Category Archives: Random Musings

This Made Me Laugh

I was reviewing some past topics of discussion today, and I happened to spend some time reviewing what happened with a libel lawsuit a scientist (Mark Jacobson) published after he claimed criticis intentionally published false claims about his work. The case itself doesn't matter for today's purposes. What matters is he sued both an author of a paper which made the claims and the journal the paper was published in. That journal is named the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). It made a hilarious argument in response to the lawsuit:

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Seriously, Why Be So Obvious About It?

My last post used the word "lie" somewhat loosely because the person I was discussing in the post frequently accuses people of fraud/lying with the flimsiest of bases. Given such a person was simply making things up, I thought worrying about the exact nuances of what a "lie" is was unnecessary.

However, the person I criticized has continued to behave in a similar manner as before, again saying things which were not only untrue, but untrue in a blatant fashion. Given that, I'd like to spend a little time looking into just what constitutes a lie. Not because what Duarte said or did is that important, but because of a simple question which haunts me: "If a person were going to tell a lie, would they really be so obvious about it?"
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Republican or Democrat?

This last week or so has been a truly bizarre time in the United States. Senator John McCain passed away, and there was a great outcry from people who knew him, on both sides of the political spectrum, about how great a loss that was. Republicans and Democrats alike spoke of his personal character, expressing respect and affection despite their differences.

That's normal enough, though I doubt there are many politicians who could hope to get such praise. What's bizarre is how the rest of society reacted. McCain was a frequent critic of President Trump despite (ostensibly) being from the same party. There was a huge feud between the two, and as a result, a lot of the people in the Republican party came to hold a negative view of McCain.

This created a strange situation where it seemed liberals held a higher viewer of McCain than Republicans. Time and time again, I would turn on a "liberal" television station like MSNBC and see more positive coverage for McCain than I would if I turned on the "conservative" station Fox News. This pattern held in my personal experiences on social media and in real life. Even as Republican politicians, aides and other "establishment" members praised McCain, Fox News and Republican voters spoke much less favorably of him.

The situation was even stranger when examined further. Many of the Republicans who did speak out to praise McCain after his passing refused to speak like that while he was still alive. Very few of them spoke in McCain's defense during his feud with Trump. Presumably, they figured siding against Trump would cost them their next election so they kept silent.

I don't have a good way to wrap this up. The situation is bizarre but not really surprising. The Republican party is being held hostage by a large segment of its base. That's "normal" in the sense it's perfectly predictable. But it's also bizarre in that this week, if you were a Republican from 10 years ago, you'd give all appearances of being a Democrat.

That's weird, right?

Thirty Years of Nonsense

I have always found the global warming debate weird. I am not a "denier" or "skeptic" in terms of viewpoint. I'm not even a "warmist" or "alarmist." I've been called all these things, but the truth is I just don't care. My view regarding global warming has always been very simple - the people who claim it is a serious threat act in such a bizarre way, I don't believe them.

Think about the Hollywood movies where an alien invasion is coming to earth Think about the movies where an asteroid is heading to Earth to doom us all. Think about the movies where the Earth's magnetic core is going to... I can't even pretend to follow the plot of those ones. The point is, think about how the scientists in those movies behave. Sure, they do "crazy" things, but they have this air of sincerity and absolute honesty which makes it clear the audience really should listen to them. They risk everything, with no possible benefit to themselves, to try to help humanity.

Now look at the global warming debate. It's filled with people who routinely refuse to do something even so simple as say, "Yeah, sorry, I was a bit unclear there." Getting even the simplest of errors corrected in the global warming debate is like pulling teeth. Time and time again, I've experienced a reaction where pointing out even the simplest of errors is met with the attitude of, "How dare you?!"

It's crazy. If you believed global warming is a serious threat we must all band together to combat, would you act like a political pundit aiming to score points, or would you act like Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day and risk every aspect of yourself to try to make people believe there was a genuine threat?

Your answer to that says everything. And now, with the 30th anniversary of the (in)famous testimony by James Hansen to the United States Congress in 1988, we get a perfect encapsulation of what that answer is. I'd like to discuss it.
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A Moral Dilemma

I've been struggling with a decision for the last week or so. About a week ago, I happened to stumble into an online... let's say area, where people are, amongst other things, openly discussing illegal activity they engage in. I don't mean they're having vague discussions. I mean there are specific, verifiable details. I can even identify a number of the people involved in them by name.

The problem I'm faced with is I don't view the illegal activity in question as "wrong." I'm not saying it is good or should be legal. I just don't care if people engage in it. For the sake of discussion, let's imagine the activity was selling marijauna (it is not). Given the locations and quantities involved, people could be facing significant jail time if I reported them to authorities.

So here's the dilemma. Do I have an obligation to report criminal activity to authorities even if I don't have a problem with the activity itself? Legally, I know I might. On the other hand, people routinely fail to report criminal activities for any number of reasons. And everybody breaks some laws. I don't know how one draws a clear line between speeding/selling a narcotic which makes one okay and the other heinous.

Supposing I don't report what I've discovered to the authorities, what about the area I've stumbled into. It was obviously meant to be secure. Can I walk away without reporting the security vulnerability I discovered which allows anyone to enter, even by mistake? If I do, am I not (partially) responsible for any future cases of someone stumbling in like I did? But if I report the problem, aren't I actively assisting criminals and helping them get away with breaking the law?

As a final question, the problem with the security for this area which I accidentally exploited gives me administrative control over everything which goes on in it. I've also confirmed there are no external backups. If I don't report what I've discovered to the authorities or the people engaged in criminal activity, what should I do with that control? Do I ignore it and never go back? Do I monitor the discussions out of some sort of voyeuristic delight and/or attempt to ensure no criminal activities of a more serious nature get discussed? Do I shut down the server and destroy all the evidence? What is the "right" thing to do here?

Why is This What You'd Argue About?

As most of you will know, I have been critical of Steve McIntyre recently in regard to a number of issues, including simple things like him (basically) claiming a person using Microsoft Outlook couldn't possibly be using a Google e-mail account. In my criticisms of him and his writings, I have repeatedly discussed factual, verifiable matters. Steve has chosen not to address... well, basically any of them.

Today I'd like to discuss a bizarre case where Steve decided to take a stand and firmly say I am wrong. For the life of me, I can't figure out why this would be an issue he'd want to take a strong stance on.
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Just a Thought on Randomness

Humans are terrible when it comes to randomness. They're bad at recognizing it; they are terrible at producing it. I think most people realize this so I'm not going to go on about it at any length. Instead, I want to provide an example which I find amusing.

Years back, a video game named Fire Emblem came out for the Game Boy Advance handheld console. It was a tactical role-playing game in which units fight one another. Whenever units attacked one another, they had a chance to hit and a chance to get a "critical hit." As is common in anything with randomness, people often complained about how they were unlucky in it. Quite often, people would say they thought the game's random number generator (RNG) was biased.

They were right. Kind of. You see, the game developers knew people feel this way when playing games. They knew no matter how perfectly random results might be, people would think they saw patterns in it. To try to reduce the unpleasantness this creates, the developers decided to rig the chance to hit rolls. Instead of rolling one random number from 1-100 for the percent chance to hit, they made it so the game rolled two numbers from 1-100 and averaged them.

Yeah, that's right. If you have a displayed 99% chance to hit, the only way you'd miss is if you rolled the 1% chance twice, If the opponent had a displayed 10% chance to hit, their actual chance to hit would be much lower. Yet people playing the game routinely complained about the RNG being biased against them.

I thought that was amusing enough to share.

Go Figure

So there have been some really stupid articles making the rounds about a joke in an episode of a sitcom named Roseanne. A leading actress for the show is named Roseanne Barr, making the title of the show a somewhat peculiar form of self-reference (her character is also named Roseanne). After waking up from sleeping, Roseanne's husband says, "We missed all the shows about black and Asian families." Roseanne responds, 'They're just like us. There, now you're all caught up!'

This isn't a particularly funny joke. On the one hand, it's a family in a sitcom saying families in sitcoms are just like them. On the other hand, it's writers of a show acknowledging their show is just like a bunch of others. Again, this is the same sort of self-reference the show's title shows. It shouldn't be surprising, and it certainly shouldn't be offensive.

Yet with society being what it is, a lot of people have taken offense. The person most responsible for this is one named Kelvin Yu, who said of it things like it:

implies that the point of any show about a minority family is simply to normalize them. That's it. The stories, the humor, the characters... not important.

Which iis all kinds of dumb. A sitcom about a black family is not special and unique simply for having a black family. Saying that black family is just like a white family in another sitcom should not be offensive. In fact, it should be viewed as a statement of equality, seeing people as being the same as one another despite any racial differences.

But as dumb as people complaining about that joke have been, I didn't want to write about it. Then I saw an even dumber response, a response to the reactions to the joke. And well, I can't resist talking about it. Be warned, it centers on a much less important issue than racial equality/discrimination.
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