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Respond Fri, Jun 30, 2006
I don't quite understand why people don't respond.  I understand you're busy.  I understand you weren't sure what your answer would be.  I understand that certain plans might fall through and you were waiting to hear from someone.  But tell me these things!  If it's a yes, it's a yes.  If it's a no, it's a no.  The answer itself doesn't matter; it's the fact that an answer exists.  You won't be raining on my parade if you say no.  Often times I invite other people to do things in an attempt to be social.  If you don't want to go or can't go, I don't really care.  In fact, I might rather do it without you.  But the bottom line is this:  Respond!  If I leave you a voicemail, respond!  It doesn't need to be the same method of communication.  Call, email, text message, whatever.  And it doesn't even need to be an answer.  Give me a "maybe".  I just like to know that you got my message and that it didn't get lost in the nothingness of internetland. #psychology

No pictures Fri, Jun 30, 2006
I'm a jerk. 


Rock music and hell Thu, Jun 29, 2006
Ever since that fad called "rock n' roll music" came around, many ultra-conservative Christians (commonly referred to as "wackos"; of which I'm a card-carrying member) have associated it with hell.  With cries like "Rock music is from the devil!" and such, it's been labeled as "evil" and "rebellious".  Rock icons like Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne have long been connected to black magic and devil worship, and the trend has certainly continued in that direction. 

But we as clearly-thinking human beings shrug this off.  So what if Led Zeppelin's guitarist is interested in the occult?  They're a great band, and should be listened to by all.  So what if Black Sabbath's frontman likes Satan?  They were the beginning of hard rock as we know it.  Plus, a band's personal interests can't directly affect a listener.  Music is a means of communication and expression, not a method of mind control and bewitchery. 

But as I drove home from work the other day, windows down, blasting AC/DC, I saw it another way.  AC/DC is an incredible band, and their simplicity and attitude are an amazing combination.  Coincidentally, several of their songs are about hell or at least contain some sort of mention of it.  But their attitude towards hell is kinda interesting: 
Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Hey Satan, payed my dues
Playing in a rocking band
The way that hell is portrayed is that it's gonna be like a rockstar's life:  Fun, fast, happy, party-filled, rule-free, and full of friends.  All [relatively] positive things.  It sounds like a pretty good deal, and the mention of stop signs and speed limits seems to speak directly to me (slightly kidding). 

The point here is that rock music has made people insensitive to hell.  The fact that the idea of hell exists in our society comes as a direct result of the influence of Christianity.  But the Biblical view of hell is quite different from a rockstar's life.  It speaks of many unpleasant things, the most important of which being separation from God.  There aren't any parties.  There isn't any drinking.  It's not gonna be like a Thursday night out with some friends. 

So maybe rock music is from the devil.  It's certainly made hell look like a great place to visit. #religion

Parking ticket zing (1) Thu, Jun 29, 2006
Rob Militzer decided to express his feelings about a parking ticket in the "Memo" section of the check he used to pay the $10 fine.  I wish I knew this guy.  He would be my best friend.  (via Obscure Store) #entertainment

Overfill my gas tank Wed, Jun 28, 2006
Living in New Jersey is a continually joy-filled process.  One of the things that annoys me a little bit is the fact that I can't pump my own gas.  Most people in NJ don't even realize that other states usually force you to pump your own.  I would at least like to have the option.  One good thing is that paying people to pump my gas apparently doesn't cause much of an increase in the price of gas, seeing that NJ's gas prices are pretty low compared to neighboring states. 

But one thing that really annoys me is when the gas station guy (it's always a guy; I've never had a girl pump my gas, not that there's anything wrong with that) overfills my tank, especially when I'm paying with a credit card.  I can definitely see the purpose of overfilling if cash is involved.  Carrying around change and handing it out is a pain in the butt.  But when I go to places and give them my credit card before they start filling, we all know I'm paying with my credit card.  And whether it costs $32.99 or $33.00 makes no difference in the world.  So there's no point in overfilling my tank.  And what really annoys me is when the guy overfills while trying to overfill.  As if it wasn't bad enough that you're giving me $33.00 worth of gas when I only need $32.47, it's infinitely worse that you're giving me $33.01 when I only need $32.47.  That kills me. 

And apparently, this kills the Environmental Protection Agency too.  They have a website set up with information on why we shouldn't top off our gas tank.  Besides the annoyingness factor, they mention four major things: 
1.  Topping off the gas tank can result in your paying for gasoline that is fed back into the station's tanks because your gas tank is full.
2.  Gasoline vapors are harmful to breathe.
3.  You need extra room in your gas tank to allow the gasoline to expand.
4.  Topping off your gas tank may foul the station's vapor recovery system.
In my opinion, the most important reason they give is the first one:  Gas pumps are equipped with vapor recovery systems to reduce air pollution so that "Any additional gas you try to pump into your tank may be drawn into the vapor line and fed back into the station's storage tanks."  So that extra $0.53 (or $0.54 depending on the stupidity of the gas-pumper) of gas might not even make it into your gas tank.  In other words, that's a waste of $0.53.  Unfortunately, that's not much a hit in volume of gas ($0.53 of gas at $2.85/gallon is about 0.19 gallons), but it's the principle that matters. #money

MyBlogLog (2) Wed, Jun 28, 2006
I started using MyBlogLog the other day because I saw it being used on a site I visited.  It's basically a statistics tracking site that can be easily integrated into an existing site with a javascript include.  Its most important feature is its ability to track outgoing links, which is something I've been thinking about for a while.  It also has the option to show which outgoing link was clicked and how many times it was clicked during the current day (called ClickTagging).  Its main downside is that it keeps trying to get you to sign up for a Pro account, which costs $3/month or $25/year (not a bad price, but I don't pay for anything).  The site is kinda painfully ugly, but the service is really simple and usable.  I'm a fan (for now). 

Update (2006-06-30 4:55pm):  I'm not a fan of waiting for another service to load when trying to access my site.  So long, MyBlogLog. 


Cause of traffic Tue, Jun 27, 2006
A wise person (Bob) once suggested that there's really no need for traffic.  If everybody on the road has the same goal in mind, there's no reason for any slowdown or backup.  If everybody's purpose is to avoid causing traffic, there should be no traffic.  No one goes out on Route 80 and thinks, "Ya know what?  I'm gonna cause me some traffic!"  For that reason, there should never be any traffic.  Even if there are a lot of cars on the road, if everybody consciously makes an effort to reduce the buildup of traffic, there really shouldn't be any.  If there's an accident, people should make a conscious decision to maintain speed and not slow down to stare.  If there's a cop, everyone should continue going the speed they were going.  Cops can't pull everybody over, can they?  If there's sun glare, everyone should squint and continue going as fast as they were going.  If there's an incline in the road, everyone should obey that stupid sign that says, "Upgrade:  Maintain speed". 

If we're all in this together, we can eliminate traffic completely. #travel

DRM CDs (1) Mon, Jun 26, 2006
A few months ago, it was discovered (and complained about) that Sony BMG puts copyright protection (Digital Rights Management) on a few of their CDs.  This only becomes a problem if a user puts one of these CDs in their computer, at which point a little piece of software is installed that opens up a backdoor to the user's computer, leaving the computer open to virus intrusion.  Put nicely,
So, let's make this a bit more explicit. You buy a CD. You put the CD into your PC in order to enjoy your music. Sony grabs this opportunity to sneak into your house like a virus and set up camp, and it leaves the backdoor open so that Sony or any other enterprising intruder can follow and have the run of the place. If you try to kick Sony out, it trashes the place. And what does this software do once it's on your PC? ... The DRM itself is almost unbelievably restrictive, and some have suggested that the reasoning behind it is part of Sony's ongoing war over digital music supremacy with the decidedly more supreme Apple.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation put together a list of DRM-infected CDs.  Later, Sony published a more complete list: 
A Static Lullaby, Faso Latido
Acceptance, Phantoms
Amerie, Touch
Art Blakey, Drum Suit
The Bad Plus, Suspicious Activity?
Bette Midler, Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook
Billie Holiday, The Great American Songbook
Bob Brookmeyer, Bob Brookmeyer & Friends
Buddy Jewell, Times Like These
Burt Bacharach, At This Time
Celine Dion, On Ne Change Pas
Chayanne, Cautivo
Chris Botti, To Love Again
The Coral, The Invisible Invasion
Cyndi Lauper, The Body Acoustic
The Dead 60's, The Dead 60's
Deniece Williams, This Is Niecy
Dextor Gordon, Manhattan Symphonie
Dion, The Essential Dion
Earl Scruggs, I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends
Elkland, Golden
Emma Roberts, Unfabulous And More: Emma Roberts
Flatt & Scruggs, Foggy Mountain Jamboree
Frank Sinatra, The Great American Songbook
G3, Live In Tokyo
George Jones, My Very Special Guests
Gerry Mulligan, Jeru
Horace Silver, Silver's Blue
Jane Monheit, The Season
Jon Randall, Walking Among The Living
Life Of Agony, Broken Valley
Louis Armstrong, The Great American Songbook
Mary Mary, Mary Mary
Montgomery Gentry, Something To Be Proud Of: The Best of 1999-2005
Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten
Neil Diamond, 12 Songs
Nivea, Complicated
Our Lady Peace, Healthy In Paranoid Times
Patty Loveless, Dreamin' My Dreams
Pete Seeger, The Essential Pete Seeger
Ray Charles, Friendship
Rosanne Cash, Interiors 
Rosanne Cash, King's Record Shop
Rosanne Cash, Seven Year Ache
Shel Silverstein, The Best Of Shel Silverstein
Shelly Fairchild, Ride
Susie Suh, Susie Suh
Switchfoot, Nothing Is Sound
Teena Marie, Robbery
Trey Anastasio, Shine
Van Zant, Get Right With The Man
Vivian Green, Vivian
So basically, if you have any of these CDs, don't put them in your computer.  But if you really want to, there's a way to disable the DRM from installing, though it sounds like it's more trouble than it's worth.  And there's also a way to sort of get rid of DRM if you're already infected.  Just ask Mr. Google. #entertainment

Bi Mon, Jun 26, 2006
[Uh oh ... where's he going with this?]

I've had enough.  From now on, everyone must adapt the following language changes: 
  1. Biweekly means twice a week.
  2. Bimonthly means twice a month.  (Who would use bimonthly to mean every other month?  I mean, honestly, who?!)
  3. Biyearly means twice a year.  Semiannually is also acceptable.
Forget everything else you know about these words.  Do as I say.  I've finally settled the "usage problem" with the prefix bi-. #language

Plane on a conveyor belt (41) Mon, Jun 26, 2006
The case of the plane on a conveyor belt has been extensively discussed in the online world, and still doesn't have a definite conclusion.  Or rather, there are two opposing sides which believe wholeheartedly in their explanation, and these sides will never agree.  The question is this: 
A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of band conveyer). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same (but in the opposite direction). Can the plane take off?
I've read a thousand people's opinions about this and heard every comparison ranging from a skateboard on a treadmill to a weightless car on a sheet of paper.  Taking into account some major assumptions (a plane on a conveyor belt is actually plausible; frictionless wheels, bearings, conveyor belt; no wind; ideal/instantaneous control system), my take on it is this:  The plane won't take off [Edit:  I changed my mind].  Here's my reasoning: 

1.  In order for a plane to take off, it needs to have air passing over its wings at a certain speed.  This air can come from the plane moving down the runway, or it can come from wind.  Theoretically, a plane can take off while sitting completely still, as long as there is a significant amount of headwind.  However, since there's no wind in this example, the plane must be moving forward at a considerable velocity. 

2.  A plane's wheels are "dumb".  In other words, they're only there to reduce friction.  A plane could just as easily have no wheels and just rest on its belly on the runway.  It could still take off because its motion is produced by thrust from its engines or the movement of air from its propellers.  The wheels will spin when the plane is in motion and in contact with a surface. 

3.  As many people have pointed out, the question's wording can be confusing. 
a.  If "plane speed" means "angular velocity of the wheels with respect to a stationary/ground observer", the conveyor belt would spin at an infinitely increasing rate, which is logically impossible.  For example, if the wheels started to spin at 100 rpm, the conveyor would ramp up and spin at 100 rpm.  But this would cause the wheels to actually be spinning at 200 rpm from the point of view of a stationary observer because the ground is no longer stationary but is moving at 100 rpm in the opposite direction.  This would force the conveyor belt to spin at 200 rpm, 400 rpm, 800 rpm, etc., ad infinitum. 

b.  If "plane speed" means "angular velocity of the wheels with respect to the conveyor belt", the velocity of the conveyor belt would always equal the velocity of the wheels, no matter what.  This means that the plane wouldn't move, no matter what.  If the wheels started to spin at 100 rpm, the conveyor would ramp up and spin at 100 rpm.  From the point of view of the conveyor belt, the wheels would still be spinning at 100 rpm even though they're actually spinning at 200 rpm from the point of view of a stationary observer.  No matter what speed the wheels spun, the conveyor would always be spinning at the same speed as the wheels.  This would prevent any forward motion of the plane. 

c.  If "plane speed" means "linear/horizontal velocity of the plane with respect to a stationary/ground observer", the plane speed would always be zero because the conveyor belt would always cancel out any forward motion of the plane.  For example, if the plane started moving at 100 mph to the right (with motion derived from thrust), the conveyor belt would immediately begin moving at 100 mph to the left.  Although the wheels would be spinning at an incredibly high rate (the wheel diameter doesn't equal the conveyor belt diameter, so the conveyor belt speed of 100 mph would translate to a wheel speed of something like 100,000 rpm [total guess, but the concept is there]), the plane would not change position from the point of view of a stationary observer.  If it started at point A, it would stay at point A.  This is the same result as part b. 

d.  If "plane speed" means "linear/horizontal velocity of the plane with respect to the conveyor belt", it's the same as part a.  The conveyor belt would spin at an infinitely increasing rate. 
So in conclusion, the plane wouldn't take off because it wouldn't move from its original location. 

Part of the reason this whole thing gets me so riled up is the attitude of the people who think they're right.  Cecil Adams said, "Everything clear now?  Maybe not.  But believe this:  The plane takes off."  Thanks for your mediocre and confusing explanation, followed by an unqualified, unproven conclusion.  Michael Buffington said, "Jason's Case of the Plane and Conveyor Belt riddle is confusing very smart people, so I thought I might explain it."  Thanks, Michael.  Obviously you know everything and everybody else knows nothing.  Without you, we'd be nowhere. 

This is my explanation.  I put a lot of thought into it, and I even lost some sleep over it last night.  I sort of think I'm right, but I'd be willing to be proven wrong if somebody has a good explanation.  I'd also love to see this on MythBusters. #science

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