE things go sour. After he confronts her ONCE, he'll not ever understand why she doesn't respond favorably, and he might keep bringing it up. He'll start to hate her. (and thus, was he ever really a "nice guy"?) And on top of that, she'll feel confused or put off or simply will refuse to think of him that way. Things just don't work at this point. It was HIS FAULT for not seeing this earlier. The nice thing to do would be to drop it and accept that it's just not the right time (and perhaps the "right time" has completely passed).

Lesson 1: Guys Should NEVER Count on a Girl to Approach

If you're getting the feeling that there's something between you and a girl, she's probably done a lot to help project that in your mind. If you FEEL like there's something between you, then give her a break and act on it.

If worse comes to worst, you'll at least learn that things aren't supposed to develop between you two. It's good to know this SOONER than LATER. For a girl, finding out that your best friend of 8 years spends every night making out with your high school picture is a LOT creepier than finding out the guy you just started talking to might kinda like you.

And besides, if you're REALLY a "nice guy," then you'll understand her choice not to date you and continue being her good friend as if nothing happened. If suddenly you don't feel there's anything in this relationship for you, then you're NOT A NICE GUY.

Now, Assume the "Nice Guy" Does Land Himself a Relationship

Sooner or later in any relationship (between man/woman, man/man, or woman/woman), the different priorities of the two partners become very clear. People want different things, and "nice guys" have the hardest time dealing with that.

Consider the timid guy from above. He spent a long time being whatever the girl of his present dreams wanted him to do. When she said jump, he jumped so quickly that his "how high?" came off in mid-air. If they end up dating somehow, the same thing is going to occur for a while. He's just going to be per personal slave for a while.

Enter a Common Problem, Jealousy (of People, Places, and Things)

But he's going to get very jealous of the rest of her life very quickly. For one, if he's already so close to her, there's not going to be much to change. In fact, if they're already so close, often the relationship is just used to relieve the male's sexual frustration. At first, getting even a little bit of affection from the woman is going to appease him. However, eventually he won't understand why she won't give him more. It will be the relationship argument all over again!! Additionally, if he does grow closer to her in ways that aren't sexual, he'll start getting an idea of all the other things she does with her time. He'll start wanting more time. After all, they are dating now, right?

As Problems Develop, to the Outsider the "Nice Guy" Becomes the "Asshole"

So eventually there will be a clash. He'll need more and she won't be willing to give it. Or she'll need EVEN MORE and he won't expect it. Earlier in the relationship they might have been able to figure this out about each other and figure out a way to compromise. However, now that it's so late in the relationship, neither one of them will want to change.

Eventually the relationship is going to become HARDER THAN THE FRIENDSHIP WAS and the "nice guy" will turn into the "asshole."

Lesson 2: Lucky "Nice People" Quickly Become "Assholes"

All men aren't assholes. All women aren't bitches. This SAME SEQUENCE OF EVENTS occurs in homosexual relationships as well. Problems develop between people simply because EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

The Appearance of the Success of the Asshole

Now, clearly if all "nice guys" end up looking like "assholes" to other "nice guys," it's going to be hard to ever find a girl who is NOT dating an asshole.

However, let's consider an "asshole" from the start. The asshole is only looking out for himself. The asshole is ALWAYS asserting his own wants. If a girl gets attracted to him, he does his best to take advantage of it and ride it out until it becomes a drag on him.

So let's go through the same sequence of events. The guy looks attractive to at least SOME WOMEN. Those women show their interest in these assholes but THEY ALSO SHOW THEIR INTEREST simultaneously with "nice guys." The assholes take advantage of it. It's their nature. IF THE WOMEN HAD THE CHOICE of a nice guy and an asshole, they'd choose the nice guy; but they NEVER GET THAT CHOICE.

Assholes are the only ones who play the game. Thus assholes are the only ones who win.

So while nice guys shouldn't aim to be assholes, they should RESPECT why assholes have so much "luck" with women! If nice guys would take a cue from assholes and actually SHOW SOME SPINE and assert themselves, they would show the girl something a whole lot better than the asshole. (unless she's specifically consciously looking for the asshole, but that's another topic)

Lesson 3: Assholes Only Win Because Assholes are the Only Ones Playing

Don't you dare hide behind some special "objections" you have with "the game." It's not a matter of scruples. "The game" isn't a bad thing. And even if it was, you're not playing it because you object to it; you're not playing it because you're too cowardly to enter it.

If you really wanted to give the assholes a run for their money, you'd go in and show the ladies what they're missing.

So I blame YOU for there being assholes. If YOU weren't so timid, maybe there wouldn't be so many assholes.

Nah, who am I kidding? Like I said before, you're as much of an asshole as any of the rest of them, so it's no loss to women that you've fouled yourself out. You'd be doing them a disservice by entering, you miserable pathetic passive poor excuse for a mate.

Conclusion: Nice Guys Who Finish Last Aren't Really Nice Guys


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Sunday, December 19, 2004

This "LIBERAL" Says TOO MUCH Heat on Rumsfeld

So lately the media and a great number of blogs have been pretty hard on Donny Rumsfeld. Some examples:

Army friends line up to attack Rumsfeld

GOP Leaders Join Chorus of Rumsfeld Detractors

Lott: Replace defense chief

As many GOP leaders come to criticize Rumsfled, I'm afraid many Dems are getting caught up in their own anti-administration euphoria. They're high on hating Rumsfeld. And the media is letting the Rumsfeld criticism blow sky high.

The Dems have got to slow down a bit here. You can't let Rumsfeld become the scapegoat for everything bad about Iraq. Rumsfeld was a chief architect of this campaign, sure, and he deserves some blame. But you have to back up and continue to blame Bush and the rest of the administration. You can't let Bush off the hook because of Rumsfeld.

After all, Rumsfeld wanted to leave the administration, but Bush ASKED him to stay. And now people want him replaced. So what was Bush thinking when he asked him to stay? Shouldn't BUSH be the one to blame for keeping him around?

Of course, Bush couldn't get rid of him. Bush ran on a campaign of "don't change horses midstream." Replacing Rumsfeld is a lot like changing horses midstream. But there's more there. Rumsfeld also is an easy place for the media and the rest of the government to point a blaming finger. Rumsfeld is Bush's fall man.

So yell about Rumsfeld all you want. But don't let all the screaming about Rumsfeld overpower the roaring of the burning Bush behind him who ultimately aims Rumsfeld in the directions that people criticize him for.

Another Cold Post for Winter

I remember the days when I used to like snow. I remember when there was a such thing as a "snow day." I remember when the winter was a time to look forward to...

But all my memories of late take a form very similar to this video...

http://www.abqradio.com/933/IceScraping.WMV

[ found on (other places too)

http://www.kobfm.com/LeahBlack.shtml ]

Ice Rink IN the Eiffel Tower

From a Yahoo News Article (emphasis added)

Parisians skate on the ice rink set 57 meters (188 feet) above the ground on the Eiffel Tower in Paris Thursday Dec. 9, 2004. Lodged between two of the tower's immense latticed steel legs, visible in background, the rink is not big at 200 square meters (2,150 square feet), but adds a new dimension to the breathtaking views from Paris' best-known landmark. It will remain open until Jan. 23, 2005. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The oil we eat: following the food chain back to Iraq

This is a really good and really important article.

The oil we eat: following the food chain back to Iraq - Essay

Turn off your computer!

Turn Off Your Computer When You are Not Using It!!

I posted a much longer post about this. But I realize more people will read it if I can the old post and just go with this:
  • 8 hours of unattended computer use is $6/month at 4.4 cents a kWh
    Caveat: this is assuming your CRT monitor stays on that whole time
    Response: most computers are on more than 8 hours unattended, so the cost still ends up being $6 or more.

  • Turning your computer off shaves money off your electric bill
  • Lots of people turning their computers off lowers the price of electricity
  • Lots of people turning their computers off is good for the environment

  • Most computers can be turned off by putting them into Hibernate Mode. In these cases, boot-up times are extremly short and all open applications at Hibernation stay open.
  • Most modern computers can be configured to turn on automatically at some given time. The computer can be configured to be ON by the time you WAKE UP.
  • Windows can be configured to turn OFF (or Hibernate) a computer automatically after a certain time or after a certain condition.

  • AT LEAST configure your monitor to go into "sleep mode" after a certain amount of idle time!
  • NOTE THAT LCD MONITORS USE FAR LESS ELECTRICITY
Funny Conclusion

I'm fairly sure that AOL and the electric companies must be in cahoots with each other. I know that it wasn't until AOL IM entered my life that I actually WANTED to leave my computer on all night...

But don't worry, the people who were going to IM you at 2 AM WILL just e-mail you instead.

S.Dogg Speaks: Can I have a mandate, too?

From S. Dogg Speaks:
Can I have a mandate, too?

Some political holiday fun courtesy of FieldWorks, a progressive mobilization organization.

posted by Spice at 12/15/2004 06:53:21 PM

Bush cancels Iraq's $4.1 BILLION debt

In a recent CNN article on CNN, entitled "U.S. cancels Iraq's $4.1 billion debt":

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/12/17/iraq.main/index.html
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration formally canceled Iraq's $4.1 billion debt to the United States on Friday and urged others to do the same to help the country rebuild.

We apparently can just invent money.

I thought Iraq was a rich nation who was going to be able to profit greatly from its own internal wealth of oil?

Oh, well... Who needed that $4.1 BILLION anyway?

Will we ever be able to do anything with our money now that we're engaged in Iraq? Let's look at another recent article, entitled "Bush looking at freezing domestic spending" :

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/12/17/bush.spending.ap/index.html
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is telling federal agencies to expect lean budgets next year, with congressional aides and lobbyists saying President Bush appears ready to propose freezing or even slightly cutting overall domestic spending.

So FINALLY Bush thinks it's a good idea to stop spending. Of course, he's cutting back on domestic spending. It's apparently okay to continue spending money abroad and even forgiving $4.1 BILLION DEBT because those people overseas need the money more than we do anyway...

It's a wonder HOW this man can actually be considering REFORMING SOCIAL SECURITY, given the enormous cost ANY reform will be!

[ ...and what about Medicare reform? Isn't THAT where the big problem is? ]

Friday, December 17, 2004

Two Less-Serious Interesting Articles

Jeff Probst dating `Survivor' Contestant
Fifth-place finisher Julie starting seeing host after e-mail exchange.

Dolphin design fulfills lifelong dream
When Thomas "Doc" Rowe told people almost 30 years ago that he wanted to build a bionic dolphin, people thought he was crazy.

"Buying into Failure," by PAUL KRUGMAN

So this Op-Ed article was posted in the New York Times today. It's entitled "Buying into Failure," and it's by Paul Krugman. It discusses social security, whether it really is as much of a problem as the conservatives say it is, and how George Bush is going to bankrupt the United States and make everyone poor in his process to reform it.

NYTimes.com: Opinion: "Buying into Failure" by PAUL KRUGMAN

If you don't want to make the free subscription to the NYTimes on-line, I've copied the article (in very Robin Hood fashion) here:

NYTIMES_buying_into_failure.html

Tom Bozzo's comment on this post also points out that Krugman's NYT columns also get posted on the "Unofficial Krugman Archive." Thus, this column is also found (with no advertising links) at:

The Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page: Buying Into Failure

Now, the whole article is very interesting. I'll give a quote or two (also note that the article lists The Century Foundation as a good resources for more information about the dangers of privitizing social security):
Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.

It leaves many retirees in poverty.

Decades of conservative marketing have convinced Americans that government programs always create bloated bureaucracies, while the private sector is always lean and efficient. But when it comes to retirement security, the opposite is true. More than 99 percent of Social Security's revenues go toward benefits, and less than 1 percent for overhead. In Chile's system, management fees are around 20 times as high. And that's a typical number for privatized systems.

In the rest of the article, there are plenty of good examples from other countries that have a more privitized system. I recommend reading the article for those details.

Meanwhile, cut to a little later in the article...

So the Bush administration wants to scrap a retirement system that works, and can be made financially sound for generations to come with modest reforms. Instead, it wants to buy into failure, emulating systems that, when tried elsewhere, have neither saved money nor protected the elderly from poverty.

So I thought all that was interesting. See the article for more details.

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Comments on Quadrature Encoders

[ This post is echoed on http://www.tedpavlic.com/post_quadrature_encoder_comments.php , except A USEFUL EXAMPLE IS GIVEN THERE ]

Comments on Quadrature Encoders

So, as usual, with the upcoming FIRST season, I've gotten questions about quadrature encoders. And as usual, like everyone who has either just learned about quadrature encoders or simply has known about them for a long time but never used them, the people who come to me with these questions are extremely excited about these things. Some of them seem to even approach me as if I've never heard of them or had to use them. I know plenty about quadrature encoders, and I know that sometimes the best idea is not to use them.

ContentsSome Background

So I wanted to leave a few words here about quadrature encoders. I especially want to stress that they are not always necessary, especially when used as feedback for drive actuators, and if you absolutely need them, don't take for granted that you can build your own pretty easily.

An example of a commercially built quadrature encoder is given here:

Grayhill Series 25L Mechanical Quadrature Encoder

Shaft Encoders

A shaft encoder is used to convert rotations of some output shaft into information buried on top of a signal that can be read and processed by a computer. That computer then has some idea of the position of the output shaft.

For example, imagine a spinning disk with slits cut in it at regular intervals. Let's say that the cuts in the disk have an equal arc length as the space between them. As the shaft spins, so does the disk. Now imagine a beam of light positioned perpendicular to the disk. The beam shines through the disk. On the other side of the disk is a sensor that generates a high signal (call it a 1) whenever light hits it. When no light hits it, it generates a low signal (call it a 0). So as the disk spins it either blocks the light or lets it pass. And thus, if the shaft is spinning at a constant speed, the light sensor generates a periodic square wave (...01010101...).

If you can assume that the shaft only spins in one direction, waiting for the next transition (from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0), it's pretty easily to estimate how far the shaft has rotated. If your shaft is turning a drive wheel, you can thus determine how far you've driven. Of course, you still don't know anything about direction. You could be rotating backwards, forwards, or be changing direction constantly. You simply don't know.

Quadrature Encoders

So came things like the quadrature encoder. There's lots I can say about quadrature encoders. I'll leave that for a whitepaper I'll put together later. But let's continue the above example to try to illustrate the idea.

Imagine that your first disk is somewhere near the middle of the shaft. Imagine that the light source and light sensor simply straddle that disk. Now imagine you put a second disk away from the middle of the shaft. Again, put a second sensor stradling the disk. Make sure the second disk is aligned perfectly with the first disk. That is, when looking down the shaft, the disks line up. However, put the second sensor half a cut-out-arc length away from the other sensor. In other words, if the cutouts in the disk span 30 degrees of the circular disk, the sensors are placed 15 degrees apart.

So now rotate the shaft as before at a constant rotational speed. Call the first sensor A and the second sensor B. We then get this waveform out:

A: 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 ...
B: 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 ...

This can be depicted graphically as:



So the two waveforms are identical, but the B waveform is shifted a little to the left.

Now, notice that moving either left-to-right or right-to-left, only one bit (either A or B) changes at a time. Only one bit.

But notice something else. Notice that if you know what state you were previously in, you can decipher what direction you moved. If A did not change, but B changed to match A, then you KNOW that you might be moving from RIGHT-TO-LEFT. Likewise, if B did not change, but A changed to match B, you know you must be moving from LEFT-TO-RIGHT.

It's a beautiful way of deciphering both DIRECTION of rotation AND angular position.

Good Applications of Quadrature Encoders

Now, if your motor is coupled to an arm by some flexible member, like a spring, then the arm can move relative to the motor. It's not a rigid connection, thus knowing something about the motor's movement does not give you a whole lot of information about the actual arm movement. Thus, coupling the arm's rotational axis with a quadrature encoder allows us to find how the position of the arm moves with respect to the motor. We can use this feedback to move the motor so that it ends up also moving the arm where we want the arm to move.

BAD Applications of Quadrature Encoders

Now, let's say we're talking about drill motor. Let's say we're talking about a drill motor that has been severely geared down so that many rotations of the motor cause few rotations of the output. Now let's say the output is a wheel. That wheel rotates freely and ends up moving a robot forward and backward.

There is nearly no way to back drive that motor from the wheel. It requires a great deal of force to rotate that wheel even when the motor is not being driven. If the motor is rigged for dynamic braking, and the leads are shorted together, it is even harder to rotate that wheel. Finally, if the motor is being driven in a particular direction, it will be nearly impossible to rotate that wheel manually in any direction but the direction corresponding to the motor's rotation.

And yet people feel like it's necessary to take the time to put a quadrature encoder on their drive shaft. IF the system rotates at all, it will only be due to rotation of the motor. If that robot is ever driven backwards, it will be due to slipping on the ground and not due to rotation of the wheel.

The Moral of the Story Is...
  • So I contend that it is SILLY to use quadrature shaft encoders on drive shafts. If there's any direction, it will be in the direction of the DRIVEN rotation, which is also known a priori.

  • And I also think it's silly to attempt to buy your own quadrature encoders and find some crazy way to couple them to a drive shaft when you can just build your own. If you're careful, you can build your own for a measily $10 from RadioShack.

  • And finally, if you're going to gear down your motor anyway, PUT THE ENCODER CLOSER TO THE MOTOR. It GREATLY INCREASES YOUR RESOLUTION.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Cute quote...

Saw this on a "random quote generator" somewhere...
If a train station is a place where a train stops, what's a workstation?

The Great Brown Cloud Over South Asia!!

So today I received this NASA press release. Apparently there's a giant brown cloud over Southern Asia and the Indian Ocean. That doesn't seem like such a good sign.

A recent image:


An image from April, 2001:


The press release gives the following URL for more information, which is also where I found the above two images:

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/brown_cloud.html

I've made the press release available here:

http://www.tedpavlic.com/lqb/NASA_brown_cloud.html

Servomotor to DC Gearhead Motor Conversion

So today I decided to put together a whitepaper on Servomotor to DC Gearhead Motor conversion. I've actually decided to try to put together a couple of whitepapers for the upcoming FIRST season. I'm not mentoring for FIRST anymore, but I still receive questions, and I'd like to help out if I can.

Anyway, the whitepapers I put together will be available at:

http://www.tedpavlic.com/general_posts.php


The servomotor post is already available there. I'm really thinking about removing the original HTML page. The more recent PDF document is much higher quality. The table of contents fits onto one page perfectly and makes for a great quick reference on the procedure (for more experienced users). The pages to which I'm referring are:

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Google Suggest

So I just found out about Google Suggest:

http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en

It's in beta right now, but as you type it figures out in real time what you query you're trying to complete. It's a bit like the "Did you mean?", but it gives lots and lots of options really quickly.

It's kinda nice... Kinda.

from "Trung's Spot" tonight...

Trung's Spot :: Aging Disgracefully

(it's funny if you don't relate, and it's HILARIOUS if you do)

from "in the machine" tonight...

in the machine :: and another thing. . .

Monday, December 13, 2004

Willow

I just saw a blog about Willow. It's been so long since I've seen Willow. I enjoyed Willow. I really did.

And wasn't there some tall girl in it who was kind of hot? Gotta go see it again...

Funny coincidence...

So earlier tonight Kristen called. I never know what to expect when I talk to Kristen, but it's always good to hear from her. I have an easy time making her laugh, and I enjoy the topics that come up. It's funny, I never seem to run out of anything to talk about when I talk to Kristen, and I usually find the things she says fairly interesting. However, I never really look FORWARD to talking to Kristen. I don't see Kristen as any ideal mate. It just turns out that chatting with her goes pretty well. Go figure, huh?

Anyway, we're both 23 now, and we're both witnessing a LOT of friends getting married and/or moving away with someone right now. However, she's a bit picky (and a bit forward) about her dates, and she's in medical school too, and I'm ... well, I'm me... so we're both not exactly in this "first wave" of newlyweds. So I describe a new theory I was thinking about that helped explain why we observed lots of people getting married now, a lull, and then lots of people getting married later. I think I referred to "first wave" men and "second wave" men, and also extended this theory to women.

It basically had to do with two types of people. More specifically, it had to do with two types of things that people believe about themselves:
  1. (type 1) If you find the very perfect person right now, it is best to change the rest of your life to make sure that you can be around them. The sacrifice is worth it. This is an opportunity you can't pass up.
  2. (type 2) It's best to find the perfect life for yourself first, and then once you find it, you'll find someone else also living the perfect life. You and that person will be extremely happy as you won't feel you're making major life-altering sacrifices to be with each other. You're able to be with each other and be yourself, and if you make sacrifices, you're making them because you want to make them.
Well, that's the idea in a nutshell. Therewas much conversation. Kristen was saying that type 2 people are actually type 1 people, just type 1 people who take a while. So I guess I renamed them "content" (type 1) and "picky" (type 2)... (and internally I felt like Kristen was someone who desperately wanted to be "content" right now but was relegated to "picky" by circumstances)

ANYWAY, it turns out that if this is modeled as a "first wave" (type 1) and a "second wave" (type 2), I was saying that the "first wave" is around 23 and the "second wave" is around 28. Kristen thought 28 was funny, but I explained that it was just an expected value (a mean), and I was actually just estimating an expected value, so my expectation itself has variation, and thus 28 isn't necessarily dead on where the "second wave" hits...

So tonight I read this on a blog from a girl describing a night out she had with a guy, who is apparently Indian. She writes:

[ from I haven't really been out in a few months by Ms. Persimmon Kumquat on Pardon the paranoia, please. ]

. . . It seems as though it doesn't matter who a girl is, but if she walks in at the right time she'll be the one. Very unromantic. There was another theory I heard too: that guys can only marry at age "24" or "34"-- as in, they'll marry right out of school because they're ready to marry their sweetheart, OR they'll marry in their mid-thirties when they realize they're running out of options. This theory was quickly knocked down, because this one guy believes the timeline is quite different with Indian guys. Indian guys tend to hit the "34" mark earlier, at around 28-29. . . .

posted by ms. persimmon kumquat at 3:21 AM

So I thought that was pretty funny, as I think it starts to explain the same observations that Kristen and I were talking about just earlier tonight... However, it's a different explanation for those observations though...

Waterworld

Waterworld wasn't THAT bad of a movie... (really)

Go ahead, make a comment, I dare you.

Shoe on the Other Foot

I enjoyed this Blog entry that I found today...

[ "Shoe on other foot" posted by flo at Florance of Arabia ]

Shoe on other foot.

Imagine if you came home one night to find some greedy bastard bear had mowed down the city and planted the beginnings of a forest becuase the bear species simply felt that existing forests were not to their sufficient for their lifestyle.

posted by flo at 9:55 PM

My Research

So I had to submit an application for NSF money recently. That forced me to put together a document that outlined exactly where my research was heading in the next few years. I posted that document on my website, in lieu of details being posted there directly.

So now I link to the page on my website outlining my research, a page that includes the essay I submitted to NSF. For more information about the research, read the 2-page essay...

My Research

Social Security numbers from CBO

I read this today. I thought it was interesting:


The most current CBO (Congressional Budget Office) numbers on social security have been published, and I want to give some more accurate numbers. The current estimate is that the first year in which the money taken in from payroll taxes will exceed the amount of social security benefits paid out will be 2032. In 2052 the Trust Fund will run out of money and the system will be unable to meet all of its obligations. This assumes nothing is done to change the system. At that point we would be able to pay 81% of benefits. The difference in taxes needed to keep the system solvent into the next century would necessitate a 3% increase in Federal spending. (This is about one half of one percent of GDP.)


So then I looked up America's GDP for 2003. It's $11 trillion. One half of one percent of $11 trillion ($11,000,000,000,000) is $55 billion ($55,000,000,000). So that puts things into interesting perspective.

Converting to the Chilean system is something like $3 trillion. Extending social security for another 100 years is $55 billion.

Fascinating. I'm not passing judgement as of it. I'm just... fascinated.

LaTeX is a wonderful thing

Adding Links for LaTeX and RCS Integration into Favorite Text Editors

So I spent a lot of time today cleaning up my links page. I wanted to give plenty of tips on how to integrate MiKTeX and UltraEdit, TextPad, GVIM, and WinEdt. I also wanted to tie in how to get RCS support (and CVS support for the larger projects).

So I redid most of my links page:

My Links Page

Now there are plenty of instructions on how to get setup with your favorite Windows text editor, MiKTeX, and RCS (or CVS, if you must).

Killer RCS Tools (CS-RCS and GNU RCS)

I also want to comment on how great I think ComponentSoftware's CS-RCS Pro is. Configuring it for "single user" mode (and then making sure not to LOCK anything as to keep things in archive mode) is terrific. On top of that, installing GNU RCS gives plenty of the great command line features, and with the right options works right alongside CS-RCS. CS-RCS integrates automatically into many applications, and other applications are easily configured to work with CS-RCS or GNU RCS. It's a great combination.A Revolution in Documentation

People need to start making documents like this. Type them up in a text editor, typeset them with LaTeX, and keep track of the history of the document with RCS. It's easy, can save lots of time, and has tons of benefits (and makes it very easy to work in a large group on a document when necessary). On top of all of this, it applies equally as well to books as it does to one page essays.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Chilean Retirement System and BUSH!

So on LiquidBlur, I posted a message entitled Chilean Retirement System, Bush, and Political Capital. I include most of that post here:


So we've been talking a lot about Bush and social security lately, and there has been a lot stirring in the news lately.

The Ideal Chilean Retirement System
Ideally, Bush would like to implement the Chilean Retirement System here in the United States. This isn't necessarily a bad idea. The Chilean Retirement System charges a 10% tax to all workers in Chile. All but a fraction of that money is invested in a private interest-bearing retirement account. There are restrictions on the type of private account this can be. In short, the government will not put your money in a high-risk account. After retiring (at an age around 70), everyone draws money from their own private interest-bearing accounts. Now, keep in mind that not all of that 10% went into those accounts. A fraction of that went into a program like the present social security. This fraction of the 10% tax will gaurantee some minimal retirement benefit for thsoe who are not drawing more than that minimal retirement benefit. In other words, everyone draws from their own money, and those who do not draw enough draw from a social-security-like benefit gaurantee service.

Now, in this system, every worker also has the choice to pay up to an additional 10% into their own government pension plans. This money will go directly into those private accounts.

Note that all of the money that goes into these accounts goes in tax free. It only gets taxed when it is taken out, and by the time it is taken out, it is taxed at a far lower rate. (this is like a traditional IRA)

Now, first note that this is NOT the plan that Bush is actually proposing, but I'll get into that in a moment.

The Present Social Security System
In another LiquidBlur post, mathking has already explained the basics of social security. Right now, approximately 7.7% of a worker's income goes into pay for social security. The employer actually has to also pay a matching 7.7% for every employee. This combined effective 15.4% of each salary goes into paying for social security. Based on the amount of money paid into social security, when a person retires (at age 65?), she is entitled to a certain amount of social security money directly proportional (though not necessarily linearly) to how much money she paid in. (oh, and additionally if someone makes over $85,000/year, they pay into social security as if she made $85,000/year) (also note that self-employed workers have to pay the full 15.4% themselves)

Because social security is not a "pay as you go" type plan, it will run out of money to support itself at the current tax levels sometime in the "near" future. Some project this as far out as 2042. In order to support the current social security system, taxes would have to be raised, that $85,000 cap would have be raised, and/or the retirement age would have to be extended. However, eventually, as the population continues to grow, there's a good chance this will happen again. Right now the current problem has to do with the retirement of the baby boomers.

Differences Between the Two... Pros and Cons of the Chilean System
With all that being said, note that in the Chilean system employers do not have to perform any sort of matching. Employees, self-employed or otherwise, all are required to pay that 10% tax, and they all can add an additional 10% voluntarily.

The Chilean system has had a number of good reviews. It was adapted circa 1980 (as an alternative plan, actually), and in a very short amount of time, 95% of all Chilean workers had signed-up for the plan. The trouble is that it does not prevent old-aged poverty, and it carries with it an administrative cost (probably not too much greater than the social security administrative cost). Plus, it's not convincing that it doesn't have the same problems that social security has. If, for example, 5% of the population needs that gauranteed social-security-like money, as the population grows, the cost of that 5% of people grows. That cost is less than the social security cost, but it's growth rate may be greater than the growth rate of social security cost. These are all questions beyond me and beyond most public documents on the subject. Regardless though, this system seems to work fairly well in Chile, despite these downsides.

The Transition Cost to the Chilean System
The trouble is that it would cost $2 trillion to convert our current system to the Chilean system. In other words, if you switched from our system to their system tomorrow, then people would stop paying into social security and all of the people who have not been on this new system for all their lives but ARE currently retired will need $2 trillion to maintain their current retirement payments. After some transient period when people started drawing retirement money out of the new system, this cost would stop accruing, and at that point, it would have cost a total of approximateily $2 trillion.

So experts say that changing from our system to the Chilean system would require raising taxes or cutting programs (or raising retirement age) or both, but this isn't popular with the Bush administration.

The Bush Administration, The Iraq War, and Something That is NOT the Chilean System
So this brings us to the Bush administration. Here is an administration that would like the Chilean retirement system. When Bush talked about his "political capital" that he will spend in the next four years, many speculate that he was talking about social security reform. He ideally would like a major part of the Bush legacy to be social security reform.

The trouble is the cost of the war he started in his first four years may have "borrowed" more "political capital" than he has left to spend in these next four years. The tremendous cost of the Iraq war has put us so far in debt that there's no way we can afford changing to a better social security system.

But Bush still wants to reform social security, so he's trying to make compromises. His compromise is to gradually move toward the Chilean retirement system. The current plan is to give people the choice to pay into social security exactly as they always have or move to a plan where they still pay exactly as they always have, but a fraction of the money that they pay does not go into social security but goes into a private interest-bearing account.

Note that this is not the Chilean system at all. Note that this change alone just makes the social security problem worse. All it does is undercut social security funds. It is something that looks like a transition, but it pays no additional transition cost, and will thus incur a greater cost later on in the future when a REAL transition has to occur.

Conclusions: Iraq, Retirement, and Bush Hoping for Some Luck
So right now analysists say that if the Iraq war did not happen, we could have the Chilean system. But we now have so much debt that there just is no way that we can fund a realistic transition.

So Bush is taking a risk. If his plan works by some weird twist of luck, then he's done a good thing. However, none of the experts predict that this is going to happen. Most experts say the best case scenerio is that things only get worse, and they get worse a lot quicker.

So anyway... what do other people think? Take a look at:

  • The Chilean System
  • Other contries using a similar system (Australia?)
  • Bush's "compromise"
  • How long we have until social security crashes
  • The Cost of the Iraq War and how it ties our hands now....

Thoughts? Feelings?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Science, Faith, Religion, and Gravity

In a message board thread related to my last blog, I posted a response that included a discussion of how practicing science is not the same thing has having faith in something. The response argued that faith does not belong in the realm of faith, and vice-versa.

The message to which I was responding made a reference to gravity, so I took some time to put together a page off-site that gave a description of the development of some of the most well-known theories of gravity. This development is one concrete example of how no scientist has "faith" that "gravity exists." In fact, no scientist "believes" in gravity. No scientist ever makes existential statements about gravity.

I give that off-site page here, which has a link to the message board thread for which it was created. I hope that some other people find this topic of some interest.

If you're intersted in Newton, Einstein, Ernest Mach, special relativity, general relativity, and some history of all of them, I recommend you take a look at the link. It's a short passage, but I think the average reader will learn a little bit from it.

http://www.tedpavlic.com/post_gravity_faith.php

Saturday, December 04, 2004

GOD: "Pi is 3, not 3.14!!!"

I really thought this article was great:

http://www.thebentinel.com/041201-alternative-value-for-pi.html

Teachers in Dover, PA, the same teachers who made the move to teach Intelligent Design, have decided that Pi is an integer, specifically 3. It's not 3.1 or 3.14 or any such nonsense. Pi is an integer.

And what justification do they have for it? The Bible. King Solomon could make a circle with 30 units around its circumference and 10 units on its diameter, therefore GOD says PI is 3.

And one of the best quotes, at the very end of the article (emphasis added):
"We firmly believe that God already explained himself adequately, and he doesn't need us to second-guess him," defended Callister,
"Besides, who ever really uses this stuff after school, anyway?

The New Icon of the Republican Party

Someone I know had this in his away message one day. I thought it was clever, even though it's probably a bit harsh
the republican national committee announced today that the republican party is changing it's emblem from the elephant to a condom. The committee chairman explained that the condom more clearly reflects the party's stance today, because a condom accepts inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually getting screwed

Friday, December 03, 2004

Actually Going to Publish a Book

So my adviser asked to meet me today. I figured it was just going to be about the research we've been doing so far, which it was, but it was something more than that.

He wants to write a book with me. More specifically, there will be four of us collaborating on this, which him and I putting in the most work on the most recent work. It'll be a small book, 200 pages or so, with probably around 5 chapters.

The topic will be foraging theory and its applications (with an engineering spin on things). This basically will be something to do in parallel with the journal papers I put together. The journal papers will bring interesting publishable things to print, and the book will bring everything together.

The hope is that this book won't take more than 2 years to write. That way we can hopefully get it into print before I'm done with my PhD. So then by the end of the PhD, I'll have around 5 papers and a book.

It's going to be busy, but I'm excited about it.

What I'm not so excited about is the NSF and NDSEG fellowship deadlines coming up. I still have to do all that writing. The NSF deadline is December 10. I could really use that extra stipend money per month. And I really think my research is going to benefit from staying on fellowship funding the whole time. I really do.

So I guess I better get to work . . .

Something to do when I'm bored

So, I like to type. I like to have an opportunity to publish thoughts. All the good question-and-answer sites are gone. Sites like www.physlink.com update far too slowly. So I don't get an opportunity to do that that often.

Maybe this will give me some help...