Thursday, August 31, 2006

Xerxes and Schwarzenegger.

"and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present."

Scholars have dissed this chapter as hyperbole. Since I have read Herodotus, I am quite happy to denounce the scholars and give the info that they don't want heard. At this point in the reign of Xerxes, he was planning an attack on Athens and Sparta. Besides the logistical planning, Xerxes was involved in two great engineering feats. One was the construction of a 7 mile canal across an isthmus in Greece and the other was the construction of a double pontoon bridge across the Hellespont. The bridge was constructed by anchoring boats side-by-side. 360 were used for one bridge and 314 for the other. A road was then constructed on top of them to make two parallel bridges roughly a mile long each.

A storm came up and destroyed the bridge and Xerxes famously gave the Hellespont 300 lashes and a curse to go with them. On a more practical note, he took those who were in charge of the work and cut their heads off. Thus, the next group of engineers was considerably more motivated and accomplished the job in a much more thorough manner.

Like Xerxes, governor Scharzenegger is faced with an engineering fiasco regarding a bridge. The new Oakland Bay Bridge is a financial and scheduling disastor. Rumor is that a UC Berkeley civil engineering class designed the bridge and focussed entirely on esthetics, but ignored costs and construction. The socialist California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) then stepped in to make this an engineering design and subcontracted based on the usual political considerations. The end result is something that will impact the tax rates of all Californians. Whether it will be completed or not is, however, still up in the air.

If only Arnold had the motivational tools at his dispossal that Xerxes had! Having worked in engineering most of my life, I have witnessed numerous similar projects where the management techniques of Xerxes were greatly needed! This also gives us a little insight into Xerxes character that meshes nicely with the story of Esther.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Monterey Bike Trail Review

Well, I am stuck here in Monterey for a conference. Usually, I have relatives with me and my impressions of Monterey are based on traffic, parking fees, noise around Cannery Row and overpriced and oversubscribed Restaurants. Today, I got up at 6:00am for a run along the bike trail. It goes from the Monterey Naval Post-Graduate School past the Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row, the Monterey Aquarium, and then along to Pacific Grove. Perhaps it is 5 miles long. This is much too short for bicycling, so I took a 6 mile run out-and-back run. The trail is almost dead flat and is fairly wide. In some places, you have a choice between pavement or well packed sand to run on.

Normally, any Monterey review would need to include some pictures of the Cypress trees. I forgot my camera, however, so all I can really give is an impression of the sights and smells. This early in the morning was a completely different Monterey. A few soldiers from the Naval college were running on the trail, but the tourists were no where to be found. The main sounds were from the seagulls and the foghorn at the harbor. A little further down the sounds were of sea lions and the gentle waves on the rocks. A salt smell from the sea was refreshing, since I normally don't get this in Fremont. The weather here was 60 degrees and foggy so that a nice cool mist could just be felt on the skin. This is about the best conditions that I could ever hope for on a run. There are a number of local road crossings, but the local drivers are quite domesticated and trafffic was very light, so this wasn't a problem. Don't even think about not stopping at an intersection during a busy weekend.

If you do come here, be sure to get up early and try to experience Monterey without the tourists. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Need Of A New Conspiracy Theory ...

This article gives a bit of the idea. My conspiracy theory was that doctor and nursing positions in the US are being deliberately rationed in order to drive the free market health care system into the ground. This way a proper, socialist system could be constructed on its rubble and gain the admiration of Lenin's ghost. Unfortunately, Canada also is engineering a doctor shortage for their socialist system, so this kind of blows the conspiracy theory. At least the US can't be blamed for robbing the developing world of doctors like Canada, given the obstacles we place in the path of wannabe doctors.

Where do we go from here? Is there any way for the blogging universe (both far-out left and ultra-extreme right) to unite and agree on something? Whether we choose a free-market health system or a socialist system, it ain't gonna run without doctors and nurses!!! Unless you are Falun Gong, please direct your hysteria along with me towards opening up more medical school slots!
The University of California and Guns.

This sign is on Mount Hamilton. The top portion is Lick Observatory which is run by the University of California and is definitely in the middle of no where. This sign is about when you are getting to the upper portions of the mountain and you should start to get a breeze to take away the summer heat for all of you bikers. The temperature can also be noticeably cooler here, especially in the winter. Don't forget the heavy gloves in the winter, because it is tough to pull on the brakes when your fingers are suffering from frostbite (speaking from experience)!

For those of you who think this gun ban has something to do with principals, consider that the University of California runs Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and until recently, Los Alamos National Laboratory. Quiz: What happens when you mix academic freedom theory with nuclear weapons design?

Violence on campus trivia: A Stanford Ph.D. student in math killed one of his math professors back in the 80's using a hammer. It is rumored that shortly afterwards, there were a number of other Ph.D.s granted in mathematics at nearby UC campuses that had been dragging.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My New Baby ...

It has been 30 years since I got my last one. This new bike was bought at REI, which as we all know is a good place for fundamentalists to go shopping. It is the REI brand Novara. I am always surprised that they aren't selling marijuana farming implements ... yet.

I took it out for a test drive on Mount Hamilton, which is the tallest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area. The triple chain ring and 27 gears made it quite comfortable as I hauled my weight up the mountain. The only thing that annoyed me was the brakes. I have gotten used to my son's mountain bike on steep hills and mountain bike brakes are amazing. Road bikes, however take a lot of hand/forearm strength to slow, which isn't a problem, unless you happen to go riding down 15+ miles of hairpin curves.

I won't be riding my son's bike anymore because it was stolen from the Fremont BART station in daylight by someone with some very heavy lock cutters. The Fremont BART station is one block from the Fremont Police Station, which brings us to another long saga that I will post on some other time when I am bored.
I came across this sign at Point Reyes National Seashore. It makes me wonder about their success rate. How many of us can acknowledge our professional failures?

Engineering Optimization and Darwinism: Part 4

Working in scientific simulation, we are routinely coding little optimization loops that can be invoked billions or even trillions of time throughout the simulation. Unlike laymen, those of us who work in this industry aren't impressed by big numbers by themselves. Early on, I tested random and brute force searches and learned immediately that they were really bad compared to analytical methods that were based on calculus. In two dimensions, very bad went to hopeless, so I had never looked into things further, nor had anyone else that worked in this business - until the Darwinists started lecturing us on how to do things right!

Some young brain-washed kids showed up at my customer and demanded that I put genetic algorithms into my software because gradient based methods were no good! So the dilettantes were ordering around the experts to please the theologians who were the true spokesmen for science. I was mad, because it was a waste of resources, but in business, the customer is always right. Anyway, they were paying the bill, so why not go along and learn? It wasn't costing me anything.

So I did what the youngsters demanded and put my heart into doing it right. They had a separate package that specialized in genetic optimization and apparently had been using it a long time on the side. For my software, the biggest challenge was getting the statistical infrastructure going and I incorporated the best from their simplified package. As we began running it on test cases, and running and running and running, it became apparent that there was a huge amount to this story that wasn't getting out. The one I hinted at earlier was objective functions like performance, cost and safety. These are also composed of other objective functions so that a dozen quickly show up. The first time you run, however, one objective completely dominates and result is useless. So we run and run and re-run the optimization changing objective weights until the optimization converges to something more plausible. This is called Intelligent Design!

As we look at the parameters, we also find that there are enumerable ways to define the same problem. Again, we find the engineer going through various possible parametric definitions of the model until a minimum set is found. One possible parameter definition is chosen, but it diverges, so we switch to another parameter set that is equivalent, but has nicer properties. Then the parameters themselves are capped so that the simulation can't go out of reasonable limits. Mutations are sized individually for each parameter and then we throw in a dynamic mutation size modifier so that the solution will do coarse and fine optimization with different mutation sizes. On and on it goes: Intelligent Design is everywhere! In fact, without the Intelligent Designer, it is inconceivable that the genetic algorithms would give you anything at all, even on these trivial <20 parameter problems. How could genetic algorithms possibly do anything useful for something complex? To make matters worse, all of our optimizations started with "viable" designs! It was inconceivable that the genetic algorithm would build a design from scratch. The last little observation was that everything was happening within a design space that we had pre-determined. Thus, it was impossible not to be involved with genetic optimization and be confronted with Intelligent Design constantly.

So when scientists (i.e. theologians) claim that evolution "proves" and "explains", I can only think of Romans 1:20 - "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse". Darwinism isn't just wrong, it is cleary without excuse.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I just got a newsflash regarding new attempt by the California legislature to pass bills which mandate the presentation of homosexuality as a positive lifestyle in the California schools. When I see these things, I get the impression that the Democrats what to bring our boys home from Iraq so they can have sex with them! Pacifists indeed.

We can all give thanks to God that Governor Conan is a voice of moderation and thwarting the church of moral depravity with vetoes.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

American's and Science.

There is a lot of shouting going on about science in this country between the fundamentalists and the liberals. Since I have lived and worked overseas many years, done training classes for engineering software at countless places, and the members of my family have attended public and/or private schools in four countries, I thought it would be good to outline the global facts which I know first hand and which need to be comprehended before a sensible discussion can start:

In the US, the typical demographics of a high tech training class taught in either Detroit or California are as follows (BS, MS or Ph.D in engineering):

Chinese (Taiwan): 16
Chinese (Mainland): 4
Indians (Hindu): 8
Indians (Sihk): 3
Korean: 3
Vietnamese or other Asian: 1
Middle East: 2
Europe: 1
US: 2

There you have it - American cars are designed by Chinese and Indian engineers! I don't know how many times I was wandering through the Dilbert cubicle land of Ford, GM and Chrysler and overheard Mandarin being spoken on the other side of the partition. There are higher concentrations of American engineers in defense or in the smaller companies scattered throughout America's heartland, but America would shut down without foreign engineers. Then we can add in the fact that although Chinese and Indian engineers seem to outnumber American engineers in the US, there are still plenty more to handle the outsourcing. Outside of the US, foreign born engineers are a rarity, although you can find an occasional Chinese engineer in France or Sweden and I even worked with an Indian engineer in Japan.

Once upon a time, when I was at the University of Tennessee, the undergraduate degrees had many American born students, but the engineering graduate students were almost entirely foreign born. Several students came from Singapore who weren't good enough for the National University of Singapore, but easily beat their American peers in the undergraduate courses.

With this as the raw data, we can go on to ask why. The key is partially in American culture, but also in America's education system. One of the sad things is that America isn't asking why it is a failure in producing engineers, because the foreign born ones make it seem that there isn't a problem. Engineering is where math and science meet reality, but we aren't up to the task.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Nursing Shortage

One myth that is never going away is that America's medical problems are due to the free market system. Litigation is the favorite conservative complaint noting that we don't really have a free market when there is a disfunctional court system. One thing that doesn't get much attention is the rationing of education for nurses and doctors. A Fox News report just listed a school in Colorado being forced to turn away 80% of qualified nursing candidates, but since Fox News isn't reputable, I included the above link. With shortages in health training, the obvious result is soaring incomes and shortages of health care. Stressed out staff have both the means and motivation to retire early, which compounds the problem.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Remembering Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878-1969.

With all of the finger pointing in the SBC over the fundamentalists, I think it is good to go back and reflect on the circumstances that led to the fundamentalists feeling that extreme action was needed. Harry Emerson Fosdick wasn't a Southern Baptist, but he does represent the mood of an era. Having been raised in a Southern Baptist church that sang his hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory, to the point that I had it half way memorized, I think it is safe to say that his presence was felt.

To get straight to the point, I will give two quotes attributed to Reverend Fosdick:

"Of course I do not believe in the virgin birth or in that old-fashioned substitutionary doctrine of the atonement, and I know of no intelligent person who does."

"the all but unanimous judgment seems to be that we, the democracies, are just as responsible for the rise of the dictators as the dictatorships themselves, and perhaps more so."

For anyone who understands Christianity, it should be clear that his testimony of rejecting salvation was as clear as it gets. Pastor Fosdick, however, goes further and denounces all genuine Christians as imbiciles. The "I know of no intelligent person who does" part of the quote makes it clear that freedom of thought is something that he despises: This is the formula for dhimmitude that liberals have been applying to fundamentalists for the last century. Having been informed of my stupidity for being a Christian since I was young, I have chosen the name Looney to celebrate my position. Along with this, we have pastor Fosdick's early version of moral equivalency theory, which projects the evil of madmen onto others. As with the subject of religion, his treatment of politics was as if his viewpoint were the only meaningful one in the universe. This is a useful reference point as modern liberals paint fundamentalists as trying to introduce religion into politics which would otherwise be completely innocent.

The hymn God of Grace and God of Glory was written in 1930 and asks God for wisdom as we go through some apparently apocalyptic struggle. Was this against Fascism? Or was it about Communism? Perhaps his 1922 sermon entitled Shall the Fundamentalists Win? gives a better hint at what was vexing him. For reference, the infamous Scopes trial occurred in 1925. Thus, I propose that the intellectual climate of the time was one of fanatical hostility to Christianity, rather than promoting science as is falsely claimed today.

Pastor Fosdick prepared a collection of sermons with one named The Peril of Worshipping Jesus. Now this last claim is something that I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there is at least a grain of truth. Whether that grain is the same as what is implied, or completely different, I don't know and I would be grateful to anyone who can shed further light on the matter, whether it supports or contradicts the thesis. What I have heard is that Pastor Fosdick's sermons were taught at the SBC seminaries as positive examples for preaching. You may deduce whatever you like from that, but let it not be said that the fundamentalists did not have cause to put their noses into the SBC seminaries.
Engineering Optimization and Darwinism - Part 3: A Balanced Ecosystem

Darwinism is an optimization problem. In an abstract sense, optimization is the problem of maximizing or minimizing an objective such as cost, performance or safety as a function of some design variables. In the case of "survival of the fittest", we have an optimization problem where survival is the objective that is being maximized and fittest is the design variables, which are encoded in the DNA.

In engineering, the objective is critical and how we handle this has a tremendous effect on the convergence rates. Fortunately, we can choose whatever we like. Nature, however, is stuck with only objectives that would be "natural". Although survivial seems like a natural objective, this is only based on intuition and not something that can actually be proven. The biology community, however, has recently identified new objectives, such as biodiversity and most importantly, the balance of an ecosystem.

This observation that an ecosystem is balanced is something that seems compelling, but has enormous consequences that haven't been considered for Darwinism yet. My previous assertion is that the plausibility of Darwinism rests on a one dimensional analysis of how a gene might change from one configuration to another. A better view is a species itself, with a genome and variation. This, however, is also insufficient, because as biologists have observed, the optimization problem is on the entire ecosystem, not an individual species.

The classic example is that predator animals, such as sharks, breed slowly, while prey animals, such as rodents, breed rapidly. If we consider the shark by itself, we see that sharks which produce more offspring should proliferate, but this seems not to be the case. The actual optimization that is going on is over the entire ecosystem, rather than the individual species.

At this point, we need to ask ourselves how many variables are in the ecosystem? This is actually the sum of all the variables of the species that make up the ecosystem! In this case, we are quickly into the billions of variables and we must continue to remember that this is an order N*N problem. Also, for a single species, we can consider the average time for a new generation which ranges from years for mammals to minutes for bacteria. For the ecosystem to become out of balance, however, requires some time. An evolutionary perturbation to ants will effect other species, which will have further effects and eventually will change the balance situation. The time frame for this is a matter of speculation, but I will simply throw out decades as the scale since the feedback would eventually need to involve the longest lived species in the system.

Summarizing all of this, we see that the time scale for an optimization of an ecosystem is probably on the order of billions times billions times decades. This estimate is derived from a linear analysis and should therefore be considered an extreme lower bound. The fact that an ecosystem is balanced stands as an even more compelling testimony to the need for a creator.

Monday, August 21, 2006

President Bush's Ratings.

The conventional wisdom is that Bush's ratings are down because of the Iraq war. Of course, the left can say that they are upset with Bush because of Iraq, but lets be real: Even if Bush hadn't gone to Iraq, they would have found something to be upset about, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs or sun spots.

My observation is that Bush's disapproval mainly relates to the border. He doesn't want to secure it, which allows a flood of illegals and drugs while exporting our drug war to Mexico, Central and South America. This is completely retarded and Americans are right to be angry.

As we look to the upcoming elections, things look bad for the Republicans. They have certainly been spectacularly irresponsible with their handling of the economy. The only challenge for the Democrats is to offer something better. In this case, however, what they have to offer is clearly worse. For example, they want to reduce the amount of patrolling that is currently happening on the border, offer water and food to migrants, and then criminalize the people who employ them. In California, however, there are so many illegals with fake documents that it is almost impossible not to employ an illegal at one point or another, unless you are too poor to afford any services. This means the majority of US citizens residing in California would be criminals, while the illegals enjoy constitutional access to benefits (free health care) that even the citizens don't get.

Another thing to ponder is the left's desire to criminalize employment of illegals while constitutionally mandating benefits. The apostle Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." In the new left wing theology, a man has a God-given, constitutional right to eat, but cursed be anyone who lets this man work for a living.
Profound Question of the Week.

There is still much more to post on the engineering vs. Darwin stuff, but I am on travel and internet access is tricky. I decided to go check things out in Lebanon first hand and bought some tickets through Expedia. Upon arrival, the southern drawl gave me a hint that something was wrong. Then I learned that Lebanon was a country, rather than a town in Tennessee.

This reminded me again of my mental handicap which I must live with due to being a fundamentalist. The question I have been reflecting on is this: If liberals are concerned and sympathetic about those who are mentally handicapped, why do they never show any concern or sympathy for fundamentalists?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Engineering Optimization & Darwinism Part 2

In this section, I will look at the number of parameters or degrees-of-freedom in an optimization task. For some least squares special cases, this can go as high as several million. A non-linear mechanics simulation will quickly drop this to a hundred thousand or so, but this is using sophisticated coupled optimization of the Newton or Quasi-Newton form that cannot be related to the evolutionary world. As situations become more general, we find engineers doing no more than a hundred or so variables for optimizing things like sheet metal thicknesses in car design. If we move to organizations that have less resources than Ford, we usually see up to a dozen variables.

The reason for this reduction is cost and tractability. Introducing new variables, even if they aren't physically significant, drives costs up exponentially. Thus, even if genetic algorithms are used for optimization, the engineer will typically expend extraordinary effort to reduce the number of variables. One of the primary fallacies of Darwinism is the notion that if a simple path can be visualized between two designs, then getting between them is easy. If the only parameters in the system are the ones that describe this path, then this is true. The identical problem with large numbers of unimportant variables, however, is horrifically complex. The dissers of Behe's Darwin's Black Box rely on this one-dimensional visualization process to erroneously claim that Behe was wrong.

As we look at DNA, we have several ways to count the amount of information. An upper bound can be made by considering that the genome includes about 3 million base pairs of info, which corresponds to about 100 million 64-bit variables in a computer system. The Darwinist will respond that most of the genome is "junk". My response is "been there done that". I have looked at other programs, analyzed a section for a few hours, pronounced it as junk and then threw it out. Bad idea. Never confuse ignorance with knowledge. The "junk" DNA at a minimum has relates to how DNA wads itself up and how often genes are read. There is information in it that effects the organism, but how much isn't known.

As a lower bound, we could propose the 30,000 genes that are estimated to be in the DNA. Each gene, however, includes more info than this. The human body is reported to produce more than 100,000 proteins. This is probably a more realistic estimate, given that each protein has a function. Proteins, however, aren't produced in a simple fashion, but must be produced in certain quantities due to certain events, or in certain locations. One protein also encodes far more information than a typical variable for an optimization job.

Going back to the early observation that convergence of random techniques is of order N*N for macroscopic, linear problems, we find that something like 10 billion generations are required for a simple convergence with 100,000 variables using a genetic type method. Again, this is a lower bound. Since this is a statistical process, a few generations are required just to work out the right direction of favorable mutations. Also, non-linear problems (i.e. realistic ones) converge slower than linear ones in general. Thus, we expect some large multiplier on top of the 10 billion.

I put this out primarily because of one of the foundational arguments on Darwinism: We have billions of year, therefore anything can happen. A simple convergence analysis, however, shows that this is wildly off the mark. Darwinism's plausibility is founded in ignorance, not knowledge.

Someone will say "what about the fossil evidence"? If I take Darwinists at their word, the horse series over 100 million years shows +/- a rib, changed toes, a little smaller, a little bigger. Nothing to brag about from a design viewpoint.

Some Darwinist readers are probably saying to themselves "there must be an error in this". If you find the error, apply for a patent! Plenty of engineers are working with genetic algorithms and haven't done much impressive due to the order. The head of optimization at Ford told me "genetic algorithms don't work well for shape optimization". Another Hindu optimization expert warned me "don't waste your time on genetic algorithms".A third from china: "genetic algorithms are just random searches". None are Christian, so this can't be blamed on fundamentalists. If you, the reader, can show how to do order-N genetic algorithms, you will be a superhero!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Engineering Optimization & Darwinism Part 1

As I mentioned in the last post, there is a link between engineering optimization and Darwinism. How do I know? The Darwinists said so! Many engineering conferences now have optimization sessions, and these are broken in to genetic design topics. The basic thesis is that genetic methods in biology have mastered almost all of the laws of physics to design things that are far more complex than engineers can handle - and all by blind chance. Thus, scientists have taken to lecturing engineers on how to do design! Optimization theoreticians, however, are much rarer than Darwinists and not nearly as vocal. The Darwinist community has thus failed to understand a few things: The optimization community was quite succesful before the Darwinists jumped in, but no one had chosen a Darwinist type approach. Also, engineers who apply enough mental discipline to understand optimization are few and far between.

Optimization theory begins by looking at linear problems: Simple quadratic functions and how to minimize or maximize them. We have parameters like dimensions or material properties that are analogous to genes. We have the "fitness" of the final product which covers things like whether or not the building will survive an earthquake or the miles per gallon of a car.

There are three classes of methods that solve linear quadratics. The first class our single step methods (Newton methods in N-dimensions) which require a lot of analytical information and involve computing of coupled equations. They are favored, but frequently can't be done. The second class is order-N methods of which conjugate gradient is the most favored. For this to work, information about the fitness of previous generations is included with the current generation to get a better view of the space and find the optimum. The third class is order-N*N methods that includ steepest descent. This third class is always avoided by the optimization specialist because the costs are horific. Order N*N methods, however, include random searches of which genetic methods are a subset! Ooops!

So why do people bother using them? What I listed above are the properties on general linear problems. As problems become more non-linear, the gap in performance between methods reduces, although this is because the analytical methods are less effective, not because random searches got any better.

The next property to note, however, is that the genetic design advocates are invariably starting with a working design, and only trying to improve things. If the mutation size is on the order of the distance to the optimum, then suddenly the genetic method (actually any random search) is more like order N and is highly effective. Because genetic algorithms in engineering are always overseen by an engineer, the engineer can tune, weight and dynamically modify the mutation sizes to get ideal convergence. and avoid divergence. The engineer also tunes a number of other things to speed convergence which I won't get into. Without the Intelligent Designer (Engineer), however, the genetic algorithm won't work for engineering!

What I learned from studying various techniques is that the genetic method is quite useful in some very limited conditions: You have a very non-linear problem, a lot of discrete variables, and a working design that is only slightly perturbed from an optimum preferably on the order of the smallest mutation. In this case, the optimization occurs fairly automatically and efficiently. My observation here is that God is brilliant to use genetic systems for biology, as they do permit organisms to adapt to changing environmental conditions which occur relatively slowly. At the macroscopic level, however, the convergence rates are N*N, which I will claim, precludes macroscopic evolution that Darwinists boast of.

One final note here is that I am not saying that the currently popular methodology of looking at mutation rates to guess the amount of difference between two organisms is invalid. To understand, consider the Grand Canyon example again: The line-of-sight distance from the south rim to the north rim is analagous to the current mutation rate methods. This only sets a minimum bound, but tells you nothing about the actual distance. Evolution isn't a one-way, shortest distance path. Thus, the mutation rate methodology is necessary, but it is by no means sufficient to understand macroscopic evolution.

The next question is what is N for a biological organism.

Friday, August 18, 2006

20 miles round trip with only 1,000 feet of elevation gain - another easy jog!

Of course, the actual Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim run is for the truly hardcore trail runners. It is something that I plan to do when I get 40 pounds lighter and 20 years younger!

I put in the picture to illustrate a fallacy of interpolation theory. It is easy to get between two states - if you don't know what is between them. If the two points are close together, interpolation theory's reliabiblity is high, but as the points become further separated, the unexpected can happen. Experienced engineering managers are much more wary than the young.

This basic concept is one that Darwinist don't like. The explanation of divergent life forms looks easy if we use a mutation theory that looks at chance changes to genes. In some cases, like designing AIDS drug cocktails, this is extremely effective. It is not, however, valid in general.

The reason it isn't valid is that this methodology divorces random genetic change from survival of the fittest. It is only valid for small evolutionary perturbations, not for macroscopic changes. Survival issues, however, are analogous to the topographical problems for the trail runner planning the effort to run the canyon. The correct theory for understanding the macroscopic changes is optimization theory, not the low level genetic changes that are related to software metrics. I will post more on this later.

Some readers are probably already saying "Aha! You missed the age of the canyon". OK, I ignored this. But look again: How many cubic miles of earth are missing from this tiny stretch of the Colorado River? Where did the earth go? There isn't much of a delta at the gulf of California. The Columbia River is even more problematic, so can we call it even? The first characteristic of a true scientist is he knows when to say "I don't know".

Note: I use pronouns in the traditional English (is that Latin?) sense.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Was Working In Nagasaki ...

... and took a stroll to the Nagasaki Peace Park. I had been sent there to work on integrating a ship dynamics program with a crash simulation program to look at ship collision predictions. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industry facilities were all around Nagasaki Bay.

I had to make a pilgrimage to the site of the nuclear blast. What I learned was that the blast had gone off a few hundred yards directly above a church. What are the odds of that in this Buddhist / Shinto country? Some conspiracy theoreticians probably would have a lot of fun with this fact, but I doubt that this was on the bomber pilot's mind that day. I just pondered why God would have allowed the congregation to be taken away like this.

Then I wondered about the families of the engineers I worked with and the lady that had become my Japanese instructor to help me fill my other hours during the month and a half that the work took. What were the stories of their families? I wanted to ask, but was afraid. The only thing I noticed was that Nagasaki was hilly and the city was spread along a windy coast. Certainly this saved countless lives when the blast occured.

I have no answers. Only the prayer for peace. It is a fitting memorial. The one thing to give thanks to God for is that we had been bitter enemies, but we became friends. Jesus also wants to make friends out of us who were God's enemies.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Social Darwinism vs. Adam Smith

This topic began to annoy me when my son came back from school and it seemed his economics lessons were spending more time on Darwin than Smith. Suddenly, The Origin of Species had replaced The Wealth of Nations as the greatest treatise on economics theory. I have been pondering why this might be.

On the surface, they both talk about competition and it is tempting just to be pig headed and insist that Smith died before Darwin was born, therefore Smith deserves the credit. I could also observe that Darwin's choice is because he is a major religious icon for sciencism. These observations, however, miss something deeper.

Adam Smith described capitalism in a neutral tone. He merely described the mechanism as he understood it. He never cited an honorable motive for a capitalist, but he didn't judge their motives either.

Social Darwinism, however, was coined as an insult. Although it describes competition in a similar manner to capitalism, the emphasis is on the motives of the participants. Of course, Adam Smith described all of this too, so this does not seem adequate to explain the difference in tone.

There is another difference between Social Darwinism and Capitalism, however, that I believe is the difference: Intelligent Design. Adam Smith spent much of his book looking at innovation and entrepreneurship, which are all sub-classes of Intelligent Design. Smith described the shirt of an English beggar and noted the buttons, thread, and dye that came from all over the world. his shirt was put together by countless process and all of this was the result of myriad innovations and entrepreneurial decisions. This is what Smith cites as the source of the Wealth of Nations and what distinguishes advanced peoples from "savages".

Darwinism, on the other hand, denies intelligent design, although the Darwinist will typically do a lot of squirming to try to retain intelligent design for some things, but reject it for most others. At a minimum, the Social Darwinist greatly down grades the role of innovation and entrepreneurship that Adam Smith saw as the great driver. Thus, when Adam Smith describes globalization, his emphasis is on the myriad decisions that result in fantastic products provided at minimal cost. The term Globalization, however, abstracts away the virtues of intelligence and creativity. From this viewpoint, all that can exist is cutthroat competition by the morally depraved.

Social Darwinism's deficiency is in what it leaves out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Are You Dumb Or Are You Stupid?

Growing up in East Tennessee, we learned quickly the art of asking the "tough" questions. Most of them were considerably cruder than the one on the title, but it is a skill that was important as we made our way through adolescence. Moving into adulthood, we grow out of this and no longer ask such juvenile questions. Right.

Actually, we learn to ask the same form of question, but in a much subtler fashion: "Mr. President, when are you going to admit the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, shut it down and make it into a monument for genocide?". Ah, the tough questions. If she tries to give anything other than a specific date, the reporter interrupts and demands a halt to the evasive answers. So when a reporter takes pride in asking the tough questions, we should be quite clear on what this means.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah is the head of Hezbollah and one of the most influencial leaders in the Islamic world. Although he is considered a fundamentalist, he has studied theology and has a degree from the seminary in Qom. His earlier teachers had recognized his intelligence and potential while a young man in Lebanon and encouraged him to seek further education. Like Jim West, he is a scholar, not a dilettante. Unlike Jim West, Hassan Nasrallah has also distinguished himself as a military commander and is known for his organizational skills. This includes the use of innovative military tactics along with the ability to recognize and promote competent officers. It is reported that he spends time studying the memoirs of various political figures so that he can know his enemies.

In the recent battle with Israel, he moved on to demonstrate how the UN along with the western intellectual elites can be deftly manipulated as pawns to achieve his objectives, while fueling a verbal civil war in the US. For those who bother to read their history in a bit of detail, the defeats of the West were primarily due to Islamic expansion coinciding with squabbling in the Christian nations. Compared to Nasrallah, the politicians, talking heads and moralizers of the West are mere dilettantes. Undoubtedly millions are looking to him as a hero and role model.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Islamic Fascism?

This is a term being batted around the internet that I find problematic. The reason is that Fascism was a well defined ideology which, I believe, is almost complete misunderstood today. Not that I claim to understand it either, but realistically, how many people have read Hitler's Mein Kempf or Mussolini's What is Fascism? Furthermore, assuming that they did read it, how many people would actually understand it in the same way as a German or Italian from the 1930s? I have spent enough time working in Germany to know that there are real cultural differences and what Hitler said and wrote would probably can never be properly understood by 21st century Americans.

So why is the term used? Probably because the Islamic groups surrounding Israel are filled with hate towards Jews which brings out memory of the holocaust and we thus say "Aha! Similar results imply similar ideology!". This deserves a simpleton award. Let Fascism be Fascism and Islam be Islam. If you want to understand a religion or culture, you need to dig in and understand it on its own terms. The best way is to go live and work with a family or two. Islam is also fairly diverse covering many people groups. Reading T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, it is clear that the region around Palestine in the early 19th (Correction: 20th) century had a large number of people groups with many differences that weren't unified at all. Projecting someone else's ideology onto this situation guarantees a failed understanding.

Probably the most obvious difference between Fascism and Islam relates to leadership. Once the leadership was destroyed in Germany and Japan, all resistance immediately stopped. The dynamics of the terror we see however, are completely different. Even if the top leaders of Al Qaeda, Hizbollah and Hamas were killed today, there is no reason to expect more than a temporary dip in the activity of these groups. Sun Tzu said know yourself and know your enemy and you will always win the war. The terrorists know us well, because they lived among us, studied us, and understand how we think. We, on the other hand, have no intention of studying them on their own terms.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bishop Sorry for Not Turning in Priest (Associated Press)

There are plenty of sad stories of abuse by clerics. They are always disgusting regardless of the kind of abuse. Still, it seems to me that there is a double standard. When the abuse involves a married man having an affair with another lady or a young girl, corrective action is rightly taken immediately. When the abuse involves gays, the situation is entirely different. Somehow, they are far more difficult to catch and the abuse goes on sometimes for decades. In this case, the bishop dithered and the gay priest fled the country. He will probably turn up in some other country to help take care of the flock.
What Is Ethics?

This is a topic that is important to everyone on the planet who hopes to make a correct moral decision, but is also a hi-brow academic field that my brain doesn't have the patience to deal with. I remember about 20 years ago searching the library for books on ethics that would help me to properly get through the Dilbert world of work in a Christian way. As I searched through books on the morality of nuclear war, euthanasia and abortion, it became clear that there wasn't anything for real people. Thus, I have been a completely cynical about the field.

Entering the blogosphere, the field of academic ethics comes back as we talk about "just war theory". Augustine is usually cited as the originator, but then the discussion morphs into things related to modern warfare that Augustine certainly would never understand. What is going on here is an attempt to transfer some mystical aura of Augustine onto a modern political theory. This isn't to say I am for or against some particular military action, just that I am happy to diss the just war theoreticians. They transform ethics into just another tool for the Machiavellian politician.

So what is ethics? Ethics is making morally correct decisions about situations that we face.

The first thing to note is that ethics is about making judgments. But the Bible says we shouldn't judge, doesn't it? Yes, the Bible warns about bad judgments and careless judgments. Thus, we need to minimize the choices we make and be careful about judging. My rule here is to judge only when necessary. The right and left made quite an amount of noise judging presidents Clinton and Bush. The vast majority of this was unnecessary. On the other hand, we constantly face choices in our lives and in our voting and judgments are a fact of life. Let us do what we must do correctly, and avoid the others.

The second thing to note is that the "fog of war" is always around us. Uncertainty of the situation that we face is always there. It is vital that we get as much data as we can and verify for correctness. There is never a guarantee that the data is all correct and properly understood. From an ethics viewpoint, however, if we don't gather our facts carefully, our ethics is worthless.

The last item is making the correct moral choices. I will suggest that this is generally much easier than the first two items. Sometimes different people have a different interpretation of the events, which leads them to different moral choices. The other possibility, however, is that the moral choices were already made, and the ambiguity of the "fog of war" mentioned above is exploited to achieve the given result. This kind of ethics is, needless to say, not a Christian one.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ahithophel answered, "Lie with your father's concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father's nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened." - 2 Samuel 10:6

I came across this skunk hair while running on Mission Peak. This skunk appears to have been attacked by one of our local mountain lions, given the amount of hair that was shredded over a short area. The skunk is a proud animal who trusts in his stench to keep him secure. In this case, however, his protection failed. There are people who are proud of their stench and think that this will protect them. God's justice will catch them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In Memory of Corliss Lamont.

Corliss Lamont is the grand uncle of Ned Lamont who just defeated Joe Lieberman in the campaign in Connecticut. Some data on Corliss Lamont can be found here and here. Apparently he was a typical far-out leftist and wrote things like The Myth of Soviet Aggression. He was a university professor from an incredibly rich family. Another title of his was Why I Am Not A Communist. The title would imply that he is more reasonable, but I would need to read it before making any conclusions. Most of the leftist complaints about communism are that it wasn't pure enough, or that they agree with the policies, but not the results. If only the neo-NAZI's were so clever!

In the 1950's, he was a major subject for the McCarthy hearings and was cited for contempt of congress, but defeated McCarthy through litigation. He received a number of awards and died a hero in 1995. Apparently he also opposed the Gulf War.

Reading about this makes you wonder about intellectuals. How could an apologist for the Gulags die a hero? Being a selfish right-winger, however, my mind goes a different direction: How can I present myself as a "victim" of McCarthyism so that I too can die a hero?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

'killed' vs. killed

The BBC reports "Militants 'killed' in Afghanistan". The same article states that "Ten British soldiers have been killed in the area ...". This raises the vital question of what is the difference in meaning between 'killed' and killed without the quotes. Usually, we place things in quotes to emphasize that the meaning of the word probably differs considerably from what you usually would expect. So presumably the US annouced that the militants were 'killed' when they really meant that they were dying of laughter at the BBC report??? Perhaps the BBC will figure out what they meant and let us know later.
Arrrgh! Now Looney is French!

I was just looking at the political compass web site. It rates me as +2.25 east of center on the economic scale and +3.44 north of center on the authoritarian scale. The nearest major politician to my viewpoint is Jacques Chirac.

The "authoritarian" scale seems to have some calibration issues. A -10 is the theoretical libertarian limit, which represents the physical extreme limits that human behavior is capable of. A +10 on this scale would probably represent a moderate Islamic position. The economic scale judges right/left based on whether someone is for or against out-of-control multinational conglomerates.
Looney Weeps.

No matter how hard I try, someone is loonier than me. The Democrats of Connecticut voted out Joe Lieberman as their candidate. In favor of "anti-war" challenger Ned Lamont. The reason I find this looney is that Lamont isn't anything like your pacifist Amish crowd that is always pacifist on the basis of deeply held religious convictions, having referred to the US soldiers serving in Iraq as "heroes". This king of "anti-war" smacks of the crass opportunism type of pacifism with a conviction that screwing up the US war effort will hurt Bush and help us, therefore, it is morally right to be pacifists - at least for the next 5 minutes!

From one source, it appears that Ned Lamonts believes that only gay activists are qualified to define marriage. On the illegal immigration, he is for enforcing anarchy at the border and prosecuting any company that hires illegals. With politicians like this, who needs terrorists? If he is elected to the Senate, we can always hope that his list of positions will be the opposite of how he votes, like typical Republicans!

This isn't to say that I am happy about the Iraq war. This always seemed dubious to me since the notion that the Shiites and Sunnis would "just get along" afterwards is the result of Bush (and the State Department geniuses) having adapted the left-wing world view. Regardless, we are there. It is honorable to try diffusing a civil war. If we leave on the radicals' terms, we will have validated a formula that will be employed by countless more madmen and their western world cheerleaders.

Having said that, it is a bit of a puzzle to say what kind of a Senator Ned Lamont would be, since he seems to have been a Republican up until 1988.

The Blacks of Georgia, however, have restored my hope in the Democratic Party by dumping Cynthia McKinney. Clearly, they have a stronger moral character than the whites of Connecticut.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I found this article on the mayor of Los Angeles struggling to deal with the issues of Lebanon interesting. My understanding of the conflict is that Hezbollah is opposed to Jews residing in Palestine, while Israel is opposed to Katyusha rockets and active launchers residing in Lebanon. The Muslim leadership in LA determined that the mayor had not taken a fair and balanced approach to the issue. Apparently they think that this is a Jew/Muslim issue rather than a Jew/Katyusha issue. The article ends with the following:

"The mayor pledged to visit mosques and attend events in the city's Islamic communities, and assigned one of his senior advisors as liaison to Muslim groups."

I don't have any problems with this, except to note that there are many religious organizations in Los Angeles. The stats indicate that Southern Baptists outnumber Muslims, and there are a large number of groups that are just a tad smaller than the Muslim community. The mayor is going to be awfully busy if he really hopes to be fair and balanced.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I didn't understand all of the question on the Eucharistic Theology test. With my kids struggling in school, it is always nice to know that the Daddy can score a 100 without understanding what is going on! Where are the bonus points??? Here are the results:

You are John Calvin. You have a Nestorian Christology and separate the Divinity and Humanity of Jesus. You believe only those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet you call this "Real."

Calvin 100%

Zwingli 50%

Luther 50%

Catholic 0%

Unitarian 0%

Horsing around near silicon valley.

About 30 wild horses roam the hills here. The mother is with her foal below. These animals are amazing for their size, but they were intimidated as I went running by and ran away frightened. What is it about man that is so scary? Perhaps they know something that we don't?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A sign for the local yahoos. But can they read?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"In the beginning was the Spin, and the Spin was with God, and the Spin was God."

This is the metanarrative of liberalism reduced to its core. All religion is evaluated through this lense. Christianity says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, so we search the Bible trying to understand what this means to us. We also understand that religion is about spiritual warfare, and there are real spirits behind other religions who have their primary task to lock people into things that preclude their gaining a clear understanding of what Jesus did on the cross. The spirit of Islam thus denies that Jesus is the son of God and demands complete and total loyalty.

The western liberal, however, denies all of this. Islam is kind and compassionate, but people have "hijacked" the religion just as fundamentalist Christians do - and the result is killing and slaughter. The solution is to empower reasonable clerics to be the spokesmen/teachers for the religion and marginalize those who would use religion to advance evil goals. Even president Bush has adapted this rhetoric. Many other conservatives have also adapted the same world view, although their solution is to use military force to subdue Islam. Anyway, religion is Spin, and who is better to Spin than a western liberal with a Ph.D from Harvard?!!!

Of course, it is impossible for man to subdue a spirit through military means. The Bible teaches that prayer and fasting are much more effective, although I won't go to the point of saying that military might is never needed. The liberal's viewpoint is just as worthless, as he is doomed to appease the spirit whose existence he refuses to acknowledge. As Sun Tzu said, "know yourself and know your enemy and you will always win the war". Based on this, I see absolutely no reason for optimism in the West. May God save us from our willful ignorance.
Heat Wave!!!

I was just pondering my $377 power bill for last month. A few months back, we installed a new airconditioner. It took two months for the workmen to get the system functioning correctly. Then the city inspectors arrived and forced a number of components to be moved, just before the heat wave hit. The result was that the system stopped functioning again. For the hot period, we were sweating badly while the airconditioner - running continuously - could only drop the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees. Praise God for making us appreciate the rest of the year!

Looking at the power bill, I see that a big chunk of my electricity was billed at $.11 per kilowatt hour, while the last few kilowatt hours were billed at $.33. In other words, the bulk of my power bill was subsidized, even after the "deregulation" that occured in the California energy market. If all my power were at $.33, the bill would probably have been between $500 and $600. I don't mind the subsidies, except when the global warming rhetoric heats up. The best way to stop using fossil fuels is to raise energy prices, and the easiest way to raise energy prices is to eliminate subsidies. This, however, is not on the agenda. Giving up MY benefits is out of the question. Sticking it to the energy companies is the way - as if we were sticking it to the Martians!